Thank you for your kind introduction. I am honoured and very delighted to address this International Conference hosted by the Atlantic Council of Albania. Last Monday I addressed the Albanian Parliament on behalf of the Deputy Secretary of NATO, Alexander Vershbow. That speech is available to all of you. It might be of interest that I also met with the Albanian Minister of Defence, with the Albanian Defence Academy, with students of the State University of Tirana.
Today I would like to further develop some key messages with additional conceptual thoughts on regional cooperation in this multinational format of key stakeholders. I introduced the same thrust during a High Level International Conference in Bulgaria/Sofia on 2nd of April 2012. And the same applied yesterday during my attendance of an international conference in Rome, hosted by the Instituto Affari Internazionali; a key note speech was given by the Italian Defence Minister.
The centre of gravity to all my thoughts is at the core of the Alliance: Cohesion and solidarity of sovereign nations. The strength of the Alliance will continue to come from the ability of its member nations to work together-to deal with crises that threaten Alliance security, wherever in the world they may arise; to put together complex joint operations, at short notice, with high impact and high precision; and to have the right mix of capabilities on hand to respond to different scenarios.
“Smart Defence” is a new way of thinking about generating the defence capabilities we need for the year 2020 and beyond.
It is about deciding how to manage what we have to cut, but also staying focused on what we need to keep, so that we can meet the Alliance's strategic goals now and in the future. It is about Allies working together to deliver capabilities multinationally that would be too expensive for many of them to deliver alone, ensuring that we all get the maximum return on available defence budgets. And it is also about Allies coordinating their plans more closely than they do now so that they can specialise in what they do best, and focus their resources in those areas.
“Smart Defence” will be high on our Chicago Summit agenda, and it is a project that will take years to fully implement.
But acquiring the right capabilities is not enough. We must also make sure that these capabilities, and our forces, can work with each other effectively. This is especially important as we prepare to draw down our combat operation in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. After that, Allied and Partner forces will no longer be operating shoulder-to-shoulder on such a large scale as they have for the past decade. We must not lose the vital skills they have gained, but build on them to strengthen our interoperability, our effectiveness and our credibility.
We can strengthen our ability to work together and, when necessary, to fight together, through expanded education and training; more exercises-especially with the NATO Response Force; and the better use of existing equipment and technology. That is the thrust of the Connected Forces Initiative which the Secretary General launched earlier this year, and that should receive formal approval at Chicago as well.
With that overall introduction let me offer some thoughts on practical issues of implementing the initiative. Recent discussions among Allies revealed that with all good intent for promoting valuable initiatives there remain several important concerns which need to be reflected honestly. Those must not be underestimated in their relevance:
- NATO is concerned that the initiatives follow political intent as a NATO Summit deliverable and cannot be sustained as a long term effort. NATO is seeking for supporting mechanisms to maintain momentum. NATO staffs and Agencies should be pro actively engaged in roles of facilitating capability delivery of Allies and partner nations, providing consultancy and honest brokering in practical terms.
- NATO has not exploited all opportunities and mechanisms to reach out to partner nations. Their potential to contribute to and benefit from smart defence could be pursued much more ambitiously while there are diverting views among Allies about the scope of partner involvement. The only convincing argument for being restrictive is that partner nations must not help compensating capability gaps which to overcome has to remain the privilege and sole responsibility of NATO Allies.
One underlying assumption of Smart Defence is that the best chance of success can be envisaged through a regional approach involving groups or a group of nations bound together by strategic proximity. Determining elements could include geography, cultural affinity, common equipment, language, national levels of ambition, history, economy interests beyond defence cooperation. In theory that should build trust and ease the entering into binding commitments related to improved and innovative delivery of defence capabilities.
We could look at the issue from a capability delivery perspective and focus on some basic parameters which should be shared amongst interested nations from the outset. Agreements should be documented and communicated in a transparent way to avoid misunderstandings. Flexible cooperation requires certainty at a minimum about:
- “Length of time: is a particular initiative designed to set up a temporary or permanent small group cooperation?
- Location: is small group cooperation designed to take place within NATO structures or outside of them?
- Scope: does mini-lateralism cover a specific capability area or does it have a wide scope?
- Membership: is small group cooperation inclusive, in that sense that Allies, (and let me add partner nations) who wish to participate are allowed to do so, or is it restrictive?”1
There are signs in that neither “region” nor “strategic proximity” tend to be the only drivers for Smart Defence; it is obvious when looking at nations’ choices of projects of interest for them. How can we deal with the overwhelming number of projects on the market? Well, I suggest that we change the perspective as we judge the added value of single Smart Defence projects. Instead of an isolated, scattered pick and choose way of showing interest, bailing out or participating we could do something else. Can’t we develop a South Eastern European commonly agreed concept about finding innovative options of cooperation available to transform existing capabilities?
