Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today, in one of my first official functions with NATO’s military structure. I am particularly pleased because this Ceremony is a significant milestone for the Alliance. Together with the recent appointment of Gen Stoltz to Joint Forces Command in Lisbon, General Abrial’s assumption of command here today shows very visibly France retaking its full place in NATO’s Integrated Military Structure.
General Abrial, we welcome you to your new position, and wish you bon courage with the challenges you face. You are of course, not new to NATO, having served in Brussels before. At a time when the transformation of our Alliance, and ACT’s role in that, is at a key moment, your extensive professional experience will be essential.
I have already made clear that NATO transformation is one of my main priorities. My goal is to ensure that we have deployable troops, properly trained and properly equipped. And, importantly, at a price nations can afford. We have to move quickly towards achieving that goal, if we are to meet the challenges which this Alliance will face in future.
But let’s be clear, we are not there yet. The sobering reality is that despite fielding over 1 million, non-US NATO troops, we have difficulty sustaining more than 75,000 troops in the field at any one time. Why is it that despite inventories of helicopters, we struggle to deploy these to our most important operation? And why, when we know the importance of training Afghan security forces, do we struggle to get 200 soldiers to fill 10 training teams within ISAF?
When I respond to questions from the public and in the media, I cannot explain why NATO and the European Union cannot be smarter in the way we use our collective assets when 21 of the 28 members of this Alliance are also members of the European Union. We risk developing parallel structures to do the same tasks – most obviously seen recently in how we handled our response to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia.
We need to work closely with the European Union on how their strengths in the field of civil reconstruction and stabilisation, can complement the military forces and capabilities. Cooperation not competition should be our guiding principle.
So it is my intention, over the coming months, to give greater energy and focus to the ongoing task of transformation. All this while facing a climate of growing limitations on new resources. This is also about money. We must make sure that money is spent efficiently as possible. We want value for money.
This also ties into the work I have initiated to develop a new Strategic Concept, which will need to establish a balance between ambitions and the means to meet those ambitions.
We also have to find new solutions to old problems, using existing resources, rather than always relying on new ones, particularly given current budgetary pressures.
I mentioned deployability. On this I would say it is clear that there is ever more pressure to make our forces more deployable and sustainable. Not just for expeditionary operations, but equally for the territorial defence.
I hope that we can draw on the experience within Allied Command Transformation to help us forge the way ahead. I believe Norfolk can help in a number of ways: not least of all through one of General Mattis’ legacies - the Multiple Futures exercise. That sets out a range of future security scenarios, which might allow the Alliance to better plan the future use of our forces and capabilities. We must now actively draw on this.
As I said earlier, this means taking a new approach to the way in which we use the assets we have, instead of automatically requesting additional resources. Transformation also equals a more efficient use of existing resources. As we strive to make our forces more deployable and sustainable, we will look to ACT to propose more economical means of deploying our multinational forces and capabilities, particularly drawing on the experience of recent operations.
ACT will, I hope, be able to help plan for these functions, how we find and commit resources, how we organise ourselves for them and what the implications are for the way we approach military education and training.
This talks about how I see us moving ahead, but this ceremony is most significantly about our transition from the past to the present. While I have acknowledged our new Supreme Commander for Allied Transformation, I would like to end by mentioning the outgoing Commander General Mattis.
Under his leadership, Allied Command Transformation has become an indispensable part of our Alliance. Although located far from the HQ in Brussels, General Mattis has succeeded in bringing ACT into the very heart of our work there. From the outset, General Mattis served to de-mystify transformation, making the work of the Command here in Norfolk understandable and relevant to the needs of the Alliance.
(Secretary General presented General Mattis with the NATO meritorious service medal)