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U.S., NATO Allies Plan New, Improved Alliance

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

TORONTO, Sept. 22, 1999 – NATO's 19 member nations aim to create a more coordinated, effective, modern alliance by embracing the Defense Capabilities Initiative, according to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

"We won in Kosovo because NATO countries were politically united, well commanded by Gen. (Wesley K.) Clark and equipped with precision, all-weather weapons," Cohen told reporters here Sept. 21. "But Kosovo also taught us that the alliance must do more to augment its military capability."

Cohen and Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived here Sept. 20 to join NATO counterparts for two days of informal meetings. Alliance officials make no decisions at informal sessions, but pave the way for decisions at formal meetings, the next of which will be in December.

At the end of the first day's talks, Cohen and Shelton told international media that NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative, or DCI, is key to meeting future challenges. The initiative launched at the Washington Summit in April identified the need to improve NATO's mobility, sustainability, effective engagement, force survivability and command, control and communications.

"Kosovo showed the need for progress in these areas, and there is clear agreement at this conference that we need to move forward on all fronts," Cohen said. "An alliance is stronger than its strongest member. We will leave this meeting more unified about how to address the challenges of the future."

NATO's strength can only be harnessed through the interoperability found in the common capabilities in the DCI, Shelton pointed out. "If all NATO nations, regardless of the size of their defense budgets, are guided by this shared vision," the chairman said, "NATO will remain a pre- eminent force for peace and stability in Europe."

Cohen stressed the need for wiser spending of defense dollars and called on the allies to reduce the amount of money devoted to operations and maintenance and put it into procurement. Defense spending by the European allies is about 60 percent of the United States', he said, but it buys only about 10 percent of U.S. capability.

"In some cases, countries will have to spend more money," the secretary said. "But in many cases, we can achieve improvements by working together and spending our defense budgets more intelligently."

Germany, for example, has proposed a European mobility command to promote greater coordination in the movement of troops and equipment, he said. Italy and the United Kingdom are creating performance benchmarks to measure improvements in capabilities.

The alliance is developing a Multinational Joint Logistics Center to help manage and deploy its assets more efficiently, Cohen said. NATO is also developing a new structure for a unified, modern communications capability and for looking at ways to use more commercial sealift and airlift to improve mobility. NATO allies are also seeking ways to integrate command structures and logistics.

U.S. defense officials are also working to correct defense shortfalls revealed by the Kosovo conflict, Cohen said. "For example, we are buying more C-17 transport planes and additional ships for carrying heavy equipment," he noted.

U.S. officials are developing more precision-guided munitions and increasing existing supplies of others, Cohen said. They are also increasing U.S. capability to employ night precision-guided weapons and perform low-altitude missions.

U.S. officials are considering using more off-the-shelf technology to detect chemical and biological attacks and developing better sensors and protection gear. A new director of interoperability will advocate national and international jointness, reporting to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology.

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Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton at a media availability at the informal NATO Ministerial in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 21, 1999

Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of Defense William S. Cohen responds to a reporter's question during a press conference held at the conclusion of the first day of the Annual Autumn Informal Meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in Toronto, Canada, on Sept. 21, 1999. Gen. Hugh Shelton (left), U.S. Army, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Cohen at the press conference. DoD photo by R. D. Ward.  
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