It should be no surprise that I propose the regional capability “SEEBRIG” to serve as a potential common denominator and an agent for change in and for SEE. Without reinventing the wheel, but with a good and established framework there is a chance for further developing and improving existing capabilities. Those are visible, well experienced and bear the potential be enriched and transformed for both: for the benefit of the Alliance and also the EU. The targets for change and transformation could be the SEEBRIG HQ and all designated or affiliated units and formations from Allies and partner nations. Observers might alter their status and others could be invited to join.
Bulgaria recently agreed on enhancing strategic cooperation with US European Command. Deputy Defence Minister Tzvetkova is quoted to have highlighted on 14 March 2012 “that the joint experience gained so far in the course of the activities carried out at the Novo Selo Field Training Area forms a good basis for the enlargement of the scope of future trainings and participants therein. Involving countries from the region in the trainings and exercises may turn out to be a significant contribution on the part of the U.S. and Bulgaria to NATO's Smart Defence initiative. She added that the facilities can be used for pre-deployment training of contingents which would participate in international operations, for training of military formations from countries in the region, as well as for training of personnel participating in the MPFSEE."2
I started to look at all Smart Defence Tier 1 projects and selected most of them as being relevant.
The slide shows on the top row all SEEBRIG participating and observer nations. On the left column you see Tier 1 projects. The text in some boxes indicates the lead and participating nations in a Smart Defence project. In some cases I selected SEEBRIG nations randomly for explanatory text, when no SEEBRIG nation assumes a lead role. The crosses in the boxes show that SEEBRIG members and observers until today declared to participate in a project.
What does that indicate?
- Interest for a project is not driven by regional considerations only;
- Some SEEBRIG nations will gain insight, expertise, gather lessons learned and best practice from isolated projects which others will not have unless there is a shared ground of interest.
- What could we do?
- With a “SEEBRIG perspective” cross fertilisation, sharing and contributing to capability improvement could be offered or requested and achieved even, if other SEEBRIG nations do not enter into a specific project;
- other SEEBRIG members may support project participants and share the burden of involvement;
- some SEEBRIG members may grab the opportunity and reconsider their project interests and participation;
- a partner nation, not member of SEEBRIG, could offer cross pollination from an attractive project which may for example link to the C2 structure of operational HQs. Bulgaria, and Austria as potential invitee to SEEBRIG, should share recent best practice from the fully deployable Joint Force HQ in ULM. The HQs in ULM could also be designated to command the SEEBRIG.
Along those lines I suggest that this becomes part of a wider scope to launch a project. SEEBRIG members, observers and invitees might agree upon launching a new Tier 2 or even Tier 1 project for that purpose.
I could envisage that the South Eastern European Region (plus or enhanced) could turn challenges into real opportunities. Here is my proposal: A project should be launched which looks at supporting structures for cooperation and options for improving capability delivery. We could name it “Multinational Project 'Support Defence Cooperation in SEE”:
What might be some essentials of the project?
• Objectives of the project need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely);
• The project should be temporary and forecast the time horizon (0/1/3/5 years) with clearly defined phases, workpackages, and milestones;
• The project could be designed with phases as follows:
1) Before entering into any solutions, SEE should take the time and engage with many stakeholders to develop a concept (capture/evaluate the ‘as is’-develop the ‘to be’). This would have to include Business Cases/recommendations/consultation process/decision making in the appropriate fora. Worthy of note: The concept requires recognition of stakeholder views, interaction, dialogue and deals with acceptance of an integrated approach; in my view the prerequisite of fertile cooperation.
Guiding motto: Do not fix, if not broken!! It is important to stress that there is no intent to add any costly and bureaucratic structures or plan investment without return or benefits.
The concept phase should cover two areas:
a) SEE multinational cooperation support structures and mechanisms (review initial project management team / office; it may be decided to turn the project office into a program (SEEBRIG transformation) office and have projects (capability areas) managed from within existing structures.
b) SEEBRIG is the regional agent for change and transformation. It drives the evaluation of selected Smart Defence, Connected Forces, Pooling and Sharing, and other existing projects in order to promote synergies potentially for areas like
- Sustainment and Deployability
- Research and Development / Technology
2) Planning and implementation of support structures and mechanisms
3) Planning and implementation of SEEBRIG (Smart Defence / Connected Forces) pilot cases (test runs) in line with the concept.
4) Evaluation and improvement of measures
5) Full validation (enhanced Final Operating Capability)
6) Termination and handover of project
What might initially be required to run the project?
- Initially a small, professional project management team (impartial, unbiased) in one collaborative office should be established with authorised access to all stakeholders. Those are connected in a virtual team: only one responsible project manager; he/she leads 5-10 core project team members from interested nations, staffs/university, NGO. The team would reach out to a wide network of Allies, partner nations, stakeholders, communities of interest, administrations, academia, industry, NATO HQs and staffs, NATO Agencies. This would not require presence of those actors in the office location! In time contributions to project phases and work packages are key; let me underline that NATO Delegations and Missions need to be fully aligned to this effort. This team has to be reviewed as part of the conceptual phase. If better mechanisms are available or can be arranged, get rid of the team.
