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NATO Command Looks to Expand Partnerships

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2011 – As U.S. Joint Forces Command prepares to disband within the next few months, the commander of NATO’s Allied Command Transformation -- historically one of Joint Forces Command’s closest partners -- is preparing to expand his collaboration to a broader range of U.S. military organizations.

“My impression is that with the disestablishment of JFCOM, the work between the U.S. defense institution and ACT will increase, as opposed to the past,” French Air Force Gen. Stephane Abrial, supreme allied commander for transformation, told reporters this week.

NATO established Allied Command Transformation in June 2003 to provide the conceptual framework for combined joint operations, and stood it up in Norfolk, Va., where it collocated with Joint Forces Command. Until 2009, the commander of Joint Forces Command also was the ACT commander.

That changed when Abrial succeeded Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis as NATO supreme allied commander transformation in June 2009. Abrial, former French Air Force chief of staff, became the first non-U.S. officer permanently assigned as one of NATO’s two supreme allied commanders.

The separation actually strengthened the two commands’ relationship, Abrial said, with both working to institutionalize it at all levels.

“The result, one year later, was the two commands had never worked that closely together,” he said.

Abrial said he expects to continue that level of collaboration with the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, which is expected to absorb the bulk of Joint Forces Command’s functions, and related DOD entities.

A “good portion” of Joint Forces Command activities, particularly those dealing with modeling and simulation, will remain in place in Norfolk and Suffolk, Va., Abrial said. The French general said he expects those involved with those activities would “continue working closely on a day-to-day basis with my capabilities development division.”

Meanwhile, with other Joint Forces Command functions to be distributed across the Defense Department, Abrial said ACT has started looking at “how we will re-plug into this much more distributed system.”

He emphasized, however, that “working in a distributed environment won’t be totally new” for ACT. It already has close working relationships with a variety of defense entities, he said, including U.S. Cyber Command and the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, known as JIEDDO.

“We have many [such relationships],” Abrial said. “We will have more. It could be complicated, but not a difficulty.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced in August his recommendation to eliminate Joint Forces Command and transfer its essential functions to other organizations. President Barack Obama approved the recommendation in January, and Gates signed a memorandum Feb. 9 providing guidance and direction to execute the disestablishment.

Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Joint Forces Command, offered assurance that day that the disestablishment plan would preserve gains made by his organization and its relationship with ATC.

“We’ll ensure that we sustain the momentum and gains in jointness, while maintaining interaction with NATO, specifically Allied Command Transformation, and other multinational partners,” Odierno said.

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