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Admiral Giambastiani: SACT

Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani is NATO's first Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT) as well as Commander of the US Joint Forces Command, both of which are headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia.

(© ACT)

As Commander of one of NATO's two Strategic Commands, Admiral Giambastiani leads the transformation of NATO military structures, forces, capabilities and doctrines to improve the military effectiveness of the Alliance. As Commander of the US Joint Forces Command, Admiral Giambastiani is responsible for maximising future and present military capabilities of the United States by leading the transformation of joint forces through enhanced joint concept development and experimentation, identifying joint requirements, advancing interoperability, conducting joint training and providing ready US forces and capabilities – all in support of US combatant commanders around the world. A much decorated officer and former submarine commander, Admiral Giambastiani served as senior military assistant to US Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld before taking up his current post.

One of the greatest changes to NATO's command structure has been the creation of Allied Command Transformation in place of Allied Command Atlantic. What is the significance of this change and how is the new Command structured?

The change to NATO's Command Structure is the most significant in the last 50 plus years and has proven to be a catalyst for the historic changes that have followed the Prague Summit in November 2002. This historic Summit resulted in an agreement providing for a truly remarkable set of changes for the Alliance, transforming the 50-year-old organisation to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The key to understanding these changes is to concentrate on the goal of NATO's leaders to create two new Strategic Commands, one focused on the daily operations of NATO's military, Allied Command Operations, and one focused on the future of NATO's military and how to get there, Allied Command Transformation.

Allied Command Transformation is to be the forcing agent for change within the Alliance and to act as the focus and motivating force to bring intellectual rigour to the change process. We also stimulate transformation in national forces, and those of NATO's Partners. We believe we have two key sets of customers – Allied Command Operations and the member nations of the Alliance. As a functional Command, we look at long-term developmental issues from a military perspective. We articulate the future context for Alliance forces so that nations are in a better-informed position to provide the military capabilities the Alliance will need in the future. Our transformation efforts provide a framework for national efforts so that we are able to deploy coherently joint forces in an integrated battle-space capable of dealing with the new security challenges. Our framework also brings together NATO agencies and national centres of excellence and adds coherence to their programmes, allowing us to leverage their efforts. We ensure the infusion of research and technology to address long-term capability shortfalls. We experiment to test and develop new concepts and capabilities. We develop doctrine to take advantage of new technologies and capabilities to fight better as a combined and joint force. We influence the curriculums of NATO schools to reflect the latest in doctrine and tactics and conduct realistic training that reflects the latest lessons learned in Allied and coalition operations – a close harmony of doctrine, education and training. While much has happened in a very short period of time, the work of transforming NATO continues as we now focus on product, process and the culture of transformation.

What role will Allied Command Transformation's regional centres in Europe play?

While we have our Headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, working closely with my US Command – Joint Forces Command – and completing the very important transatlantic bridge between North America and Europe, we also have several key elements situated throughout Europe. The Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway, was established in October 2003 and serves as Allied Command Transformation's implementing agent. It trains NATO Response Force (NRF) commanders and other NATO operational headquarters staffs in the latest warfighting and operational techniques while incorporating innovative concepts from our experimentation efforts and lessons learned from ongoing operations. On this basis, the Joint Warfare Centre can begin to respond to the full range of military operations with tailored mission rehearsals and training for operational commanders and their staffs – in effect fighting the battle before likely operations ever begin.

The newly opened Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) located in Bydgoszcz, Poland, will have a distinct and unique role in focusing on joint and combined training at the tactical level. In particular, it will conduct joint tactical training to achieve joint interoperability at the key tactical interfaces – a key area for improvement identified in all of our lessons-learned activities in both my US and my NATO Commands.

The Joint Analysis Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) located in Monsanto, Portugal, is NATO's central agency for conducting the analysis of real-world military operations, training, exercises and experiments, and for establishing and maintaining an interactive managed lessons-learned database. Members of JALLC have been deployed with NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, as well as assisting NATO forces operating in Kosovo. Creating this real-time dynamic lessons-learned process will yield key dividends in our effort to rapidly improve the quality of our operational training while identifying material capability shortfalls that require rapid prototyping solutions.

The NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) located in La Spezia, Italy, conducts research and integrates national efforts to support NATO's undersea operational and transformational requirements. NURC is actively engaged in the delivery of transformational products for naval mine counter-measures, rapid environmental assessment, military oceanography and littoral anti-submarine warfare.

In addition, Allied Command Transformation interacts closely with many NATO agencies and national/multinational centres of excellence to develop concepts and capabilities, develop doctrine, conduct experiments and support research and acquisition of new capabilities to deliver improved interoperability, standardisation and qualitatively transformed capabilities. Allied Command Transformation coordinates with the various NATO education institutions and Allied Command Operations to design, develop, evaluate, and approve new and improved courses for NATO. By working with our educational partners and influencing course content, Allied Command Transformation avoids duplication in training and provides the most efficient form of training to Alliance leaders, specialists, and key headquarters staffs, enabling them to operate effectively in a combined/joint environment.

What are your current priorities?

Our number one priority is to improve the military capability of the Alliance. Paramount in this is to embrace transformation, taking the strategic vision of NATO, determining requirements, looking to concepts, developing and experimenting with solutions, and turning proven ideas into a fielded capability. Secondly, we must never lose sight of the present as we look to the future by preparing today's forces to meet the challenges they face in ongoing NATO operations. Thirdly, the NRF will be the transformation engine that drives much of the transformation NATO will realise in the coming years. Allied Command Transformation will work with Allied Command Operations and NRF commanders to ensure they get the support needed to implement the capabilities outlined in their charter. Fourth, in order to realise the full transformational potential of Allied Command Transformation, NATO must remain committed to fully resource the Command, both with people and money. Lastly, Allied Command Transformation is committed to working with all nations who wish to partner with the Alliance to develop their individual military capabilities.

Military transformation is a complex concept. What do you understand by it?

The biggest challenge of transformation is cultural and takes place in the minds of people. Intellectually, transformation requires adopting an attitude that seeks to continuously innovate and experiment – in order to deliver usable capability to the front line – and to act quickly on the lessons learned. Culturally, it means rewarding risk-taking, identifying processes and individuals capable of implementing change and working to inject a joint culture down to the lowest practical level. Many Allies have been engaged in this process for many years. The United States, for example, began what I consider to be its modern transformation with the adoption of the all-volunteer force in 1973 and the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Act in 1986. Transformation has accelerated here over the past decade with the organic development of US Joint Forces Command – now fully committed to its functional role as the forcing agent for change for the US Armed Forces.

As we begin our work, it's important to recognise that transformation doesn't have a beginning or an end. It is a continuous process – driven by and responsive to the accelerating changes in the global security environment. In working through this process, Allied Command Transformation has fairly rapidly established a coherent way ahead. This begins with a military assessment of the future nature of Allied operations, which we've captured in what we call a strategic vision. This strategic vision is a keystone document that seeks to align all of our transformation activities. Working with Allied Command Operations, the nations and a host of partners, we're addressing force interoperability concepts, policies, doctrine and procedures by determining the future operating environment. This overarching strategic vision will drive the transformation process throughout the organisation and will directly influence defence planning for the Alliance.

Determining the future capabilities needed to accomplish the strategic vision through the defence-planning process is very important. As capabilities are identified, the concept development and experimentation process will explore the means to achieve them. This goes beyond new weapons systems – platforms like ships, tanks and aircraft – to include doctrine, procedures, organisational prototypes and collaborative mechanisms. This approach provides for an open forum of ideas, some of which will prove worthy of further study through experiments and prototypes in existing exercise and training events, as well as new, "purpose-built" events.

A key part of the transformation process is education and training, ensuring that the war fighter is educated and trained in the new concepts or processes. The focus of our immediate training efforts is the Joint Task Force commander and his staff. Getting them trained and ready for real world operations – such as NATO's mission in Afghanistan – not only adds value to Allied Command Operations right now, but is a key driver for injecting transformational thinking in Allied military leaders. This will ensure success for the Alliance in ongoing operations as well as planting the seeds for future success in transforming our capabilities.

