From the event



19 Mar 2008


with General Ray Henault, Chairman of the Military Committee on the preparations for the Bucharest Summit

Q: General, we are now only two weeks away from the Bucharest Summit and leading up to the event, could you please explain to us what has been the work of the Military Committee?

GENERAL RAY HENAULT (Chairman of the Military Committee): Well, thank you very much, that is a very appropriate point. We are looking very much forward to this Summit because we on the military side, the NATO military authorities, as well as the Military Committee, have been working diligently to prepare for this Summit.

We have done as much as we can to harmonize our efforts with the political level, and we look forward to the many decisions that are going to be made and the guidance that is going to be provided to us by Heads of State and Government at the Summit.

I personally am looking very much forward to it because I will, of course, be representing the 26 Chiefs of Defence of NATO. I will be at the table for all of the discussions and I look forward to providing inputs, providing advice where it's appropriate, and of course receiving the guidance that we know we are going to get.

We have been working very diligently on the preparations for this Summit, primarily in the area of operations, transformation, of course, and modernization; the partnerships and also the Membership Action Plan (MAP) activities that are going on; and then finally, emerging threats. And so all of this has been very important to us in the Military Committee.

We have, of course, provide MC, or Military Committee, inputs to the many operations that are under way, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, our operations in the Mediterranean, as well as in Iraq. With our priority, of course, being on Afghanistan, because of the importance of the mission. But with another focus on Kosovo because of the events that have transpired since the declaration of independence.

So that has kept us very busy, but of course, we have also been very focused on the changes that have to come about in the Alliance, the modernization, the reforms that need to be done, and we, of course, are very much in harmony with the political side as well, to try and streamline the way we do business, and also to ensure that in the longer term that the Alliance can operate more quickly, more effectively, and of course, provide more deployability for its forces.

And that is especially important when you think that back at Riga when we had the Comprehensive Political Guidance approved by Ministers, which of course was subset by Ministerial Guidance '06, which gave us a new level of ambition, that makes it extremely important for us to be able to satisfy that level of ambition, and we are doing that in a number of ways, not the least of which is through the review of the NATO command structure.

So we are very busy. We know how important it is, as well for us to be attuned and also to contribute, continue to contribute in terms of the military to military activities that come along with enlargement, with possible Membership Action Plan decisions, and things of that nature. And again, that is very much part and parcel of what we do and how we operate in the Military Committee.

And finally, when it comes to the emerging threats that we face, and we know are out there, we in the Military Committee have been very diligent in, again, providing good, sound, agreed military advice to the North Atlantic Council (NAC) on some very important issues, including cyber defence, energy security, maritime security awareness or situational awareness I should say.

Q: You spoke about some of the topics that you have been working on for quite a while, but what do you think the focus on the Military Committee will be following the Bucharest Summit and in the future?

HENAULT: Well, the Bucharest Summit, as I mentioned earlier, is very important for us, once again, because Heads of State and Government do focus in on some very important issues for the Alliance. And most importantly, they set the tone and they set the agenda for us for not only the coming year, but for many years to come.

What we will do in the aftermath of the Bucharest Summit is, of course, take those decisions forward, and what I like to call it is operationalizing the decisions that are made at the Summit. That is very important to us, because once again, we get the guidance from the Heads of State and Government that sets the tone and provides for us the forward-looking activity that we have to undertake.

On the Military Committee what we have been trying to do for some time now is to use strategic thinking as our baseline. And that strategic thinking is always underpinned by, of course, guidance and direction from the political level, but this is what Bucharest will provide for us, will be again formalization confirmation of many of the things that we had been working on. And so that will be the focus of our attention in the aftermath of the Summit.

We know, of course, that they will make decisions on those things that you talked about, on the energy security, cyber defence and so on. Again, we will take those forward in the way that we need to, reinforcing and emphasizing the military to military relationships and helping, again, to harmonize that with political objectives and goals.

Now we also know that there will be decisions made on enlargement, or expansions of the Alliance, or expansion of the relationships in the Alliance. Whether those expansions are invitations to become members, invitations to an increased intensified dialogue for some nations, or indeed invitations to join the Membership Action Plan.

From the Military Committee perspective that is always important to us because the military-to-military relationship and the activities that are undertaken in that respect do very much fuel the overall decision-making. And so we know we will have our work cut out for us, but believe you me, we are very much looking forward to it and we know that this will help us to, again, set that path to the future.

Q: Sounds like it. On a different note, do you think that NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo are putting a strain on the Alliance?

HENAULT: Well, the Alliance is a big organization, it's a political-military organization with some very significant and globally-based objectives. We certainly, though, are able to react to large numbers of demands for our support or for our assistance.

