Updated: 12-Jun-2003 NATO Press Releases

(2003) 066}

12 June 2003

Statement on Capabilities

Issued at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
in Defence Ministers Session held in Brussels

  1. We are determined to strengthen our defence capabilities, as demanded by current and future threats and challenges to our security and to Euro-Atlantic stability. Our forces and defence structures must be flexible enough to respond quickly and effectively to these threats and challenges. The Prague Summit approved a blueprint for the transformation of NATO capabilities based on three pillars: the NATO Response Force, new command arrangements, and the Prague Capabilities Commitment. We took stock of progress since Prague and gave instructions for further work.
  2. The NATO Response Force (NRF) is an essential element of our overall transformation. We approved the comprehensive concept for the NRF commissioned at Prague. It consists of a military concept and guidance for handling political-military issues, including the developing relationship between the NRF and the related work of the EU Headline Goal, which must be mutually reinforcing while respecting the autonomy of both organisations. The NRF will meet our requirement for a highly capable joint multinational force consisting of land, sea and air elements able to react in a very short time. Its roles could include deployment as a show of force and solidarity to deter aggression; as a stand-alone force for Article 5 or non-Article 5 operations; and as an initial entry force for a larger formation. The NRF will also be a catalyst for focussing and promoting improvements in the Alliance’s overall military capabilities as nations prepare their contingents to meet the rigorous standards of participation to be developed. We confirmed that the force will have its Initial Operational Capability as soon as possible but not later than October 2004, and its Full Operational Capability not later than October 2006. We look forward to receiving the NATO Military Authorities’ Implementation Plan and advice on the possibility of establishing some early capability before the end of this year.
  3. The second pillar consists of new streamlined command arrangements for NATO. We therefore endorsed the final report of the Senior Officials Group setting out the details of a new NATO Command Structure. It will be leaner, more flexible, more efficient, and better able to conduct future military operations. At the strategic level, there will be only one command with operational responsibilities, and a new functional command, Allied Command Transformation, to take responsibility for promoting and overseeing the continuing transformation of Alliance forces and capabilities. Below the strategic level, the structure will be significantly streamlined, with a reduction in the number of headquarters. Achieving rapid implementation of the new structure is essential to assure continuity of command arrangements and the effective development and operation of the Alliance in the future.
  4. The third pillar is the Prague Capabilities Commitment (PCC). We have reviewed the implementation of the PCC national commitments and the multinational initiatives in the light of the updated information provided by the Allies. There has been significant progress. We are encouraged by nations’ efforts to incorporate their commitments into national plans and their willingness to provide necessary funding. We are also encouraged by progress in some of the important multinational projects agreed at Prague, notably the work on strategic sealift, strategic airlift and air-to-air refuelling, and welcome the signing of letters of intent for strategic sea-lift and air-lift, which took place today. But we are conscious too that much remains to be done. It is clear that additional energy and, in some cases, subject to affordability, resources will be necessary if we are to provide all the defence capabilities we need. More focus will also be needed on the possibilities of multinational role sharing and role specialisation. We emphasise the importance of those capabilities that can improve the effectiveness and interoperability of our forces. We will continue to give our close personal attention to the implementation of the PCC and direct the Council in Permanent Session to report to us on the status of both the national and multinational efforts at our next meeting.
  5. We welcome the agreement reached with the European Union on ways to ensure coherent, transparent and mutually reinforcing development of the capability requirements common to the two organisations. One immediate result is the establishment of the NATO-EU Capability Group. We remain determined that our various efforts to improve capabilities, including through the PCC and the efforts of the European Union to enhance capabilities through the European Capabilities Action Plan, will be based on this agreement and on reciprocity, while respecting the autonomy of both organisations and in a spirit of openness. The Capability Group must play a central role in bringing this about.
  6. Work on the five nuclear, biological and chemical weapons defence initiatives agreed at Prague has been very promising. Prototypes of a NATO Event Response Team and an Alliance Deployable NBC Laboratory are undergoing assessment during demanding field exercises. The other three initiatives – a NATO Biological and Chemical Defence Stockpile, a Disease Surveillance system, and a Centre of Excellence for NBC Weapons Defence – are well advanced. We welcomed the recent Council decision to task the NATO Military Authorities to develop a concept for a NATO multinational CBRN defence battalion capability and to pursue work on other NBC defence capabilities. We are confident that this decision, taken forward in a consistent and complementary way with other related capability improvements, will contribute to a further strengthening of our NBC response capabilities.
  7. At the Prague Summit, the Heads of State and Government agreed to examine options for protecting Alliance territory, forces and population centres against the full range of missile threats in an effective and efficient way through an appropriate mix of political and defence efforts, along with deterrence; in particular they agreed to initiate a new NATO missile defence feasibility study. Excellent progress has been made, and we are confident that the new study will be under contract by October 2003. Our efforts in this regard will be consistent with the indivisibility of Allied security. We also welcome the completion of the feasibility studies for an Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence.
  8. NATO’s military common funding should support the transformation of NATO as decided at the Summit of Prague. To that end, we have directed the Military Committee to lead a prioritisation of requirements in accordance with Alliance strategic objectives, and to report the results to Council. We have also invited the Council to oversee the Senior Resource Board review of the eligibility criteria for military common funding to ensure that processes are consistent with the needs of a transformed Alliance. We look forward to being informed about both initiatives at our next meeting in December.
  9. NATO agencies have an important role in promoting interoperability and in helping to meet Allies’ requirements in a number of fields, including the production and maintenance of equipment and logistics. A review of the agencies was one of the measures agreed at the Prague Summit to improve NATO’s efficiency and effectiveness. We noted the interim report by the Deputy Secretary General. Work on this should continue, and the results should be reported to Ministers in December after consideration by the NAC.
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