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Official: NATO Investment Critical Despite Fiscal Challenge

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2012 – Fiscal austerity adds to the challenge of building NATO capacity, but identifying priorities and instituting new initiatives will help the alliance meet evolving security threats, the acting undersecretary of defense for policy said here today.

At a seminar held to prepare for the NATO summit in Chicago in May, James N. Miller shared the stage with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Gen. Stephane Abrial of the French air force, NATO’s supreme allied commander for transformation.

“What we seek is an alliance that can fulfill its strategic concept with forces that are smaller and leaner, while still agile, flexible, ready, technologically advanced and highly interoperable,” Miller said.

At the November 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, the alliance agreed to a strategic concept that accounted for a changing security environment and committed to enhancing 10 critical NATO capabilities. These included cyber defense, command and control, strategic lift, and Allied Ground Surveillance, or AGS, a system of unmanned aerial vehicles that will give NATO an important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability.

“We must have cutting-edge capabilities that exploit the allies' technological, joint and networked advantages,” Miller said. “These forces must be led by well-trained officers, [noncommissioned officers] and enlisted personnel of the highest quality, and should reflect lessons learned from recent NATO operations, including in Afghanistan and Libya.”

The force also should reflect an awareness that tomorrow’s needs may differ significantly from those of today, he added.

Decisions have been made in allied capitals over the past two years to radically cut defense spending and reduce force size and structure, Miller said. Allies generally have communicated changes in defense plans to NATO, but the information “often fails to provide a suitable base for planning,” he added.

“Once national force structures are known with greater reliability and precision, we can work to defend our most vital capabilities,” the undersecretary said.

“Smart defense” -- a concept that encourages allies to cooperate to develop, acquire and maintain military capabilities in accordance with the strategic concept -- plays a fundamental role, Miller said.

As part of its preparations for the summit in Chicago, the undersecretary recommended that NATO take several steps.

Allied Command Transformation officials have identified 20 to 30 “Tier 1” multinational projects as candidates for greater resource pooling, he said. The project list should be expanded and ranked by priority, he added, based on how they contribute to the alliance’s minimum-capability requirements.

Along with these projects, between now and the summit in Chicago, NATO should prepare a short list of high-visibility multinational programs that could be developed under the smart defense framework.

“These should be realistic and affordable, but underscore the alliance's renewed commitment to deliver required capabilities over the next 10 years, even in times of profound austerity,” Miller said.

An example of such a program is the NATO joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance hub, he said, adding that expanding joint ISR is an alliance priority and one of the 10 critical capabilities. NATO could take advantage of its recent adoption of AGS to develop a capability for joint ISR that acts as a platform to integrate and exercise national capabilities, Miller said.

Another smart defense capability that could be advanced in Chicago is ballistic missile defense radar data sharing and interceptor pooling, he added.

“NATO should explore concepts for international cooperation on sea-based BMD sensor and shooter capabilities, possibly forming the basis for a sea-based missile-defense users group,” Miller said.

“Several allies have naval capabilities that could be upgraded and included in NATO missile defense,” he added. “We should aspire to announce in Chicago that a group of allies will be working together to explore one or more shared BMD initiatives.”

Miller said several other initiatives could help the alliance work toward core security objectives, including:

-- Instituting new organizational, operational and funding principles that help reinvigorate the NATO Response Force, a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and special-forces components;

-- Increasing multinational training opportunities using battalion task-force rotations; and

-- Expanding NATO’s special operations capabilities through headquarters liaisons, consolidated training and centralized lift capabilities.

“We know that committing to new initiatives in the current fiscal environment is difficult,” Miller said. “But we also know that the decisions we make right now will enhance our ability to meet security challenges five to 10 years from now, and that the cost of these initiatives, such as AGS, can be spread out over many years to make them more affordable.”

NATO missile defense, the undersecretary said, another of the 10 capabilities committed to at Lisbon, will be featured at the Chicago summit.

“Despite rumors of U.S. cuts in this area,” Miller said, “we’re on track in deploying the European phased adaptive approach. In fact, we expect to declare at the Chicago summit that NATO has an interim ballistic missile-defense capability.”

By announcing an interim missile-defense capability, the undersecretary added, “we can send a very powerful message at Chicago -– [that] NATO is serious about countering the growing threats from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.”

Miller also urged all NATO members to recommit to maintaining a 2 percent share of budget for defense funding, calling that “a responsible, sustainable investment in our alliance and in our shared security.”

James N. Miller

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