The final piece of this transformational puzzle is to evaluate ongoing operations. As mentioned previously, Allied Command Transformation's Joint Centre for Lessons Learned is embedded in ongoing operations to ensure that there will be constant feedback to help further define the vision, defence planning and future capabilities, thus achieving full integration and understanding throughout the Alliance. Although I've described the transformation process as a series of steps, they are in fact interconnected and work in parallel in real time as we continually assess our requirements, revise our vision as necessary, develop new concepts, test and evaluate through prototyping and exercises and deliver even better capability in the future. As I said, transformation has no beginning or end.

How are NATO's Transformational and Operational Commands working together in practice?

General Jones, SACEUR, and I are old personal friends and professional comrades. We are completely in step, both in the direction we want to take and how we want to get there. We talk often and our two staffs meet regularly to address a wide range of issues worked on by both Strategic Commands. As we like to say in the United States, there is little daylight between our two Commands and the day-to-day working relationship is very strong. The differing roles of Allied Command Transformation and Allied Command Operations is well understood between the two staffs. Allied Command Transformation is responsible for promoting and overseeing the continuing transformation of Alliance forces and capabilities. Allied Command Operations is responsible for all Alliance operations. I view Allied Command Operations as one of our two main customers and we are going to do our best to provide General Jones and his staff with the tools and training they need to run NATO's operations. I see the nations themselves as our other customer and we will assist them in their transformational activities at their request and in the manner most useful to them.

How is Allied Command Transformation contributing to the creation of the NATO Response Force?

The NATO Response Force is both the product and the process for transformation. What I mean is that the NRF provides for a rapidly deployable, coherently joint trained and equipped force that is expeditionary and self-sustainable and can act across the full spectrum of military missions from low-intensity operations up to and including major combat. The NRF will also provide a means to implement new and emerging concepts and so is the process of transformation.

Allied Command Transformation was charged with developing a leader education and training programme for NRF commanders and their staffs and we have developed a dynamic and comprehensive programme at the Joint Warfare Centre that will deliver all the necessary training to certify commanders and their staffs to assume the responsibility of leading an NRF. We are also working closely with Allied Command Operations to develop training and certification criteria for the NRF. These criteria will be updated frequently to reflect our growing body of knowledge and will be key drivers for transforming national forces, which will be trained to these standards. Finally, our concept, development and experimentation efforts will focus on ways to improve the capabilities of the NRF. Here we will be able to test new concepts, new technologies and evaluate them in qualitative and quantitative ways never before available to NATO.

Given the differences in military spending between the United States and its NATO Allies, is it possible to bridge the capabilities gap? And, if it is, how will the new Allied Command Transformation seek to achieve this?

There is a clear recognition throughout NATO that this gap as you describe it cannot afford to grow and must, in fact, be bridged. We have seen in coalition efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq the overwhelming power of joint and combined military operations. One of the key lessons the United States has taken away from these campaigns is the need for capable allies with whom we can operate across the spectrum of military tasks, from major combat operations to transition, stability and reconstruction operations. It has taken a focused and dedicated effort within the US Department of Defense to achieve the level of jointness displayed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Much has been made of the military spending gap between Europe and the United States. I prefer to focus instead on what Allies are spending their hard-earned defence funds on, rather than just the magnitude of their spending. This is why our defence-planning efforts, led by my planning staff at Mons, Belgium, are so critical to bridging the gap. We have engaged in a very detailed analysis of NATO requirements and have identified to the nations both the capability gaps that need to be filled and the national capabilities that are now surplus to NATO requirements. A sensible programme of defence reinvestment, focused principally on key enabling capabilities such as command and control, combat support and combat service support, will go a long way to bridging the perceived gaps between the United States and our NATO Allies.

