Cohen to Measure Progress on NATO Initiative
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MUNICH, Nov. 30, 1999 The NATO Cooperative Defense Initiative and meetings with Romanian officials will highlight Defense Secretary William S. Cohens latest visit to Europe.
Cohen, who departed Washington November 29, will also use the three-nation, five-day trip to answer European questions about the U.S. national missile defense program, a senior defense official said. The trip ends Dec. 3.
Cohen begins the trip in Romania, then has engagements in Germany and finally attends the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium.
Measuring progress on NATOs defense initiatives will be the main effort of the trip, said the official. We are going to talk about all components of the cooperative defense initiative, Cohen said during an in-flight interview. We will look to the force goals that were set for 1999, and then talk about the force goals for 2000.
The initiative has five components -- mobility, deployability, precision engagement, command and communications and logistics. I think everyone in NATO has learned from the Kosovo experience what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are, Cohen said. So we want to address those weaknesses so if there are future Kosovos, a disproportionate burden will not fall upon the United States. Cohen specifically mentioned precision-guided munitions, electronic jamming capabilities' and air-to-air refueling capabilities.
Improving alliance logistics will receive much attention. NATO has developed doctrine and exercised a proposal called the Multinational Joint Logistics Center. The official called the center the logistics counterpart to the Combined Joint Task Force for the combat arm of NATO. In fact, in Kosovo and in Bosnia, we have sort of a mini-multinational joint logistics center actually operating, said a senior defense official. Cohen will want the alliance to build on this success.
Cohen also will push for more automated logistics. This will allow the alliance to share the logistics burden. If you're bringing parts for one kind of system, then [another NATO ally] can bring the ammunition, said the official. Automated logistics would allow the alliance to track shipments. As a result, alliance members would have to carry less and have less inventory in the field.
I wouldn't want to say it's precisely like just-in-time inventory for commercial enterprises, because the risk of catastrophic failure if it didn't arrive is much greater in the military, but it's the same basic concept, said the official. There are huge cost savings to be engendered and lots of interoperability to be gained by [adopting] that program.
In Romania, Cohen will meet with President Emil Constantinescu, the prime minister and defense minister. He will also attend the Southeast Defense Ministerial. The ministerial, started in 1995,- consists of four NATO countries -- the United States, Italy, Greece and Turkey -- working with five Partnership for Peace countries -- Slovenia, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania. Cohen said the nine nations are working to establish cooperative efforts to ensure stability in an area that has not historically been so stable. This is the third southeast ministerial Cohen has attended. As a result of those meetings, there is a greater degree of defense cooperation in the region, Cohen said.
One example of this cooperation was the 1998 formation of a peacekeeping brigade. Cohene said the brigade will begin exercising soon.
We have at least two more initiatives we will be discussing, he said. We will discuss a crisis information network and an engineering task force. The task force will consist of on-call components from different partner countries. It will operate in the region. The Crisis Information Network will track needs and requirements and be used to respond to humanitarian disasters.
Cohen will hold bilateral talks with the Romanian leader. He said he would discuss progress on the partnership for peace action plan the United States is working on with Romania. If Romania makes progress on the plan, they would be eligible for membership in NATO in 2002.
Cohen also will speak to German military leaders in Hamburg, and then travel to the Marshall Center in Garmisch.
Cohen also will brief NATO defense ministers on the U.S. National Missile Defense Program. I will inform them of the nature of the current and growing threat and lay out the architecture of how the United States plans to deal with that threat, Cohen said.
The secretary said he wants to reassure NATO allies that the U.S. program will not undercut the Russian strategic deterrent. The project we have in mind -- if the president decides to go forward with it -- has a very limited nature and will protect the United States against a limited type of attack, Cohen said. We think it is in our national security interests to consider this.