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Multinational Transformation Conference Keys on Partnership

By Joe Ferrare
Special to American Forces Press Service

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, April 17, 2006 – Partnership in the face of change emerged as the theme of a defense transformation conference of senior officials from 28 nations throughout North America, Europe and Eurasia here last week.

John P. Rose, director of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, set the tone for the conference during the opening April 10.

"This workshop is about change, and the change that is occurring in the geo-strategic environment," he said. "It's not a change that occurs only in the United States, or only in Europe or Eurasia, but it is reflective of a worldwide change. The purpose of this two-day workshop is to bring together our friends, allies, our colleagues from North America, Europe and Eurasia to address these issues."

Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Ryan Henry led the U.S. presence at the conference, which was attended by three ministers of defense in addition to eight deputy ministers, three military service chiefs, four deputy chiefs and other flag officers and experts among its more than 50 participants. Ulrich Schlie, German director of policy planning and the advisory staff for the Federal Ministry of Defense, also gave an opening address.

Henry briefed the group on the results of the U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review and what it meant for the United States and its international partners. The need for cooperation was one of the key lessons resulting from the QDR process, he said.

"We took away four major lessons and insights as we commenced the QDR," Henry said. "One is, we knew we had to change the force, but we realized we would be changing it under conditions which we referred to as operational uncertainty.

"We know very confidently that in the next 10 years that we will have our American forces, perhaps engaged with allies, ... somewhere in the world where they're not engaged today," he said. "What we can't do with any degree of certainty whatever, is predict when that might be, where it might be, or how those forces might be employed. That is all unknown, and there are really no indicators in what direction that might go.

"So the next big lesson that we take away is the fact that the mission set is so broad, that this is something that we in the Department of Defense cannot do by ourselves, even if we chose to, even if we were given all the resources we wanted," Henry continued. "It is something that we're going to have to do with partnership. We are going to have to build partnerships, and build capabilities among the partnerships, to be able to meet the challenges that face us in the world."

It's not enough to agree to be partners, Henry noted. Nations have to work together to make sure their partnerships are strong and effective when a crisis hits.

"While we're building partnership capability, we also need to have a unity of effort. We need to have fluid working relationships, we need to be comfortable with each other, we need to have exercised our efforts in working together, and we need to look at new instruments by which we can cooperate," he explained.

Schlie sounded a similar note during his remarks. Germany's security policy is marked by the nation's history and location, he noted.

"You have to deal with the geographic situation of Germany in the center of Europe," Schlie said. "Germany has more neighbors than any other country in Europe. The German policy since 1945 is closely interconnected with the European policy. Germany finds its security in institutions, primarily that grand institution, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and European Union and also the United Nations."

Such regional and global thinking must be the new norm for security planners, he explained.

"We live in a period where security is no longer a geographically limited term," Schlie said. "We live in a time when ... borders become blurred, their separating character is lost, where information and communication travel the globe in seconds.

"We have to make sure that the security policy is a network-based security policy," he continued. "The internal and external policy (divisions) seem to be outdated, because the challenges we are facing now have become widespread. They don't allow for these types of separations and divisions anymore. New demands, new challenges have arisen, and therefore we have to come up with a different type of situational awareness."

The conference was one step toward creating the situational awareness of such changes, according to Rose.

"Whether we talk about terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the need for defense reform, fighting crime and corruption, addressing the curse of trafficking -- whether it be human trafficking or drug trafficking -- there is a serious requirement that exists to address change and assess, and continue to assess and reassess, the geo-strategic environment.

"No one country will be able to address these challenges alone," he said. "The importance of partnership, the importance of dialogue is absolutely crucial to our overall joint success."

(Joe Ferrare is assigned to the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.)

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