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U.S., U.K. Defense Leaders Call for Wiser Spending

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

TORONTO, Sept. 21, 1999 – NATO nations need to spend their defense dollars more wisely as they prepare for future challenges, according to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Cohen arrived here Sept. 20 to attend two-days of informal NATO meetings. En route to Canada's largest city, the secretary said European allies spend about 60 percent of what the United States spends on defense, but only get about 10 percent of the capabilities.

The allies have to reform the way they do business to make necessary changes, Cohen told reporters traveling with him. "What we're trying to do is focus upon reforming the systems," he said. "The allies need to focus less on operations and maintenance and more on acquisition."

Redirecting allotted defense funds alone may not be enough to prepare for the future, Cohen noted. "It may take more defense expenditures overall," he said.

Operation Allied Force, NATO's successful air campaign against Yugoslavia, highlighted positive aspects of the allies' capabilities, Cohen said. But, it also revealed some shortcomings. Aircraft, airlift, sealift, logistical support, as well as command, control and communication all need to be addressed, he said.

Cohen voiced his concern about the allies' declining defense budgets. "We can't continue to see a decline in defense spending, unless there are substantial reforms that produce more savings than they currently do," he said. "I would hope that there could be even some improvements in the size of their budgets in order to make the necessary reforms."

Cohen noted that the British are conducting a strategic review to reshape their forces and the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Defense George Robertson has called upon other NATO countries to do the same.

After a breakfast meeting with Cohen Sept. 21, the British defense leader agreed with his American counterpart's call for better spending. "A lot of money is being spent by the European countries, but we don't get the capability," Robertson said at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel. "We tend to compete with each other, duplicate each other. And that is not the best way to deal with tomorrow's threats.

"We've got to be much more sophisticated about what we spend on and make sure that the value is there for the taxpayer's money," Robertson said. Kosovo has shown people that the world is going to be dangerous , he said, and that defense is not a luxury, but a key part of national security.

The two defense leaders said that during the day's upcoming meetings, they aimed to stress the need for better capabilities as called for in NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative.

NATO members launched the initiative, known as the DCI, at it's 50th anniversary summit in April. It is aimed at improving NATO forces to ensure they are designed and equipped for 21st century missions.

The DCI focused on NATO's ability to deploy and mobilize forces and sustain operations with supplies and equipment. It also called for improving NATO forces' ability to operate and survive in the face of chemical, biological, terrorist or electronic attack; to engage appropriate assets in humanitarian, force protection and high-intensity combat missions; and to set up and maintain interoperable command, control and information systems.

"The Defense Capabilities Initiative is not some theoretical exercise," Robertson said. "It is something very strongly linked to getting better capability and getting more deployable troops available in times of trouble so that we can prevent trouble spots from becoming major crises."

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