NATO Task Force to Seek Innovative Efficiencies

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2011 — A new task force NATO’s defense min­is­ters agreed to form will explore “out of the box” con­cepts for improv­ing effi­cien­cy while striv­ing to build capa­bil­i­ties in the face of shrink­ing defense bud­gets, the alliance’s supreme allied com­man­der for trans­for­ma­tion said today.
In a meet­ing last week in Brus­sels, Bel­gium, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and his NATO coun­ter­parts endorsed the new task force to take a fresh look at the alliance’s capa­bil­i­ties-boost­ing ini­tia­tives, Gen. Stephane Abr­i­al of the French air force told reporters.

“The objec­tive is to first iden­ti­fy what is exist­ing as far as multi­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion is con­cerned, iden­ti­fy what could be pos­si­ble, and think new ideas [and] inno­v­a­tive ways for capa­bil­i­ty devel­op­ment,” he said.

U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Car­ol M. Pot­tenger, Allied Trans­for­ma­tion Command’s deputy chief of staff for capa­bil­i­ty devel­op­ment, will lead the review, to be con­duct­ed by a mix of mil­i­tary and civil­ian rep­re­sen­ta­tives from across NATO.

Abr­i­al said he expects the review will exam­ine NATO doc­trine, orga­ni­za­tions, pro­cure­ment, train­ing, oper­a­tions and main­te­nance, logis­tics, and bat­tle­field med­i­cine.

The task force mem­bers will have six months to for­mu­late their ideas.

“The objec­tive is a report in Sep­tem­ber for the [defense] min­is­ters to con­sid­er in Octo­ber, and then make deci­sions, either NATO as a whole or groups of nations inside NATO,” Abr­i­al explained.

Though the glob­al eco­nom­ic cri­sis has affect­ed alliance nations’ defense bud­gets, Abr­i­al said, every NATO nation has made clear it does­n’t want to “let the finan­cial cri­sis turn into a secu­ri­ty cri­sis.” That requires redou­bling efforts to become more effec­tive and more effi­cient, he added.

“With reduced bud­gets [and] reduced man­pow­er, we need to be able to do bet­ter with less in the future,” he said. “While look­ing for new solu­tions, inno­v­a­tive solu­tions [and] multi­na­tion­al approach­es, [we are] mak­ing sure that we … make the best pos­si­ble use of every dol­lar, every pound, every euro that our gov­ern­ments spend on defense.”

Abr­i­al cit­ed inno­v­a­tive defense solu­tions already at work with­in NATO, the Euro­pean Union or the Euro­pean Defense Agency that the task force is like­ly to con­sid­er. Swe­den, Nor­way, Fin­land and Den­mark have a suc­cess­ful defense coop­er­a­tion arrange­ment under the aus­pices of the Nordic Coun­cil. The Nether­lands, Bel­gium, Nor­way and Den­mark share part of the acqui­si­tion costs as well as oper­a­tion and main­te­nance of their F‑16 fight­er jet fleets. Lux­em­bourg has devel­oped a mar­itime patrol capa­bil­i­ty to sup­port NATO mis­sions by leas­ing sen­sor-equipped civil­ian pro­peller air­craft.

Anoth­er far more rev­o­lu­tion­ary, and poten­tial­ly sen­si­tive, con­cept involves capa­bil­i­ty-shar­ing. In a nut­shell, this might mean one NATO nation agrees to pro­vide all of capa­bil­i­ty “X” for itself and one or more part­ner nations. Mean­while, anoth­er nation that receives capa­bil­i­ty “X” from the first nation pro­vides all of the capa­bil­i­ty “Y,” and anoth­er pro­vides all of the capa­bil­i­ty “Z.”

Abr­i­al acknowl­edged that some nations may be high­ly averse to giv­ing up their own defense capa­bil­i­ties and rely­ing on anoth­er nation to pro­vide it. Such col­lab­o­ra­tion would require clear under­stand­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion to work, he said.

While such sweep­ing rec­om­men­da­tions aren’t like­ly to be adopt­ed in the near term, Abr­i­al said, he’s encour­ag­ing the task force to offer the broad­est range of new approach­es pos­si­ble. “All aspects are on the table today,” he said.

What’s most impor­tant, he empha­sized, is that despite bud­get cuts, the alliance con­tin­ues to improve its capa­bil­i­ties so it’s ready to stand up to what­ev­er threat or chal­lenge comes its way.

“We are mak­ing sure [the] forces of NATO nations are ready to face any kind of sit­u­a­tion today, tomor­row and the day after,” Abr­i­al said. “What we see around us today shows the absolute neces­si­ty to be ready for every­thing.”

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

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