- The project management will follow recognised and internationally certified standards;
- Therefore and if there is a need, the team should enjoy education and training in project management with the aim to establish self sustaining skill sets within the governments; selected staff of stakeholders should be aligned to the same management approach;
- The project requires a responsive governance structure.
o It would need one government sponsor (preferred a [host] lead nation) which by authority ensures consistent strategic government oversight and directing authority and is acting on behalf of a steering mechanism;
o the appropriate body to assume the steering role should be identified. We may think about the SEDM or an expanded format. It is important to have all participating nations on board and represented with a voice.
- All activities need to be visible, transparent and shared with all stakeholders, hence up to date communication is key;
- As industry/enterprises are involved, from the outset (even in pre competitive phase) Transparency International will be invited to track all steps and interactions, in order to avoid corruption and that any benefit from interaction with industry will fall to governmental officials or any other stakeholder. Should there be any event indicating that illegal activities happen, this will be announced immediately with the expectation that the project is not jeopardised;
The project team should be allowed to build its own temporary and visible identity. It should
express the special nature of this challenging and future oriented task, dedicated to the transformation of the Multinational Peace Force South Eastern Europe. “The soldier who brings peace” is quite nicely symbolised by this hand painting by the Bulgarian artist Todor Popov from January 2012. The original is registered in the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture.
My presentation links up to the 2nd April 2012 High Level International Conference in Sofia where the Bulgarian President, Rosen Plevneliev, announced that Bulgaria intends to host a meeting of Heads of States and Governments in South Eastern Europe. In addition during the conference two more conceptual ideas were introduced: firstly to establish a “Multinational Centre for Intelligent Defence of NATO” at the University of World Economy in Sofia, open for Allies’ and partner nations’ participation and contribution; this could be used to work on concepts as a project. The second idea relates to the politically most visible demonstration in military and comprehensive approach capability terms: to further transform the South Eastern
European Brigade while exploiting the potential of Smart Defence. This force could become a fully deployable and sustainable force in a joint operational environment which would strengthen the HQs and all the units provided by Allies and partner nations in the region.
Summary: Smart Defence is innovative in many ways and there are challenges which have to be put on the table; this initiative on regional level can be turned into real opportunities. I am convinced that there is potential for change and meaningful transformation in substantial areas. This requires time, stamina, patience and most of all high-level support, by many stakeholders, not just their good will or intent.
Potential practical areas for multinational cooperation (sustainment)
A further range of very practical sustainment (meaning logistics, maintenance, and infrastructure) topics can illustrate the benefits and added value in fostering regional cooperation. Those are proposed by the NATO staffs and could promote an initial discussion between stakeholders. The topics are an offer, food for thought, and neither intended to be authoritative nor complete in its coverage.
Those could become part of the conceptual analysis of the project
“Multinational Project 'Support Defence Cooperation in SEE”
a) Pooling and Sharing. Have you considered joining:
• All multinational strategic lift organisations?
• The Multinational Logistics Coordination Centre (MLCC)?
• The NAMSA (future Support Agency) Operational Logistics Support Partnership (OLSP)?
• A multinational integrated logistics unit?
b) Stockpiles, including munitions. Would you consider:
• For nations with similar weapons systems, consolidated munitions procurement?
• One shared regional civil-emergency and crisis management stockpile ?
• Better sharing of spares, tools and test equipment at home and while deployed?
• Regional stockpiles held by contractors?
c) Equipment Procurement. Would you consider;
• Multinational procurement and life-cycle management of the same or similar equipment?
• Agreeing role specialist areas among the group of nations?
d) Regional Contracting (Static and Deployed). Would you consider:
• Implementing a short-notice regional contracting capability for deployed operations?
• Reviewing all equipment refit and maintenance work to assess what can be contracted?
• Reviewing all static base support (shared services) to assess what can be contracted?
e) Partial Capabilities. Are there any partial capabilities in your nation that could be developed with the assistance of other nations? For example, one nation has provided Role 2 hospital equipment and another has provided the medical staff. In addition, smaller nations have also provided a complete rotation of staff for a mentor nation.
f) Military infrastructure. That topic is closely linked to capability development. Have you considered improved sharing of:
• Military schools?
• Warehouses, in particular expensive special warehousing? (e.g. refrigerated, anti-static
• benches, munitions storage)
• Headquarters and offices?
• Information networks?
• Military ranges and training areas?
Dr. Holger Bahle, NATO Defence Planning and Smart Defence Team
Tirana, 27 April 2012
(1) IISS, Dr Bastian Giegerich, NATO’s Smart Defence Initiative, February 2012 (www.iiss.org)
(2) See more information on: http://www.defpro.com/news/details/33586/?SID=620b3dfdeda6faa5436c25ee13c3489d
Originally taken from “Military Review” Magazine, June 2012