11 June 1998
NATO to meet
the Challenges of the 21st Century
by Secretary of Defense William Cohen
at the NATO Defense Planning Committee
- As Defense Ministers we are grappling individually with how best to
prepare our militaries for the 21st century.
- But before we delve into the details of modernization or force structure,
we need to be sure that we have a shared assessment of the pending challenges
and a shared vision of how to shape the Alliance to meet those challenges.
CHALLENGE: "NEW" MISSIONS
- Without a doubt, collective defense will remain the Alliance's core
function in the 21st century. That said, NATO operations in Bosnia are
a prime example of the new missions that NATO must also be prepared
to undertake. Such missions relate directly to protecting the security
of Alliance members by bolstering stability in Europe where conflict
involving new members threatens adverse consequences on Allies themselves.
- IFOR and SFOR have two fundamental characteristics we may expect to
find in future missions. First, the increasing involvement of Partners.
NATO-led PfP operations will be the operational coalitions of the future.
- Second, defense of the Alliance's vital security interests may result
in operations outside of the territory of Alliance member states - like
Bosnia. This, in turn, means operations that place additional stress
on our communication and sustainment capabilities. One only has to look
to our day-to-day operations in Bosnia to know this will be true.
- Bosnia has allowed us to learn as an Alliance what we as individual
nations have learned through our participation in UN missions throughout
the world and through our participation in operations like Desert Storm
- and indeed in all our national operations. When you conduct an operation
at a distance -- even a small distance -- deficiencies in mobility,
communications, and sustainment become more than minor inconveniences
-- they become fatal impediments to mission success.
CHALLENGE: TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE
- Our second defense planning challenge is to sustain the ability of
the Alliance to conduct a wide range of military operations at a time
of rapid technological change, against a backdrop of unpredictable and
- In the U.S. we have just begun thinking through how to use advances
in information management and technical innovations to meet the challenges
posed by regional and ethnic conflicts, biological and chemical weapons,
and terrorism, to name a few.
CHALLENGE: BIOLOGICAL, CHEMICAL AND MISSILE
- In the face of our conventional military superiority, hostile states
have acquired biological and chemical weapons as asymmetrical means
to offset our strengths. The 21st Century will see a continuation of
the threats to European security posed by these weapons. We must ensure
that Alliance defense planning takes full account of the risks posed
by biological and chemical weapons to our ability to perform combat
and logistics operations, and to protect our populations.
- In particular, the Alliance must address the dangers posed by states
possessing increasingly long-range and accurate ballistic and cruise
missiles. Potentially hostile states are acquiring the means to range
much of Europe and hold our deployed forces at risk, and they are doing
so much more rapidly than many estimated would be the case.
- In the future, NATO will rely on national forces with different types
of equipment and capabilities and somewhat different approaches to military
operations. This diversity can be managed. However, those forces must
be able to operate together. In a military context increasingly dominated
by information this requires in particular, better interoperability
in gathering and distributing data among sensors, shooters and commanders.
- There are a range of responses available to the Alliance to meet these
challenges through deliberate and thoughtful adaptation.
- Let me outline for you U.S. ideas on how to address them in a practical
- These responses fall into two general categories: Interoperability
or Force Compatibility Initiatives and Conceptual Guidance Initiatives.
- I believe there are six priorities essential to preparing this Alliance
for the next century: communication; sustainment; doctrine; information
assurance; biological, chemical and missile defense; and CJTFs. In addition,
there are two guidance priorities that we must get right: future Ministerial
Guidance and the Strategic Concept.
RESPONSE: COMMUNICATION CAPABILITY FOR
THE 21ST CENTURY
- Our current force goals have begun to address the interoperability
shortfalls identified in Bosnia. For example, when we started IFOR,
units from different nations could not talk to one another because of
- Now we are addressing such shortfalls through force goals such as
the one for Alliance Deployable Communications Modules. This goal establishes
three different deployable communication modules that are to be standardized
by 1999. If all countries meet this force goal, the Alliance will greet
the 21st century with an improved ability to communicate.
- Our Ministerial Guidance should continue to move us toward greater
C4I interoperability by requiring: common standards and architectures;
procurement of more commercial off-the-shelf products; and compatible
protection from electronic intrusions.
- The goal should not be for individual nations to buy specific equipment.
Indeed, we have to recognize that complete commonality of equipment
simply will not happen, and therefore cannot be the solution. Instead,
we must strive for compatibility between our respective systems and
capabilities so we can talk with one another and share information in
future military missions.
RESPONSE: ADAPT ALLIANCE ABILITY TO SUSTAIN
- Bosnia also demonstrated that operations seldom last for only thirty
days. When forces are away from home for extended periods of time there
is a premium on resupply operations. In some cases there is a premium
on basic issues like ensuring that soldiers from over two dozen countries
show up with the appropriate clothing for the weather conditions.
- Resupply is as much a matter of information and organization, as of
material or even transport.
- The commander of future Alliance operations needs to know precisely
what assets are available, where shortfalls must be remedied, and the
fastest way to get supplies where he needs them when he needs them.
- Accordingly, the refinement of a flexible and responsive NATO automated
logistics data system should be one of our top priorities.
- We should strive to attain a NATO based open-architecture for information
technologies by the end of 1999 so that we may enter the 21st century
better able to sustain an operation like IFOR or SFOR. Such an architecture
would allow us manage information concerning resupply in the way that
WalMart routinely monitors its inventory and FedEx routinely tracks
RESPONSE: ADAPT NATO DOCTRINE AND OPERATIONAL
- Technology is a means, not an end. If we are to truly take advantage
of the opportunities offered by advances in technology for meeting future
threats, we will also have to change the way we organize and operate
our forces. This will require adapting our doctrine and operational
- In the U.S., each of our Services has been experimenting with new
operational concepts and organizational structures. But we are only
beginning to think about how to proceed in joint operations (involving
more than one Service, as well as other government and non-government
agencies) and combined operations (involving more than one country).
- I recently designated the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Atlantic
Command (who is also SACLANT) as the Executive Agent for joint concept
development and joint experimentation. A major factor in the selection
of Atlantic Command was their history of working on interoperability
and training for combined operations.
- I know that a number of my colleagues around this table are going
through a similar process. As we transform our national forces for the
21st Century, we need to ensure we are all transforming towards compatible,
if not similar goals.
- True "force compatibility" requires not just compatible national doctrines,
but the development and refinement of an Alliance doctrine that takes
into account the new security environment and the ongoing transformation
of our forces and the special challenges of multi-national operations.
- Given that we (and other allies) are at the earliest stages in our
thinking on these matters, now is the time for Alliance consultation,
so that we can develop concepts collaboratively.
- As an initial step, I would like to invite my colleagues to send representatives
to a conference the U.S. will host this autumn to facilitate the sharing
of ideas concerning concept development and joint warfighting experimentation
as well as larger issues associated with true "force compatibility."
We will provide further details on the conference through the U.S. Mission.
RESPONSE: CJTF AS THE "KEYSTONE"
- As we build the arch to the 21st century, the CJTF concept will be
the keystone. The promise of CJTF is flexibility and organization. It
will be the unifying concept for enabling the Alliance to respond and
organize for both collective defense and "new" mission requirements.
- As the capstone, the CFTF concept will hold at least three elements
- It provides the basis for separable but not separate forces and capabilities
in support of a viable European Security and Defense Identity securely
anchored in NATO.
- It will facilitate operations with Partners. Partners filled nine
positions on the CJTF headquarters staff during Exercise Strong Resolve
98. These were not mere observers but officers who were fully involved,
working side-by-side with their NATO counterparts.
- It will provide an ideal opportunity to engage Russia - building on
the record of cooperation in Bosnia. We should seek Russia participation
in future CJTF operations. In this respect, I welcome the IS briefing
on the CJTF trials in tomorrow's PJC.
- I look forward to the Combined Joint Planning Staff's July report
on the recent CJTF implementation trials and hope that it integrates
important lessons learned from our experiences in Bosnia.
- As an aside, I note that one of the trials was preceded by a computer
simulation exercise - UNIFIED ENDEAVOR -- which prepared commanders
and staffs from Allied and Partner nations for the CJTF field trial.
