Updated: 01-Dec-2003 NATO Press Releases


1 Dec. 2003

Statement on Capabilities
issued at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
in Defence Ministers Session

1. At their Summit meeting last year in Prague, the Heads of State and Government of the Alliance underscored their conviction that effective military forces, as an essential part of an overall political strategy, were vital to safeguard Euro-Atlantic security and stability. They set a demanding agenda for the continuing transformation of NATO’s military capabilities. We have reviewed what has been done as a result and given directions for further work.

2. At Prague the leaders of the Alliance agreed to create the NATO Response Force (NRF). Impressive progress has been made with its implementation. Force generation conferences for the first several rotations of the force have been conducted. We welcome the contributions by nations to these first rotations. The first rotation of the force, which is to serve largely as a prototype while also providing an early capability, was inaugurated in mid-October, and its first exercise was held successfully in Turkey last month. This was a milestone in a demanding but operationally important effort to develop a highly ready and capable force able to contribute to the full range of Alliance missions and also able to act as a catalyst for continuing improvements in our forces. The NRF and the related work of the EU Headline Goal should be mutually reinforcing while respecting the autonomy of both organisations.

3. At Prague, the Heads of State and Government ordered a streamlining of the Alliance’s command structure. The implementation of the new structure began last June with the activation of the two interdependent Strategic Commands, Allied Command Transformation and Allied Command Operations. Allied Command Transformation, including its European footprint, is being established as a completely new command whose success will be key to future transformation efforts within the Alliance, and which will need to be properly resourced. Allied Command Operations now has exclusive responsibility for the conduct of all Alliance operations. Both Strategic Commands assumed their new roles ahead of schedule, and the establishment of subordinate elements is proceeding apace. The implementation process will be complete by the summer of 2006. We are determined that the result will be a leaner, more flexible, more efficient, and deployable command structure, better able to conduct future military operations, and one which will result in significant savings in personnel and other costs.

4. The Prague Capabilities Commitment (PCC) was launched at the Summit to improve and develop new military capabilities for modern warfare in a high threat environment. There has been progress towards meeting the various specific national commitments – there are over 400 such commitments – although there is still much to do. Greater attention is particularly necessary to reduce shortages in combat support and combat service support, including through considering possibilities for role sharing and specialisation, since deficiencies in these capabilities can limit NATO’s ability to deploy forces and to sustain operations. A number of important multinational efforts are also under way as part of the PCC to enable groups of Allies to acquire critically needed capabilities they would find it difficult or impossible to develop on their own. We particularly encourage further progress on the promising multinational projects on strategic airlift, strategic sealift, and air-to-air refuelling, under German, Norwegian, and Spanish leadership respectively, and welcome today’s signature of the Multinational Implementation Arrangement on Strategic Sealift. Multinational efforts are also under way to develop such key capabilities as Alliance Ground Surveillance and support jamming. The countries invited to join the Alliance are participating in all PCC activities, including by participating in multinational projects and by making national commitments. NATO’s Partners may participate in selected multinational efforts.

5. In keeping with the principles recalled in our statement of 12 June 2003, NATO’s efforts to improve capabilities through the PCC and those of the European Union to enhance European capabilities through the European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP) should be mutually reinforcing. Since our last meeting, PCC and ECAP groups have begun cooperating in some of the relevant areas under the auspices of the NATO-EU Capability Group.

6. A year has passed since the Heads of State and Government endorsed a set of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons defence initiatives; work on them is now well advanced, transforming prototypes into Alliance capabilities. The operational fielding of the NBC Analytical Laboratory and the Joint Assessment Team has been accelerated, and the concept for a NATO multinational Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defence Battalion capability has been developed. The first such battalion, under the leadership of the Czech Republic and with contributions from a total of 13 nations, has today achieved its initial operational capability and will reach full operational capability in July 2004. Other rotations of the multinational battalion will follow, under the leadership of other Allies, and will continue to make an important contribution to the NATO Response Force and to the Alliance’s capability to address NBC threats.

7. Following the decision by our Heads of State and Government in Prague, we initiated a new NATO missile defence feasibility study which will examine options for protecting Alliance territory, forces and population centres against the full range of missile threats. Excellent progress has been made, and we are pleased to report that the feasibility study is now under contract, with an expected duration of 18 months. It will address critical issues such as command and control architecture, and the optimum mix of planned and existing systems and capabilities. We will also continue work on Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence.

8. We focused on the critical task of ensuring that our nations can continue to provide, on a reliable and equitable basis, the forces required for the Alliance’s significant operational commitments. In many cases, this will entail making a larger part of our forces usable for the kinds of operations we are conducting now and are likely to conduct in the future, whether on a national basis, in the Alliance or under the auspices of other international organisations. Today, we reviewed the initial results of work we commissioned after our informal meeting in Colorado Springs on ways to increase the deployability and usability of our forces and reiterated our determination to meet this challenge. This work needs thorough consideration and to be completed for submission to our Heads of State and Government at their meeting in Istanbul.

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