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NATO Defense Ministers Approve New Alliance Commands

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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NATO defense ministers have approved plans to form two new alliance commands, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said today in Brussels.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speak following a bilateral meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 14, 2018. NATO photo
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speak following a bilateral meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 14, 2018. NATO photo
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speak following a bilateral meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 14, 2018. NATO photo 180214d-002-5
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speak following a bilateral meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 14, 2018. NATO photo

The secretary general spoke at a news conference at the end of the first day of the NATO defense ministerial.

The ministers approved plans to modernize the NATO command structure. The alliance command structure allows the 29 member nations to operate in sync and perform missions and operations as an alliance.

“At the end of the Cold War, NATO had 22,000 staff working in 33 commands,” Stoltenberg said. “Today, the command structure is reduced to fewer than 7,000 staff in seven commands.”

The threat emanating from Russia, out-of-area operations and concerns about the alliance’s southern flank mean NATO must respond, the secretary general said.

The changes will place greater focus on maritime security; logistics and military mobility; and cyber defense.

New Commands

“We will establish a new joint force command for the Atlantic, to help protect sea lines of communication between North America and Europe,” Stoltenberg said. “We will establish a new support command for logistics, reinforcement and military mobility -- improving the movement of troops and equipment is essential to our collective deterrence and defense.”

The U.S. has volunteered to house the joint force command and Germany has offered to host the logistics command.

NATO will designate some additional land component commands in Europe. “We will also set up a new cyber operations center at our military headquarters … to further strengthen our defenses,” the secretary general said.

The next move is for defense ministers to decide on the timelines, locations and staffing for the headquarters. Stoltenberg expects those decisions in June.

Defense ministers also discussed burden-sharing. “We all agreed that we have made great progress but there is still much work to be done,” he said.

At the Wales Summit in 2014, the allies agreed to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. “In other words: more cash, capabilities and contributions,” he said.

After years of decline, the alliance has seen three years of increased defense spending across Europe and Canada. This amounts to an additional $46 billion.

“In 2014, only three allies spent 2 percent of GDP or more on defense,” Stoltenberg said. “This year, we expect eight allies to meet or exceed the target. And by 2024, we expect at least 15 allies will spend 2 percent of GDP or more on defense.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)
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