Cohen Calls on Allies to Share the Load
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 8, 1999 Many NATO allies are falling behind the United States in research, development and procurement, and the growing gap is "somewhat troubling," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said July 8.
It's going to take a "sustained commitment" by all concerned to upgrade NATO defense capabilities, Cohen told reporters while en route to Europe. The allies must be ready to shoulder more responsibilities in future military operations, he said, or risk the development of political resistance among those carrying the bulk of the weight.
Cohen was at the start of a seven-day, seven-nation trip. He was slated first to meet counterparts in Denmark and Norway. From Scandinavia, he is to meet local officials and U.S. service members in Hungary, Albania, Greece and Turkey before returning to Washington July 15.
Throughout his trip, Cohen said, he plans to discuss ongoing security operations in Kosovo, the need to "reinvigorate" U.S-NATO-Russian relations and the need to upgrade NATO defense capabilities.
The secretary said he intends to stress goals outlined in NATO's recently approved Defense Capabilities Initiative. The initiative aims to improve NATO capabilities in mobility; precision engagement; command, control and communications; sustainability of logistics; and survivability.
NATO Operation Allied Force highlighted the need for better NATO defenses, Cohen said. "The Kosovo conflict really made it quite evident the United States is far ahead in various capabilities in which the other NATO members are going to have to measure up," he said.
During the air campaign against Yugoslavia, U.S. air crews flew just over 70 percent of all support missions, a senior U.S. defense official said. The ratio was better for strike missions, with the United States flying about 52 percent and the other allies flying the rest. Although the strike sortie rate was roughly equal, the United States used far more precision-guided munitions, Cohen said.
U.S. officials also found "some real gaps in secure communications with some of our allies," Cohen noted. The gaps limited the kinds of missions some allies could perform during the air campaign, he said.
Unfortunately, he said, the need to upgrade defenses comes as many NATO allies are trying to cut military spending. "I hope to persuade them that the peace dividend was spent during the end of the 1980s and early '90s, and now they have to reinvigorate their defense procurement budgets," Cohen said.
NATO members and partner nations are following a U.S. lead and restructuring their armed forces, Cohen pointed out. They are modernizing to create smaller, lighter, more mobile and rapidly deployable forces, but as they shrink their force structure, he said, it's important they not cut their defense budgets.
Some nations are already working to boost their military capabilities, a senior U.S. official noted. Germany's top defense priorities are to acquire wide-body transport aircraft and to improve reconnaissance capabilities. British officials plan to lease U.S. C-17 transports to improve their airlift capabilities.
The overall goal is not to promote equipment or arms sales, Cohen said, but to promote interoperability. "We're not saying it has to say 'Made in America,'" he stressed. "The emphasis is not on where it's made, but [whether] it fits seamlessly into an interoperable system."