NATO Strives to Fill Capability Gaps

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2011 — NATO is work­ing to shore up capa­bil­i­ty gaps –- from those in its abil­i­ty to defend against cyber and mis­sile attacks to short­com­ings iden­ti­fied dur­ing cur­rent oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, the alliance’s supreme allied com­man­der for trans­for­ma­tion said here yes­ter­day.
Gen. Stephane Abr­i­al of the French air force called NATO’s new strate­gic con­cept, adopt­ed dur­ing the alliance’s Novem­ber sum­mit in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal, a big step toward build­ing capa­bil­i­ties need­ed to stand up to new and emerg­ing threats.

“The world is chang­ing fast, and the threat, as opposed to what it was years ago, is less vis­i­ble, more dif­fused and more mul­ti­formed,” he told reporters dur­ing a media round­table. “But nev­er­the­less, it is very real.” 

NATO lead­ers agreed to a strate­gic con­cept that bet­ter pos­tures the alliance to face these chal­lenges for the com­ing decade, the gen­er­al said. Among its pro­vi­sions is an agree­ment to enhance cyber defens­es as well as mis­sile defense capa­bil­i­ties able to pro­tect not just NATO forces, but also Euro­pean pop­u­la­tions and territory. 

NATO began defin­ing a cyber pol­i­cy in 2007 after a series of cyber attacks in Esto­nia inflict­ed heavy dam­age on mil­i­tary tar­gets and key civil­ian infra­struc­ture. But Abr­i­al said the new strate­gic con­cept, in which NATO lead­ers for­mal­ly agreed to enhance alliance cyber defens­es, final­ly moves this effort to the front burner. 

“Now we are engaged much more for­ward­ly … and are devel­op­ing an action plan to see which type of capa­bil­i­ties we need to build up to make sure we keep cur­rent in this envi­ron­ment,” he said. Empha­siz­ing that “NATO can­not wait,” Abriel described the chal­lenges in defend­ing against cyber attacks. 

“Geog­ra­phy is not a fac­tor any­more. The adver­sary can be any­where in the world,” he said. “We have dif­fi­cul­ties to iden­ti­fy who is the bad guy, but there are thou­sands of them out there. [So] we have to make sure we can defend our­selves and con­tin­ue to oper­ate in a cyber-heavy environment.” 

Mean­while, rec­og­niz­ing the grow­ing threat of pro­lif­er­a­tion, NATO lead­ers also agreed in Lis­bon to expand the alliance’s mis­sile-defense capa­bil­i­ties. More than 30 nations pos­sess or are work­ing on bal­lis­tic mis­siles and oth­er weapons sys­tems, with some of those mis­siles already capa­ble of strik­ing parts of West­ern Europe. 

The new strate­gic con­cept includes a plan to extend NATO’s capa­bil­i­ties to pro­tect not just deployed forces, but also mem­bers’ pop­u­la­tions and ter­ri­to­ries. The plan, Abr­i­al explained, is to build defens­es around mem­ber nations’ exist­ing capa­bil­i­ties. NATO will serve as com­mand and con­trol, aggre­gat­ing these resources into a sin­gle, broad-scale mis­sile defense capability. 

Abr­i­al wel­comed the deci­sion to invite Rus­sia to par­tic­i­pate, call­ing it “a good test” in efforts to fos­ter clos­er coop­er­a­tion between NATO and Rus­sia. “It is extreme­ly impor­tant to show we are out of the Cold War era,” he said, empha­siz­ing Russia’s impor­tant role in region­al secu­ri­ty. “It is vital for the sta­bil­i­ty of Europe to ensure that Rus­sia is an actor. The Lis­bon sum­mit has shown a will­ing­ness on both sides –- NATO nations and Rus­sia –- to coop­er­ate more and to make sure we improve the rela­tion­ship in those domains.” 

As NATO pos­tures itself to bet­ter deal with new and emerg­ing threats, it’s also work­ing to shore up defi­cien­cies affect­ing the NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in Afghanistan. Three gaps it’s work­ing to fill involve infor­ma­tion shar­ing, bat­tle­field med­i­cine and logistics. 

Abr­i­al cit­ed tremen­dous strides on the infor­ma­tion-shar­ing front with the standup of the new Afghan Mis­sion Net­work. The net­work, slat­ed to reach full oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty this sum­mer, gives the Unit­ed States and its ISAF part­ner nations the oppor­tu­ni­ty to link up over a com­mon mis­sion architecture. 

Already, coali­tion forces are call­ing the net­work –- which enables one coali­tion part­ner to share infor­ma­tion that may affect anoth­er partner’s oper­a­tions — a major asset, Abr­i­al report­ed. “Push­ing the infor­ma­tion into the sys­tem enables the oth­er nations in this area to bet­ter plan their own oper­a­tions,” he explained, mak­ing them “more effec­tive and safer for the troops.” 

Abr­i­al said he sees the network’s long-term ben­e­fit for future NATO oper­a­tions. “My vision from the begin­ning was that we not build some­thing that would be spe­cif­ic for Afghanistan, and then put it away when the oper­a­tion [is] over,” he said. 

Rather, Abr­i­al said he envi­sioned a net­work “that can be use­able in the future, what­ev­er the oper­a­tion,” with an open archi­tec­ture adapt­able for those spe­cif­ic cir­cum­stances. “So it is not a one-time effort,” he said. “It is a good les­son for the future.” 

On the mil­i­tary med­i­cine front, Allied Trans­for­ma­tion Com­mand is work­ing to ensure wound­ed war­riors get the fastest and best care pos­si­ble. “One of the gaps is multi­na­tion­al med­ical sup­port. How [do we] make sure we are more effec­tive col­lec­tive­ly?” Abr­i­al asked. 

The prob­lem, he said, is that every NATO nation has a dif­fer­ent way of han­dling com­bat casu­al­ties –- some that he said take too long to get treat­ment to the wound­ed. But imple­ment­ing change isn’t as easy as it might seem. “It’s a very dif­fi­cult mat­ter, we under­stand, because each coun­try has its own health and med­ical cul­ture, and does not accept if it is mod­i­fied for the sake of con­sen­sus,” Abr­i­al said. 

Allied Trans­for­ma­tion Com­mand also is look­ing at bet­ter ways to keep NATO forces sup­plied with equip­ment and provisions. 

“We are not very good at pool­ing logis­tics,” Abr­i­al acknowl­edged. Bet­ter process­es will make logis­tics more effi­cient and save mon­ey at the same time, he said. 

As NATO trans­form­ers strive to fill rec­og­nized gaps, they con­stant­ly are striv­ing to iden­ti­fy defi­cien­cies that might not be so obvi­ous. One of the areas they’ve explored is space. “NATO does­n’t own any­thing in space,” and relies on ser­vices pro­vid­ed by nations that do, Abr­i­al said. 

“Is it sat­is­fy­ing? Does NATO want to devel­op some­thing spe­cif­ic [in space]?” he asked. “There’s no answer so far, but the ques­tion must be asked.” 

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

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twitter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →