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Secretary General's foreword


( NATO)

NATO's credibility rests on its cohesion and military competence - its proven ability to foster cooperation between its member nations and to engage them in demanding military operations in regions of vital strategic importance. In the face of a whole new set of risks and threats to our common security, we must strengthen our political dialogue to ensure continued Allied cohesion. In short, we must transform.

A lot of public attention has focused on NATO's contributions to peace and stability in the Balkans, the Mediterranean Sea, Afghanistan and recently Iraq. There has been considerable interest also in the widening of NATO's membership and the deepening of its partnership relations. But there is more to NATO's transformation. We have adapted our strategy and concepts, our military command and force structures, and our internal organisation and procedures. Alliance Command Transformation is a key driver in the military transformation process. And with the NATO Response Force and our Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Battalion, we now have force packages in place that are specifically geared to some of the most pressing requirements. Each of our 26 member nations has been taking a hard look at its own defence programmes and structures, to make sure that they are relevant to today's demands. A lot has already been achieved. But NATO's transformation is still very much a work in progress. In addition, we must ensure that NATO Headquarters structure is geared to support this process.

The three main strands of this work are clear. First, we need to further enhance the usability, availability and sustainability of our forces - to make sure that a much larger proportion of our militaries is readily available for operations away from Alliance territory. Second, we must continue to better align our political and operational decisions - by further improving our defence-planning and force-generation processes, and by creating greater clarity on resourcing through a better balance between national and common funding. Finally, but fundamentally, we need enhanced political debate to muster and sustain the transatlantic consensus that has been, and will remain, crucial to the success of any Alliance undertaking. I am encouraged by our February Summit, where NATO leaders committed to strengthen the Alliance as a forum for strategic and political consultations and coordination.

In order to succeed, the Alliance's transformation will require continued careful attention to the efficiency of the NATO Headquarters structure, and strong engagement by the governments and parliaments of our member nations. I want to do my utmost to make sure that NATO's transformation continues. It is critical to the Alliance's ability to provide security well into the future.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer