Updated: 12-Feb-2003 NATO IMS Speeches

Seminar “OPEN
ROAD”, Norfolk,

21 Jan. 2003

The Transformation of NATO’s Military Forces
and its Link with US Transformation

by General Harald Kujat


Admiral Forbes, ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all Ian, allow me to thank you profusely for your kind words of introduction and for your invitation to participate to OPEN ROAD.

A special thanks also, on behalf of the Military Committee, to both you and Admiral Giambastiani for the excellent contribution you made and continue to make towards NATO’s Transformation.

This year’s theme is “U.S. Transformation – Implication for the Alliance”. What more fitting a theme could be found in light of the strategic environment we are now operating in.

NATO has undergone significant changes, resulting from new directions set at the Washington and Prague summits as well as the influence of other geo-strategic circumstances. Three new members have joined the Alliance and 7 others are invited.

When I was asked to speak about the impact of U.S. Transformation on the Alliance, I was a bit puzzled. Indeed, this statement seems to imply that the U.S., as a key member of NATO, is transforming and that the rest of NATO is not. Or at least, this is what some observers are deducing.

But this perception is not necessarily so. I submit that Alliance Transformation is a necessary and continuous process, and that all member nations must buy into in order to ensure NATO’s ability to achieve the enduring security vision expressed in the Strategic Concept.

For this process to succeed, I will argue that cultural change factors are as important to the Transformation process than technology factors are.

I will then proceed to describe the main differences I see between non-U.S. NATO thinking and American thinking about Transformation after which I will submit some proposals for common ground.

Even though Transformation was defined yesterday, for the purpose of my remarks, I will use the ACLANT definition, which describes Transformation as a “continuous process” of developing and integrating innovative concepts, doctrine and capabilities in order to improve the effectiveness and interoperability of warfighting forces in a continuously changing environment, to which I would add “with a view to achieve the tasks imparted upon us by the heads of states and governments in the Alliance’s strategic concept”.

As far as NATO is concerned then, Transformation is matching aspirations and a new security environment with concepts and capabilities in an evolutionary process. Given the dramatic consequences for NATO compared with the changes of the past, this may well be perceived as a revolutionary step.

Part I – The Fundamentals of Transformation

Historically, revolutionary and quantum leaps in technology marked the end or the beginning of a new era of Military Capabilities.

Development of Military Capabilities in the history of mankind was, until the twentieth century, relatively steady for long periods. But, at the beginning of every era, the nature of warfare was usually fundamentally altered by technology.

In between these ground-breaking inventions, all Armies had relatively the same level of Capabilities and, once nations had acquired a similar level of technology, victory or defeat on the battlefield was usually decided by two primary factors: sheer size in numbers and/or what Clausewitz calls moral(1) factors.

These moral factors are closely related to willpower, creativity, leadership and innovation. Echoing the remarks made yesterday by Admirals Cebrowski and Gambastiani, these variables are what I would call in 2003 “military culture factors”.

Clausewitz(2) , in his time, described these two primary factors (physical capabilities and moral capabilities) as two elements of a single system. For that description, he used the analogy of the knife. For him, the physical capabilities were only the wooden handle and the moral power was the blade as the decisive factor of victory. Even though Clausewitz did not underestimate the impact of technology, he could not foresee that progress in it would become a steady and continuously occurring process and he could not foresee either the synergy effects of certain exponential developments.

T.R. Fehrenbach wrote after the Korean War: “you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomise it, pulverise it, and wipe it clean of life – but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilisation, you must do this on the ground, the way roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud”(3) .

He was of course right. The point of this quote is that, today, we can and we must reverse Clausewitz’s analogy of the knife. With constantly evolving technology, we cannot afford to allow cultural change (leadership, doctrine, training, education and so on) to trail behind industry research and development.

Clausewitz’s knife is today’s Military Capabilities System. This system comprises the same elements of technology (hardware) and cultural factors such as leadership, moral fibre, willpower, training, doctrine (software). Both elements are necessary for the system to function properly and I submit that he who can best employ capabilities systems, both hard and soft, will prevail in the battlespace of the twenty-first century.

In reversing Clausewitz analogy, today’s morally oriented knife handle, with its leadership and willpower factors, drives the blade of technological capabilities.

If we agree that both of these primary factors are necessary for the Capabilities system to function, is there a single element upon which we can focus our Transformation efforts?

I believe so. NATO is to embrace the Information Age and this is a given fact nobody can argue against.

