NATO Command Pushes Alliance into New Fields, Capabilities

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.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)