|Updated: 22-Oct-2001||NATO Review|
A new College for a new NATO
Lt. General Dr. Hartmut Olboeter
In September 1999, the NATO Defense College
moved to new purpose-built premises in Rome, at the generous invitation
of the Italian government. The larger, fully equipped facilities will
enable the Alliance's flagship academic institution to better serve the
needs of today's open, enlarged NATO, its new missions and new Partners.
In particular, it will support the PfP Training and Education Enhancement
Programme (TEEP), as well as the deepening of the Mediterranean Dialogue.
The need to set up a NATO Defense College was identified by General Dwight
D. Eisenhower, the first Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR), in
a cable sent back to Washington in April 1951:
"...[T]here is a high priority requirement to develop individuals, both on the military and civilian side...who are capable of adapting themselves to this new environment and who find it possible in a reasonably short time to broaden their outlook and to grasp the essentials of this challenging problem sufficiently to shoulder the responsibilities inherent in this new field.... These considerations have brought me to the conclusion that it is highly desirable to establish...a NATO Defense College for the training of individuals who will be needed to serve in key capacities in NATO Organisations."
The NATO Defense College was founded later that year. The vision and
noble sentiments are as relevant now as they were nearly 50 years ago.
In those days, the Alliance was in its infancy, facing the challenges
of the revolution in geopolitics that emerged with the end of the Second
World War and the beginning of the Cold War. Today, NATO is adapting to
the risks and opportunities of an international security environment that
has been in a state of flux since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Every year, some 500 representatives from NATO member states and countries
participating in Partnership for Peace (PfP) and the Mediterranean Dialogue
come together at the College to attend an increasingly wide range of courses.
Key Alliance and geo-strategic issues are analysed with the help of top
political, military and civilian leaders, as well as outstanding international
academics. Many of the key players in the Alliance today, both military
and civilian, are graduates of the College. Future leaders pass through
our doors every year.
The new College is larger and, with its multipurpose conference facilities
and up-to-date technology, better equipped. Not only have facilities been
improved, but a recent review of the curriculum led to the definition
of a new mission for the College by NATO's Military Committee:
"To contribute to the effectiveness and cohesion of the Alliance
by developing and conducting:
The success of our courses is widely recognised. Each provides a platform
for information exchange and consensus-building, and promotes better understanding
and cooperation between NATO and our PfP and Mediterranean partners. The
team spirit generated during the courses in turn evolves into a useful
network of contacts between NATO and Partner participants. This esprit
de corps, especially within the various committees, breaks down pre-existing
barriers and strengthens trust between nations. In the words of a senior
Russian officer who participated in one of the College's courses earlier
this year: "If more military and civilian leaders attended the
NATO Defense College, the world would be a much safer place."
The core activity of the College's overall programme is the strategic-level
Senior Course for Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels, which lasts five and
a half months and is run biannually. Up to 10 PfP participants are invited
per course. The course covers key developments in international politics
generally and NATO/PfP politico-military issues. A two-week Integrated
PfP/OSCE Course is built into this course, which then encompasses roughly
The College's flagship course is the two-week General and Flag Officers'
(GFO) Course, which is also run twice a year and aims to improve understanding
of current Alliance politico-military issues among nationally selected
NATO GFOs. One of the GFO courses is also open to PfP and Mediterranean
partners. The College also runs a NATO Reserve Officers Course and International
Research Seminars - the latter are co-sponsored by either a PfP or Mediterranean
Institute. Twice a year, an Academic Fellowship is offered to PfP participants
in the field of security studies. Next year, Mediterranean participants
will be offered the same opportunity.
Finally, the annual Conference of Commandants brings together the heads
of senior training establishments throughout NATO and many of its Partner
countries. This conference has enormous potential as a forum for discussion,
the exchange of information and establishment of best practice, which
we will try to exploit to the full in future years.
The success of the NDC educational programme is the product of continual
adaptation and scrutiny of the new strategic environment. Since the end
of the Cold War, NATO has witnessed the growth of large multinational
units, the opening and enlargement of our Alliance, and the setting up
of ad hoc coalitions when necessary. Operations are increasingly multinational
and joint. At the same time, new missions have appeared such as conflict
prevention, crisis management and peace-support operations. Finally, international
organisations, including non-governmental organisations, have a more important
and diversified role to play in NATO's present and potential activities.