Information is the single most important aspect of technology and the principal factor that will reduce friction and the fog of war. Innovation in this field applies to all factors of the Capabilities system I just referred to and its subsequent transformation. Today, information technology affects target acquisition and weapons ordnance effectiveness. Sensors, platforms and weapons designed network-ready as battlespace entities are a quantum leap in warfighting capability.

But it also affects the moral factors Clausewitz was thinking about because it improves situational awareness, facilitates communication among warfighters and improves Command and Control Capabilities.

In other words, applying a network information system means reducing friction or the likeliness of unforeseeable events impacting negatively on the course of action and thus increasing warfighting capabilities.

So my message here is that Transformation is not about researching and developing new technologies, but about researching and developing “capabilities systems” that include both technological advances and moral changes.

Now that I have established, in my views, the fundamentals of transformation, I would like to pit this vision against, on one hand my perception of the U.S. Transformation efforts and, on the other hand, my perception of the NATO thinking about warfare.

Part II – American thinking vs. Multinational thinking

As far as NATO is concerned, the Alliance’s and the U.S. Transformation processes have to be closely linked. I see this link resting obviously on the shoulders of the Strategic Commander for Allied Transformation.

The devil is in the details the saying goes. Let me share with you some thoughts about the Transformation process.

In the United States, Transformation is led by a single Command, responding to the Joint Chiefs, that has access to resources and Forces necessary to lead change in the Armed Forces. The authority that directs changes also provides the necessary resources to the Commander in charge of Transformation to do so and everything is coherently driven under a single strategic vision.

Transformation then creates a path that allows for structural changes that fuse together forces and concepts to deliver coherent Combat Capabilities.

Transformation puts the emphasis on technological advance which in turn drives concept development, experimentation, assessment and eventually doctrine.

An example of this is the development of network centric warfare concepts that have been developed in response to advances in information systems technology. In it, information is fused and analysed at the commander’s centre enabling him or her to remain within the decision cycle of the adversary.

Another characteristic of U.S. Transformation is the overall authority given to the Military Commander charged with Transformation. The ability of the Transformation Commander to conduct his own experiments and co-ordinate with service-specific Transformation efforts will get very tough at 19 or 26. Does NATO (read nations) have the appetite and the resources to conduct both technological experiments as well as conceptual experiments?

For this characteristic to work in NATO Transformation, NATO will have to assume responsibilities traditionally within national purviews such as high-level joint training and procurement among others.

The “culture” of innovative thinking is another important characteristic. It may exist individually in NATO member nations but we need to create this positive NATO culture of innovation collectively.

Thus, we are faced with the following question:

Can the American Transformation process be exported as is to NATO?

The answer to that is a resounding “no” and I will tell you why by highlighting characteristics of NATO Transformation from a multinational vision. Within the Alliance, Transformation cannot follow the same path. When dealing with Transformation, NATO must consider a very specific challenge that does not encumber U.S. Transformers: Multinationality of Sovereign States.

Europeans tend to think in terms of levels of information. For them, technology cannot be a substitute for creative thinking, proper planning and optimal use of available technology, all aiming at remaining within the adversary’s decision cycle.

Since the best technology is not always available to them, they make more use of moral factors to compensate and try to optimise the application of mission command theories.

They believe that network centric warfare cannot easily be applied in a multinational environment where an Operational Commander must compose his operational masterpiece with a mosaic of factors as opposed to a fully fused melting pot of factors laid out on a single sheet of music.

In other words, the culture of authority and strategic leadership culture is different in a multinational environment.

Another aspect is the danger of having the United States becoming more and more isolated as Transformation is progressing while the rest of NATO does according to theirs. While NATO Non-American militaries are transforming too, closer co-ordination is required to avoid going our separate way.

If we do not, this could lead to a European knife that is balanced and more harmonised within itself (maybe with a 70-80% technological solution but that is fully integrated) while the American Forces transform their own knife into a slightly larger, sharper knife (maybe with a 100% technological solution, integrated with itself).

For all of these reasons, NATO cannot apply blindly the U.S. Transformation concepts.

But, can we find a common ground between the U.S. and the Alliance’s Transformation process? The answer to that is definitely “yes”.

After the arguments brilliantly presented yesterday, I would submit that we may be a lot closer in our thinking than some people might believe and we should exploit this. Since it is recognised that the Transatlantic link is a vital interest to the Alliance, we indeed need a vehicle to integrate the Transatlantic Transformation Process.