Some found the computer simulation more rigorous than the actual field
trial and others have commented that they cannot imagine ever conducting
a major field exercise without a computer simulation first.
- UNIFIED ENDEAVOR demonstrated the enabling capacity of readily available
computer technology to conduct exercises for a fraction of the cost
of field exercises. By participating through a distributed network at
a computer terminal located in their national headquarters, for appropriate
exercises, Allies and Partners can save significant resources.
RESPONSE: INFORMATION ASSURANCE
- Technological change is a double-edged sword. While advances in information
technology will greatly enable our abilities to control and sustain
operations, our increasing reliance on information technology creates
a new vulnerability.
- Recent intrusions and disruptions to information systems have provided
us with an urgent wake-up call.
- In response, I sent Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre to NATO headquarters
and to several Europeans capitals, to share this experience and invite
the Alliance to collaborate on ways to address this growing, common
problem. I am sending him to more European capitals later this month
to continue the dialogue.
- We need to develop the capability to protect our systems from electronic
intrusions while ensuring the availability and credibility of the information
in those systems. Information assurance must become an Alliance defense
- Given the nature of networks, a vulnerability in one country can easily
create a vulnerability in other countries as well. So information assurance
cannot be handled on a national basis. It must be addressed collaboratively.
RESPONSE: DEFENSE AGAINST BIOLOGICAL/CHEMICAL
WEAPONS AND MISSILES
- The dual edged sword of technology also means the advances that are
overcoming disease can also threaten us by what has been called the
- We must continue making progress to intensify and expand the Alliance's
defense initiative against biological and chemical weapons risks, which
our Heads of State and Government launched at the 1994 Brussels Summit.
- Based on the recommendations of the Senior Defense Group on proliferation,
NATO is developing the capabilities, doctrine, and plans to effectively
deal with these weapons. Much work remains to improve our biological
and chemical defenses and counterforce capabilities.
- In the U.S., President Clinton has personally made this an urgent
priority, given the vulnerability of our forces and, especially our
- Later today, in the NAC/D, we will approve the Senior Defense Group
on Proliferation's Report on Alliance Progress Countering Chemical and
Biological Weapons Risks, as well as the Program Plan for NATO Layered
Theater Ballistic Missile Defense. Taken together, they represent important
concrete steps towards protecting deployed NATO forces from the threats
that will continue well into the 21st Century.
- Let me turn to the two conceptual guidance priorities essential to
preparing this Alliance for its future challenges.
RESPONSE: MINISTERIAL GUIDANCE ADAPTED
TO THE 21ST CENTURY
- As we shape the Alliance for the 21st Century, it is not enough merely
to review our current Ministerial Guidance and annotate it here and
there. We need to step back and fundamentally reassess our objectives
for the development of our defense capabilities. For example, as we
have adapted our Alliance command structure and are implementing the
CJTF concept, we need to look at adapting our force structure.
- We need to assess whether the current focus and substance of Ministerial
Guidance requires "adaptation" to the current security environment --
just as we have "adapted" other Alliance structures.
- In the coming weeks, at my direction, the US delegation to the Defense
Review Committee (DRC) will engage their counterparts in a dialogue
-- an exchange of views -- with an eye towards a DRC report for our
consideration when we meet again in December
RESPONSE: UPDATING THE STRATEGIC CONCEPT
- While we will address the Strategic Concept at length later today
at lunch, there are important connections to the work of the Defense
Planning Committee (DPC) and the interoperability priorities I have
just touched upon.
- The Strategic Concept that we agree to at the Washington Summit will
provide the overarching guidance for defense planners for the decade
of the next century.
- As such, it must address the challenges I have just discussed and
provide the direction for the pursuit of the force compatibility responses
that will allow us to shape this Alliance for what lies ahead.
- The NATO of the 21st Century must both harness the potential of advances
in technology and renew its commitment to the basics of military effectiveness.
This will require a partnership of NATO military organizations, NATO
defense managers and industry.
- The Defense Planning Committee lies at the heart of this military
Alliance. I look forward to the work it will produce in the coming months
on our way to the next fifty years of the most successful military Alliance