As a consequence, military education has had to adapt itself to meet
the need for
The operational framework has changed too, shifting from a unidirectional
to a multidirectional risk strategy, which involves a far broader definition
of security and the respective roles of politicians and the military.
To accommodate these requirements, the curricula are built around the
following five points: consensus-building, information-processing, developing
the concept of common values and interests, broadening outlooks, and language
The advent of the information age, with the increased role of technology
and the growth of global networking, is also revolutionising higher defence
and security education, which is set to undergo permanent and ongoing
change. This calls for closer cooperation between institutes in this field
to prepare tomorrow's military and civilian élite. Our Conference
of Commandants provides an excellent forum for such linkage.
The focus of the College in the coming years will be determined by two
interrelated "drivers". The first is the updated Strategic Concept,
which provides the five fundamental security tasks around which the College
must centre its teaching, discussions and exercises: security, consultation,
deterrence and defence, crisis management, partnership. Courses aim to
give participants a broad perspective and a particular emphasis is placed
on crisis management, including a major three-day negotiation, mediation
and decision-making exercise. The latest proposals for establishing a
new security and defence role for Europe, underpinned by the transatlantic
link, are also treated in depth.
The ramifications of the updated Strategic Concept will be integrated
into our courses, which broadly speaking cover:
The second "driver" of our activities in coming years will
be the need to further develop our outreach capability. Indeed, the NATO
Defense College has become an essential pillar of the new, open NATO,
as is reflected in the PfP Training and Education Enhancement Programme(1)
and the enhanced Mediterranean Programme, which were endorsed at the Washington
This autumn, we welcome Czech, Hungarian and Polish participants as regular
NATO members, some of whom previously participated as Partners in the
Senior Course. Soon, our team will be augmented by our first Faculty Advisers
from Poland and Hungary, who will lead committee work, study periods,
and short courses. These developments should allow us to invite increased
participation from Partner and Mediterranean Dialogue countries. The College
seeks to promote the total integration of NATO participants with Partner
and Mediterranean participants, reinforced by improving communication
through English and French language-training.
We intend to engage the best possible international speakers to stimulate
our strategic dialogue. Many valuable lessons can be learnt from high-level
exchanges of views on common security issues and different practices,
and our aim is to ensure that the Conference of Commandants becomes one
of the key platforms for constructive debate within NATO and Partner countries.
On a more practical level, the College will concentrate its efforts on
fully developing the new premises in order to offer a wider scope of activities,
especially for participants from Partner countries, and to respond rapidly
to new educational requirements.
The College will also prioritise the complete development of its research
and information/technology branches. In particular, it will capitalise
on its new research capability by publishing, where appropriate, material
stemming from the International Research Seminars, Fellowship Programmes
and course activities. In addition, the information/technology branch
will provide the impetus to improving a whole range of communication and
automation equipment for the new premises, including an improved web site.
As a result, the internal systems for participants and staff will be upgraded,
as will our service to NATO HQ, its subordinate HQs, and the many national
institutions which work with the College. Both in research and IT, we
will seek to boost cooperation with other colleges and strategic institutes.
Serving the Alliance at the NATO Defense College has always been a challenge,
but a rewarding one. As I have outlined above, the challenge is greater
still today. First, we need to ensure that NATO's senior staff, both military
and civilian, have a strategic and intellectual understanding of the fundamental
security tasks set out in the new Strategic Concept.
Secondly, the College will play a key role in addressing the growing
need for greater cooperation and integration with new Partners. This need
was highlighted recently in a letter sent to me by the Ukrainian Ambassador
"The Kosovo crisis underscores the importance of the efforts of
the NATO Defense College in promoting better understanding and cooperation
among NATO member states and EAPC partner countries."
The new NATO Defense College will continue to strive for excellence in pursuit of its central mission of contributing to the effectiveness and cohesion of the Alliance and its Partners, as "Your College", in the twenty-first century.