Vol. 41 - No. 4
OF NATO INFRASTRUCTURE
Herpert Van Foreest
NATO Assistant Secretary General for Infrastructure,
Logistics and Civil Emergency Planning
NATO's new strategy for the post-Cold War era has
enabled the overall size of the Allies' forces, and in many cases their
readiness, to be significantly reduced. It has also enabled a major reduction
in forces stationed overseas, especially in Germany. As a result, the
Alliance now has a smaller and rather different requirement for military
infrastructure in Allied Command Europe (ACE), and host nations are facing
problems arising from reduced employment, interim maintenance responsibility
for empty facilities and local pockets of reduced economic activity.
During the Cold War, a large proportion of NATO's
infrastructure requirements was developed on a commonly-funded basis for
collective defence. Much of this infrastructure remains essential for
collective defence and crisis management, including the reinforcement
of ACE in the event of the re-emergence of a large-scale military threat
to the Alliance. It also has the potential to support NATO involvement
in peacekeeping activities under UN and CSCE mandates. We therefore need
to think very carefully about current and possible future needs before
discarding facilities that would be expensive and difficult to recreate
in a crisis.
However, pressure to reduce defence budgets and
the costs involved in moving to the Alliance's new, smaller but more flexible
force structure has limited the funds available for infrastructure. To
ensure that NATO retains essential infrastructure capabilities, we have
had to look at alternative means of funding. In particular, it has become
clear that in the future it will not always be possible to satisfy NATO
Commanders' military requirements by dedicated, NATO funded, stand-alone
military infrastructure. Reduced resources will demand greater exploration
of opportunities for shared civil/military use. This concept is referred
to as SUNI - Shared Usage of NATO Infrastructure.
This article looks at the challenges such joint
use presents and considers options for retaining sufficient infrastructure
for emergency or crisis-management use. It also considers the form and
opportunities that new joint ventures in infrastructure investments might
Investment by member nations in NATO infrastructure
has been ongoing for some 43 years (1), resulting
in a vast array of facilities and equipment sited on land made available
by 16 host nations (2). NATO infrastructure
has traditionally included facilities required for use in war, such as:
war headquarters, air defence and warning installations, automatic data
processing facilities, missile sites, communication networks of various
types, military airfields, naval bases, ammunition storage, fuel storage
and pipeline systems and pre-positioned equipment storage. Limited investment
in training facilities was also made.
This NATO capability was directed towards the specific
defence of Alliance territory under traditional NATO strategy. Although
some elements of existing infrastructure may no longer be relevant under
the new NATO strategy, a large part of the inventory would play a vital
role in any future defence of NATO territory, in crisis management operations
or in support of peacekeeping.
Common funding under the NATO Infrastructure Programme
allows the Major NATO Commanders (MNCs) to determine Alliance priorities
and to balance regional needs, irrespective of host nation economic constraints.
Such infrastructure is ideally suited to multinational use and accomodates
in the most economic way essential aspects such as the interoperability
of tactical aircraft, exchange of intelligence and surveillance data,
supply of Petrol, Oil and Lubricants (POL), sustainment of ships, and
provision of fast, reliable and secure communications. NATO commonly funded
infrastructure is essentially a force-multiplier that in many cases can
achieve significantly more than funds spent directly through national
With the end of the Cold War, NATO common funding
has been considerably reduced and the infrastructure budget is hard put
to support the infrastructure needed to sustain the Alliance's new strategy.
In particular, there is little money available to meet the cost of maintaining
vacated facilities in reserve status. New ways of retaining or providing
the necessary military capabilities have therefore been considered.
The decision to reduce force levels and to withdraw
forward-based forces from many areas of ACE has had important consequences
for local economies. In many cases, the local population has come to rely
on the spending capacity of stationed forces and their families, as well
as the direct and indirect local employment that such military units sustain.
Thus, the effect of vacating NATO installations, many of which are located
away from urban centres of population, is leading to the creation of pockets
of hardship. Faced with a sudden withdrawal of military expenditure and
employment, many such localities are looking for commercial activities
to fill the vacuum. Where this coincides with a NATO requirement to keep
a vacated site or facility in reserve in usable condition, shared civil/military
usage is the answer.
The SUNI concept
Shared civil/military usage of infrastructure covers
a wide spectrum of possibilities. On the one hand, it could be a military
establishment containing a surplus facility leased for commercial use to
the private sector. On the other hand, it could be an entire site taken
over by the private sector, with future NATO use limited to access in times
of crisis or war.
In between is a whole range of options with one
common denominator: that from the financial point of view it suits both
NATO and the civil user to share the use of existing NATO infrastructure.
The SUNI concept is not limited to vacated NATO military infrastructure.
It also includes shared use by NATO of non-military installations when
this offers a more cost-effective solution for providing a military capability.
This approach is not new. Shared usage of NATO
military infrastructure has long been practised, mainly with respect to
airfields and fuel pipelines. A recent example is Karup airfield in Denmark,
where a consortium of Danish and international companies have leased NATO
infrastructure which is surplus to the immediate requirements of the Royal
Danish Air Force. The Air Force is still the designated NATO user of the
site, but a part of the airfield will be shared in peacetime with a Danish
commercial firm, while arrangements for resumption of NATO use in crises
have been agreed. From this and other existing cases, lessons are being
learnt that point the way forward for future SUNI opportunities.
The SUNI concept is not always immediately attractive
to military commanders. Until now, NATO military requirements have primarily
been met by constructing specially designed facilities to meet specific
military functions. In many cases, the specifications have been to high
operational standards, largely unconstrained by many of the considerations
which have to be taken into account in the civil marketplace. Moreover,
the military are accustomed to exclusive use of their infrastructure.
Shared usage therefore poses some new problems.
In the case of NATO airfields, shared usage has traditionally been accomplished
by allocating a part of the site to a civil operator and any sharing problems
have been limited to joint use of the runway, aircraft pavement and air
traffic control. Future options for shared usage will, almost certainly,
require co-users to reconcile their differing requirements, the priority
possibly being determined to some extent by the investment each is prepared
to make. Special arrangements may also be required for the use of airfields
and other sites for exercise purposes, recognising that such use could
have significant financial implications for the civil users.
If SUNI is to become one of the main methods of
funding for the retention and provision of military capabilities, compromises
will have to be struck on a case-by-case basis. Indeed, one necessary
precondition for shared usage would be that key military conditions be
precisely stated, such as:
- the terms and conditions under which partial or total access for military
usage could be exercised;
- the advance warning time for private/commercial operators to vacate
a site or facility;
- security arrangements where a site is jointly used in peacetime.
However, the Alliance comprises 16 nations whose
legal, cultural and commercial traditions, politico-military relationships,
and levels of industrial activity vary widely. Having conferred with many
national authorities about the concept of shared usage, it is clear that
there can be no generalization with regard to national concerns or conditions
of use. There are therefore no agreed standard NATO procedures for shared
Where existing facilities, which could be needed
for NATO use in emergencies, are vacated without provision for immediate
follow-on military use, some arrangement should be made to retain a contingent
right of usage by NATO. The SUNI option requires that the host nation
concur in the use of its land, and the common-funded property located
on that land, for non-military purposes. The host nation must promote
commercial exploitation and maintain access to sites. It must facilitate
appropriate arrangements for local utilities (water supply, sewerage,
electrical power, communications) and security. The host nation must also
approve the arrangements under which the current use will, after due warning,
cease. The reoccupation of facilities by NATO in the unlikely event of
general war should not create a major problem for host nations in this
regard, but under the new NATO strategy, crisis management (including
support for peacekeeping) could involve NATO forces in deployments for
which access to some SUNI capability could be required by a NATO commander.
In such cases, the requirement to reactivate SUNI sites for military purposes
might involve politically difficult decisions.
NATO held a colloquium in November 1992 to which representatives
of government, regional authorities and industry of the 16 member nations
were invited, together with the NATO Military Authorities and members of
the International Staff. In the event, few participants from industry took
part, probably reflecting insufficient linkage between industrial users
and the authorities responsible for governmental construction. Outside the
field of electronics (communications, radar, sensor systems, automatic data
processing) there has been little reason for national defence construction
agencies to be in close contact with private sector construction and non-governmental
industrial users. This is a gap that must be bridged if the shared usage
concept is to flourish.
During the colloquium, representatives of industry
made several important points. Firstly, they noted that the decision-making
process in industry can work a great deal faster than the official decision-making
machinery of national governments and of NATO. Secondly, while the private
sector is accustomed to accepting commercial risks, the prospect of NATO
having to repossess a site, totally or partially, at short notice, could
cause concern. Furthermore, interruption of commercial activities for
the purpose of military exercises could only be accommodated by adequate
pre-planning, for example, by exercising during holiday periods.
Not every NATO facility lends itself to private
sector use, since some have design characteristics that preclude commercial
exploitation. Many other facilities, however, such as protective aircraft
shelters, hangars and warehouses are capable of inexpensive modification
to improve their commercial attractiveness.
Although the availability of existing surplus sites
has given rise to the SUNI concept, there will be future opportunities
for shared civil/military funding of new infrastructure projects to provide
NATO with military capabilities required in the new strategic environment.
Technical compromises will of course be required
to take advantage of these potential savings. A balance will therefore
have to be struck, bearing in mind the harsh reality that there are insufficient
defence funds available to meet all military needs, and that the shared
usage option will frequently represent the only way of achieving the desired
With the end of the Cold War, the Alliance is facing
a new and more complex set of challenges. To meet them within the constraints
imposed by smaller defence budgets requires imagination and innovation.
Against this background the shared use of NATO infrastructure offers an
attractive and cost effective option for reconciling the conflicting demands
faced by NATO Allies.
(1) The cost of the infrastructure funded
in common by NATO members over this period exceeds US$ 20 billion
(2) Transportable equipment, when military
preferable to fixed facilities, falls within the generic definition of
commonly funded infrastructure.
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