by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the fourth Strategic Concept Seminar on Transformation and Capabilities, Washington DC

  • 23 Feb. 2010
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  • Last updated: 23 Feb. 2010 16:29

Remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Secretary Gates,
Vice Admiral Rondeau,
General Abrial,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I last August appointed the Group of Experts to prepare the way for NATO’s new Strategic Concept last August, I asked it to look at all the issues facing our Alliance objectively and dispassionately. I also asked the Group not only to analyse NATO’s challenges, but to come up with creative solutions.

In no other area of NATO is the need for creative thinking more urgent than in the area of Transformation and Capabilities. Getting these right will be absolutely crucial to any NATO Strategic Concept and by extension to the relevance of the Alliance.

If we draw up an ambitious political vision but neglect to specify how we are going to reform NATO, then unfortunately our new Strategic Concept will have a very short shelf life.

Today, Secretary Albright and her fellow Experts are shifting their focus from the “why” to the “how” of NATO’s 21st century role and missions. With the support of Allied Command Transformation and the National Defense University, I believe that they will provide some of the answers.

It is not my intention today to set out a detailed roadmap for NATO’s political and military transformation. I want to respect the Group of Experts’ independence and wait for its report to me on 1 May. But I see this issue as so urgent and fundamental to NATO’s credibility as a security actor that I would like nonetheless to give some pointers and underline some key priorities.

First we must answer a basic question: what is transformation nowadays? It is about improving our working methods and preparing for the future, while spending our resources efficiently. We must face new challenges. Terrorism, proliferation, cyber security or even climate change will oblige us to seek new ways of operating. And in a time of financial and budget constraints, we need to maximise our efficiency within limited resources.

In order to achieve this goal, we need to reform the three fundamental elements of our modus operandi: the way we do our traditional business, the way we address new threats and last but definitely not least, our structure and organisation. Here are some suggestions on how we can proceed down that path:

Firstly, transforming the way we conduct operations. The experience in Afghanistan has clearly showed how we should do things and how we should not. The way we deploy our forces should be a collective effort, not a patch up of different national contingents with different caveats. As we deploy in operations with over 40 participating countries – Allies as well as partners – we have to move beyond a multinational force to become a truly unified force, - a force where information and capabilities are shared among all to the benefit of all, and to get the job done.

We have to seek common solutions to common problems, whether we talk about upgrading helicopters, deploying missile defence, or countering road-side bombs. Having multiple national projects running at the same time is not only a waste of time and money, it ultimately also puts the lives of our soldiers at risk.

We also need to extend our common funding activities. We have had considerable success involving a number of Allies – as well as several partners - in the acquisition and operation of heavy lift transport planes- a strategic airlift capability. But we really need to engage all the Allies in such projects, because they would all benefit.

And we need to expand our cooperation with the EU. We have to go beyond exchanging views and information. We need to act together, since we are both pursuing similar objectives and face similar challenges. We have to combine our efforts in developing capabilities, such as heavy lift helicopters. It makes no sense engaging in two parallel projects without talking to each other and spending double the money. Our key objective must be to avoid duplication and ensure greater operational efficiency. This should appeal to Defence Ministers as well as Finance Ministers, and certainly to our publics as well.

These are not just interesting proposals, they are necessities, if we want to be more efficient, capable and maximise the use of scarce resources.

Secondly, we have to transform the way we address new threats. For instance, cyber security was not on our agenda a few years ago. Since then, some of us have faced the consequences.

We can not stay idle against such threats. We have to develop our defences in order to protect ourselves. We have already set up mechanisms that protect NATO HQ from such attacks. But we should move further and make NATO the place where standards and best practices can be developed. Standards that will enable all of us to detect and respond to cyber attacks – before our systems are disrupted and paralysed.

We must pool resources in order to develop this joint strategy. We have set up a multinational centre of excellence in Estonia, where experts from several Allied countries are already working together on devising such a strategy.

But cyber defence is just one example. We need to examine now what capabilities we shall need in the future so as to protect us from other threats such as nuclear proliferation. Clearly, the development of a common Missile Defence capability will be more efficient and more cost effective if it is developed in common. The effects of climate change will require us to adapt to a more unstable security environment. In order to face these challenges, we need to improve NATO’s ability to analyse, to consult, to collect and share intelligence and to respond.

This brings me to the third and final point: we have to reform our structure and our organisation. We need to have a different NATO organisation in the future – more operational, less bureaucratic, and with human and financial resources devoted to the real priorities.

For this reason I have decided to establish a new division at NATO Headquarters to deal with new threats and challenges. Naturally Allied Command Transformation will be a key partner for this new division, which will become operational after the summer.

Moreover, I also have a mandate from Defence Ministers to overhaul NATO’s Command Structure and the whole way in which we manage our resources. This is a mandate for real reform which I intend to use in full.

I am convinced that transformation will only succeed if we do it together. We will all benefit if we all invest in it. The choice for many nations is to either acquire a capability multi-nationally or not to acquire it at all. Transformation is about spending our resources better, achieving economies of scale, working more effectively together and saving lives through better technology, doctrine and mission preparation.

Our common effort should be to minimise the bureaucratic overheads and devote our scarce resources to our operations – to our soldiers in the field. And I have no doubt that this seminar will generate interesting ideas on how best to achieve these goals.

Thank you.