NATO Command Pushes Alliance into New Fields, Capabilities
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2011 NATO’s Allied Command Transformation is helping the alliance adjust to new strategies, new constraints and new ideas, the command’s top officer said here today.
Gen. Stephane Abrial of the French air force leads the Norfolk, Va.-based command as it sorts through the lessons learned from Operation Unified Protector over Libya, and as a result of NATO operations in Afghanistan.
“We are working in support of current operations, preparing forces of the alliance nations to meet the challenges of tomorrow and the day after, and we are also working on partnerships and outreach,” he said during a news conference with Pentagon reporters.
The command has three main pillars: strategic thinking, capability development and training, the general explained. All this is fed by the lessons learned processes now in place.
The command is a focal point for many aspects of the alliance. Being in the United States, it can tap into U.S. capabilities while also representing NATO’s other 27 nations to the American military.
The command is implementing the decisions made during the alliance’s summit last year in Lisbon, Portugal, and is working to implement “smart defense,” a strategy NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced in February.
“It is an initiative … which basically says, ‘Look, budgets are decreasing everywhere. We cannot expect any possibility to spend more,. But we need to spend better. The way to do that is to pool things together,’” the general explained.
The command is working on priorities, cooperation and specialization, Abrial said. It prioritizes the capabilities needed and recommends where the alliance needs to invest. Cooperation is simple: how to better do things together. Specialization means looking at specific strengths nations have and seeing how to develop those strengths and make them available for the whole alliance.
Training is a good example for smart defense, the general said.
“All our nations have training capabilities,” he said. “How can we make better use of all these facilities? How can we better manage pilot training, for example, on a multinational basis?”
Smart defense also can apply to maintenance and logistics. It makes no sense for each country in a deployment to carry a maintenance tail with it, Abrial noted, so the alliance needs to look for ways to consolidate these support functions.
“There are some examples already – the [mine-resistant, armor-protected] vehicle – but we need to do better,” he said. “We need to look at everything we do around missile defense – how nations are going to work together around this mission.”
Force protection missions are part of this, including protection from chemical, biological and nuclear threats and those posed by improvised explosive devices. Smart defense also is looking at intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, -- including drones -- and sharing of the information these assets provide. “How do we improve our capabilities?” he said. “Everyone is talking already about the experience of Libya. We know what we need to do better. Now how do we do better?”
The command has a series of projects addressing these and other aspects, so long as the nations are willing to cooperate and fund them, the general said.
Allied Command Transformation also is involved in cyber defense, another new mission to grow out of the Lisbon summit. The issue is not new to NATO, as member country Estonia was the victim of a cyber attack in 2007.
“We had developed the concept and a center of excellence in Tallinn, Estonia,” he said. “Now it is an official NATO mission, and we need to develop the capabilities in accordance. We work on increasing the capabilities for the center of excellence, we work on training and the capabilities that need to be developed.”
The command is working on specific initiatives for approval by heads of state and government at NATO’s Chicago summit in May.