Now the Alliance is designed to be able to undertake multiple operations at the same time. The truth or the proof of that is quite frankly what we have been able to do over the last three years, over the term of my time as Chairman of the Military Committee. We have actually undertaken eight operations over the past three years on four different continents. So that does demonstrate some significant flexibility on the part of the Alliance. And it is also demonstrated that the Alliance is modernizing and improving its capability, not only to operate in what was the traditional Euro-Atlantic area, but also well outside that area now, and as we have seen with Afghanistan or Pakistan earthquake relief operations, the deployment of the NATO Response Force (NRF) a couple of summers ago to the Cape Verde Islands for a proof of concept exercise, all of those things have shown that we're quite capable of doing things much further afoot.

Now, all that being said, the Alliance does feel the pressure of all the operations that are going on. What that means though is that we in the Military Committee, again, representing all of the Chiefs of Defence, in very close cooperation with the strategic commanders and also the political level, and I interact continuously with the Secretary General,  have to make assessments as to what the priorities are when we face multiple rotations of troops and multiple operations on a continuous basis.

So we do that. We try to take all of the factors into consideration. One of the best examples, perhaps, is the NATO Response Force (NRF), which was declared fully operationally capable at the Riga Summit.

Later on, or in the following summer it was determined, because of the high operational tempo that NATO forces are in, that it was very difficult to sustain the NATO Response Force at the levels that were originally envisaged, and so we have now promoted and also had agreed by Ministers, a graduated force option, which takes in consideration the high operational tempo and the requirement or the importance of and probably the practicality of having a much smaller force for the original requirements of the NATO Response Force (NRF) all the time; not changing the concept of the NATO Response Force (NRF), being able to expand the graduated force option into one that will provide us the full flexibility that the NATO Response Force (NRF) represents, and at the same time maintaining the viability of the force and really only changing the way that we force generate it.

All of that shows that NATO continues to be a very flexible organization, very dynamic and able to adapt to these changing circumstances, which we know are going to be the wave of the future. And we need to be able to react to any kinds of situations in that respect, and take into consideration what nations can or cannot provide and best adapt.

And so I am proud of what NATO does in that respect and I am proud of what the military authorities are able to do to provide the good sound advice to our political level to make the decisions ultimately.

Q: Finally, there is beginning to be a lot of talk about HQ reform. This will certainly include discussions about the Military Committee. Could you please tell us just how relevant is the Military Committee in today's security environment?

HENAULT: Well, that is a very good question, and I have been involved in the Headquarters reform activities from their outset, if you like, back at the time when Ambassador Vahr was developing Headquarters reform concepts for the Headquarters and that started about the time that I became the chairman of the Military Committee. So I welcomed that approach because I think reform, change, adaptation is always good for any organization, and that includes NATO. Even with its large scope and the fact that it has both a political and a military orientation.

Headquarters reform is something that obviously demands change on the parts of nations and that is difficult because change is always disruptive, but change can be very positive. And in this respect I think Headquarters reform is something that is very much needed by this organization to help it continue adapting after the end of the Cold War and continue adapting to this expeditionary deployable capability that this organization really has taken upon itself.

So Headquarters reform will continue at the political level. At the Military Committee level we have continued to do reforms of our own as well. At the same time as the Headquarters reform for the Headquarters was being undertaken, we also had a review, a fundamental review, of the International Military Staff, which is the staffing agent of the Military Committee and we were able to determine some ways to streamline the way that they do business. We were able to implement them. We are able to do business much more efficiently than we have in the past.

That now needs to be, again, tailored and managed, adapted to what the political level will ultimately do with Headquarters reform. So all very positive.

All of it, though, also leads to the relevance of the Military Committee and that was your initial point. The Military Committee has become that much more relevant as time has gone on, especially with this evolution towards expeditionary operations; the very significant importance of military advice to our political level and to the nations, of course, at the political level, to make decisions on some very significant issues.

We have never seen decisions made at the North Atlantic Council by the ambassadors, and of course, by extension, the nations, without military advice being provided to them. We take great pride in providing agreed military advice, so consensus-based advice, and that has, I think, strengthened the value and also the relevance of the Military Committee in all of the activities that it's undertaken on behalf of the Alliance.

So I think as we see the changes continue within the Alliance, especially with perhaps an expanding Alliance, and one which is taking on additional tasks, not the least of which are things like cyber security or cyber defence, energy security and so on, we'll find that the Military Committee will become that much more relevant.

For that reason we have actually undertaken an initiative to review, on our own part, on the part of the Military Committee, what we do, how we do it and how we can increase our relevance, and of course, increase the speed with which we provide advice and make recommendations to the Council.

So all of it, I think, will help to make the Military Committee more effective, and that makes the Chiefs of Defence and also the nations themselves that much more effective and that much more important to the overall decision-making process here in the Alliance.

So, again, I am proud of what we have done in that respect, and I think we will continue to progress exceedingly well. Again, with the great support, and we have had very good support from all the nations, and also from our chain of command.

Q: Excellent. Thank you very much for coming, General.

HENAULT: Thank you, Malene.

Q: Come back and see us another day.

HENAULT: It is a great pleasure, thank you.

Q: Thank you.