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Rumsfeld: NATO Evolving to Meet 21st Century Threats

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Nov. 30, 2003 – NATO is changing to meet the challenges the alliance faces in the 21st century, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

Rumsfeld met with reporters on the eve of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers. "As an institution, we are evolving toward the new threats that exist in the world," he said, "and certainly the NATO countries are deeply involved in the global war on terror in its various elements and manifestations."

The secretary cited the recent terrorist bombings in Turkey and losses by U.S. allies in Iraq and Afghanistan to illustrate the new environment NATO faces. "So NATO is in the process of, to some extent, transforming itself to deal with counterterrorism," he said.

"We've spent the better part of two years recognizing that the security environment of the 21st century has changed," he said, "and that we our country and our allies and friends need to acknowledge that fact, and then together talk through how we can best be organized and arranged and equipped to best deter and defend against the more likely threats of the 21st century."

Rumsfeld said the alliance has made "a lot of progress" toward reshaping itself. The addition of seven member nations and continued progress in establishing a NATO response force and a chemical and biological battalion are among the steps the alliance has taken in its evolution, he said.

NATO is streamlining its organizational structure, Rumsfeld said, cutting its number of commands from 19 to 11 and attaining a 26- to 27-percent reduction in its headquarters staff on the way to a goal of 30 percent. The U.S. global force structure is part of the equation of NATO's transformation, and concepts with respect to the U.S. "footprint" will be among the topics the defense ministers will discuss, he said.

Rumsfeld emphasized that discussions of concepts concerning the U.S. footprint have been ongoing, not only within the Defense Department, but also with allies and Congress. And he said he expects those discussions to continue.

"It will be a back-and-forth process for many months," he said, until conviction develops on the best way to do things.

"And of course, it's not something the United States can, or should, or even could do unilaterally," he said. "It's the kind of thing that you need to have your friends and allies working with you, so that all those changes and transformations take place together." Congress also needs to be involved, because any changes in the footprint would require shifts and changes in funding, he added.

The secretary said reduced numbers of troops in any given place does not necessarily translate into less capability. When the question came up in a recent meeting he had in Korea, he said, he pointed out that taking five military assets away from 10 looks on the surface to be a 50-percent cut in capability. But if the five remaining assets have four times the capability of any of the 10, the capability really is doubled, he explained.

He acknowledged it may take years for all concerned to adjust their thinking to focus on capabilities rather than numbers.

The usability and deployability of forces is among the topics Rumsfeld said the NATO defense ministers will discuss. He said he hopes the discussions will dramatize the importance of agility, speed and deployment capability, and will help transform the militaries of the nations contributing to the NATO response force.

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