In addition, the military success witnessed in Afghanistan and Iraq was in part, the result of a dedicated concept development and experimentation programme at US Joint Forces Command. We found that by introducing new ideas and rapidly moving them from concept to experimentation to prototyping and, when proven, a fielded capability, this process led to success on the battlefield. NATO's civilian and military leadership fully understand this and have supported the creation of a nascent experimentation programme at Allied Command Transformation that will help NATO close the "intellectual capital" gap. Through the NRF, we will seek solutions that make sense for NATO. In time, with prudent defence reinvestment and robust experimentation, we will bridge the capability gaps that exist between member nations and ultimately allow all Alliance militaries to work together effectively in the modern battle-space.

In what ways might technology help the Alliance combat the threat posed by terrorism?

We now envision the future from an information-age perspective where operations are conducted in a battle-space, not a battlefield. We are eliminating the artificial boundaries that were established to de-conflict areas of responsibility between services and are transforming to a seamless battle-space to create a coherently joint force – massing effects when and where we choose rather than massing personnel and equipment as dictated by geography and boundaries. In my view, information and the means to collect, analyse and distribute it to make decisive decisions within this multi-dimensional battle-space will serve as the greatest technological weapon in the global war on terrorism.

You head both Allied Command Transformation and US Joint Forces Command. How do the two Commands interact in practice?

I am fortunate to be part of two great Commands that are dealing with the threats and complexities of the 21st century. I am also fortunate to have two staffs who are made up of the best in the business and who wake up every day asking themselves how they can work to better their respective organisations. Allied Command Transformation was established and organised using the lessons learned over the past decade by US Joint Forces Command. This huge transfer of intellectual capital was just the first step in building a transatlantic bridge of ideas that will be the foundation of success for Allied Command Transformation.

The ACT-USJFCOM relationship is a vibrant and powerful linkage, which is output-oriented and forms the foundation for common understanding and synchronisation of transformation across the Alliance. A fully functional, transparent relationship is the cornerstone of vital engagement with the United States, other Alliance nations and Partners for NATO's transformation and for the imperative of multinational interoperability in the future. An institutionalised unity of effort between the two evolving, co-equal Commands is the common goal with the synergy of efforts benefiting both Commands by taking advantage of the unique strengths that each brings to the process, sustained by numerous direct, cooperative, reciprocal links.

How might NATO improve its defence-planning and force-generation processes to ensure that the Alliance has the right capabilities available when they are needed?

As I've mentioned before, Allied Command Transformation is now responsible for the defence-planning process of the Alliance. Our planning challenge is to deliver capabilities-focused requirements rather than a traditional threats-based set of requirements. Furthermore, we must seek to integrate long-term force-planning processes with shorter-term force-generation processes. In both of these endeavours, Allied Command Transformation's defence planners have made remarkable progress in the past two years.

First, the Defense Requirements Review 2003 – the essential product of our defence planners – went a long way towards a capabilities-based approach from a threats-based approach. It identified key Alliance capabilities needed for the expeditionary, sustainable force we are looking to build for the future and mapped national capabilities to Alliance requirements while identifying shortfalls. This has been a very effective round of defence planning, with lots of good news in the arena of combat forces, with key shortfalls identified in enabling capabilities.

Second, we are working with NATO's International Staff, NATO's International Military Staff and the nations on expanding the Defence Requirements Review to include other NATO planning disciplines beyond the force-panning efforts we are responsible for at Allied Command Transformation. Including command and control, logistics and armaments planning will help eliminate duplication and allow Alliance leaders to better assess risk against the stated level of ambition for our forces. This will allow the Alliance and the nations to better spend their defence resources and understand how to mitigate risk.

Finally, we are working right now to find a mechanism to link force planning and force generation to make both processes relevant, predictable and useful for both Allied commanders and for national resource planners. This is a challenging task, but we think we are making good progress. I think that defence planning and force generation are key "business tasks" of the Alliance and spend a great deal of effort working with General Jones and the Allied Chiefs of Defence on these issues. With effective processes in these two areas, we can succeed in delivering the right capabilities at the right time to our NATO soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. And that's the bottom line measure of success for an Alliance that is increasingly called upon to meet security challenges around the globe.

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