New NATO Transformation Command Established in Norfolk
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NORFOLK, June 19, 2003 "Haul up the Allied Command Transformation flag," Secretary General Lord George Robertson said during the ceremony here today. "Allied Command Transformation is now established."
With that, one of the more "daring" experiments in NATO's history began. Robertson oversaw the decommissioning of Allied Command Atlantic and the establishment of the new command under a driving rain.
U.S. Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr. assumed the position of Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. Marine Gen. James Jones assumed the area responsibilities formerly held by Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic. Giambastiani is also commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, the command charged with transforming the U.S. military. Jones heads the European Command.
ACLANT, decommissioned after 51 years of existence, was established at the beginning of the Cold War to ensure troops and supplies from the United States and Canada could reach Western Europe through growing Soviet naval power. Allied Command Transformation will specialize in dealing with unconventional, unpredictable threats of the future, Robertson said.
The new command is part of a huge restructuring of NATO commands agreed to by heads of state at NATO's Prague Summit in November. Robertson said the changes mean a "retooled, reengineered, reinvented NATO ready to deal with the threats that are out there" and also ready to deal with threats "we don't know are out there."
The decommissioning of Allied Command Atlantic and establishment of Allied Command Transformation is more than a reflagging action. "We are changing fundamentally the very nature and purpose of this strategic headquarters," Robertson said.
"Allied Command Transformation will shape the future of combined and joint operations and will identify new concepts and bring them to maturity, and turn then these transformational concepts into reality - a reality shared by the whole NATO alliance."
The new functional command is "theory put in practice," Robertson said during an interview following the ceremony. "Every day there are people in uniform out there doing a remarkable job of work. This command is going to help them to make sure they do it well in the future."
Giambastiani and Jones said that their relationship will be key to success. Jones, now the chief of NATO's Operations, will need military capabilities.
Giambastiani will be the man tasked with finding new ways, methods and doctrines to provide those capabilities. "My job is frankly to support the operational command, just as (U.S.) Joint Forces Command supports the other (American) combatant commanders," Giambastiani said in the interview following the ceremony.
Allied Command Transformation will do that under direction of the NATO Atlantic Council through the NATO military council. "The bottom line day to day is to support the operations of Allied Command Operations," he said.
Jones pointed out his command has been working to define the relationship between the commands for quite a few months. "It really is going to be a strong and robust and cohesive relationship that will enable us to continue the transformation of the military that we all know we need for the 21st century challenges," he said.
The immediate challenge is to establish the NATO Response Force. "That's about as important as you can get," Giambastiani said. The force is scheduled to have an early operations capability at the end of this year, with an initial operations capability set for fall 2004.
Ultimately the force could number 20,000 and be able to deploy in days out of the NATO area. The force would also be sustained for up to a year.
The NATO Response Force is "really the prime vehicle for transformation as well," Jones said. "It not only generates a capability, but it is the vehicle by which we achieve that transformation." He said anything that can be done to "hasten the delivery of the NATO Response Force" will be appreciated.
NATO is entering new areas. The alliance will support Poland as it puts together a division that will participate in stabilizing Iraqi. NATO is also readying a force that will maintain peace and security in Afghanistan. NATO forces are also in the Balkans.
Robertson said that linking the new command so clearly with the U.S. Joint Forces Command "means that the United States will never be alone in the future and that the allies will always know that in times of trouble they'll be able to act with the United States in the interests of international law and order."