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Allied Warfighter Talks Look to NATO's Future

The Allied Warfighter Talks are underway today with the goals of increasing NATO's deterrence and defense capabilities and assuring alliance unity in the wake of Russia's unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine.

The talks — held at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland — look to continue the successes of the alliance for the future. 

French Air Force Gen. Philippe Lavigne, the commander of NATO's Allied Command Transformation, and Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the alliance and the talks during an interview in Grady's Pentagon office.

Two men pose for a photo in front of flags.
Pentagon Meeting
Navy Adm. Christopher W. Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with French Air Force Gen. Philippe Lavigne, commander of NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, at the Pentagon, Nov. 7, 2022.
Photo By: Navy Chief Petty Officer Carlos M. Vazquez II, DOD
VIRIN: 221107-D-WD757-2001


Both men praised the unity among the NATO nations in opposing the Russian invasion and the way the 30 nations of the alliance came together to support Ukraine. Lavigne called alliance unity "a center of gravity," adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin had miscalculated and figured NATO would fracture.  

But the Warfighter Talks are more than just discussions of immediate challenges. The talks posit scenarios that challenge senior strategic leaders to figure new ways to operate together, integrate forces and capabilities and synchronize global efforts, Lavigne said. 

This idea is now a cultural part of the way NATO nations work together, but it wasn't always that way. In the mid-1970s, NATO introduced a new idea called interoperability. At that time, it was just to ensure NATO nations fielded communications equipment that could operate together. 

But the idea of interoperability changed over the intervening years, and it became important that NATO forces shared battlefield awareness, tactics, intelligence, logistics and more. Military capabilities are now developed with a focus on interoperability. 

"Interoperability is just the starting point," Grady said. "Where we really want to [go] is from interoperability to integration and then to interchangeability. That's really, really important — the ability to just kind of plug and play." 

Operating within NATO is another part of interoperability, and the Warfighter Talks have significant input from Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe; Dutch navy Adm. Rob Bauer, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee; representatives from the combatant commands and leaders from the NATO nations. 

Lavigne's command — based in Norfolk, Virginia — has the mission of "leading the warfare development of military structures, forces, capabilities and doctrines." The general stresses innovation and new outside-the-box ways of looking at capabilities and problems. The command tests new ideas in exercises. He says interoperability is linked with interconnectivity and the whole world of digital transformation.  

Developing this will help not only the service members on the sharp end of the spear but should buy defense leaders more time to make decisions, Lavigne said. 

NATO's new strategic concept — the first since 2010 — is a realistic look at the world and the challenges that confront the alliance. These range from Russia to Iran to terrorism to an emerging China, Lavigne said. Energy security, the weaponization of mass migrations, famines, droughts, natural and human-caused disasters and more must be considered, as well. 

Affecting all is the threat of climate change, and both men said the alliance must take this into consideration as it looks to the future. Cutting energy consumption has a readiness aspect, too, Grady said, and there are emission targets for NATO to reach as a whole.  

The readiness aspect is concrete and one that service members can appreciate. "If I don't have to refuel a destroyer every three days, but I can extend that to every five days, that is less risk to the crews of both vessels," he said.

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