Part III – Towards common ground and an Alliance Transformation Process

For an integrated Transformation Process to function, it has to be based, from my perspective, on six fundamental tenets.

First, it is the process that drives the structure, which, in finality, will deliver its output, combat power. Not the other way around. We cannot afford the resources to come up with Capabilities unduly influenced by national considerations.

The second tenet is that the Transformation Process has to tie all of the Alliance’s loose ends. There are many NATO resources out there that need to be brought in efficiently under one of the Transformational functional area.

The third tenet is that all members must participate in its development regardless of size, economy, or geography.

Fourth, Nations have their role to play. They must be prepared to transfer national responsibilities to NATO, including some related to individual and leadership training, experimentation and joint and combined exercising.

Fifth, the Alliance’s Force Planning system needs to be streamlined and evolved into a more coherent and truly capability-based planning system. Common and collective Capabilities must be given first priority for development and resources funnelled to them. We must strengthen our common efforts in Defence research, development and procurement. And we must do this whenever possible as a Transatlantic Collective Effort, including the transfer of technology.

And sixth, as a consequence, NATO resources, including the military budget, must be increased, the processes streamlined and the appropriate elements of NATO’s integrated structure must have greater flexibility in long term planning.

So my message is: NATO’s Capabilities planning system needs to be adjusted
to support the Transformation Process.

In essence, this means more common and multinational projects, a coherent collective resource planning system and a considerable increase of common funding.

To quote from the NATO Strategic Concept: “multinational funding, including through the military budget and the NATO security investment programme, will continue to play an important role in acquiring and maintaining necessary assets and capabilities. The management of resources should be guided by the military requirements of the Alliance as they evolve.” April 1999!

In reality, the current resource management process and structures are neither coherent nor do they provide the necessary funding. They are too cumbersome, complicated and inefficient.

For instance, while heads of states and governments in Prague just recently highlighted the “Alliance Ground Surveillance” system as the most important of the future projects, the military budget does not provide the necessary funding for the NC3 agency to support it.

Thus, we need a timely and up front integration of all resource areas to render the use of NATO resources efficient and effective.

In the process of streamlining NATO’s resource management structures and processes, the Military Committee has a vital and delicate role to play.

I will initiate a comprehensive review of the relevant structures and processes. In fact, we have already started discussions in the Military Committee.

At this time, since I see some collaborators in the room, I would like to recognise some of them who continue to provide significant input into that work.

  • Mr. Holme, Chairman of the NATO Research and Technology Board.
  • Mr. Dicks, General Manager of the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency.
  • Mr. Peebles, Director, NATO Research and Technology Agency.
  • Mr. Spoelstra, Director, SACLANT Undersea Research Centre.

Gentlemen, thank you very much. You have laid the basis for our discussions in the Military Committee.

I am convinced that our Transformation vision will favour interoperability, address the asymmetric threats, increase the flexibility of our forces and establish the Command Arrangements to Command and Control them. It must deliver the Capabilities system we need.

All elements of this Capabilities system must be developed and transformed in a cohesive programme for it to function. To borrow the words of the 2001 (U.S.) Department of Defence report to congress:

“[…] far more needs to be done to develop, test and refine network-centric concepts of operations and co-evolve them with doctrine, organisation, command approach, systems and the other components of a mission capability package.”

In this quote, the key word is “co-evolve”. This holistic view of an Alliance Transformation Process implies a rapprochement between the American Transformation Process and the Non-U.S. NATO members Transformation Processes.

In my views, the future common ground and the most visible element of a transformed Alliance will be the NATO Response Force. The idea of a NATO Response Force (NRF) builds on the Prague Capabilities Commitment and the new NATO Command and Force Structure.

Our aim is to establish a pool of Land, Air and Maritime Combat Forces to be employed under a CJTF HQ. It would be supported by NATO’s collective assets, trained and equipped to common standards set by the appropriate Strategic Commander and capable of being tailored to mission.

It would be readily deployable on short notice and over long distances, combat ready and technologically superior to any conceivable adversary. It will be capable of fighting in an NBC environment and self-sustainable for a certain period of time.

In essence it will be a NATO Force that allows European and U.S. Forces to fight together whenever and wherever the Alliance political authorities decide to and that will set a standard for all NATO Forces in the medium and long term.

The NRF would serve two distinct but mutually reinforcing purposes.

First, it would provide joint and combined High Readiness Force able to react very quickly to crises in or beyond Alliance territory for the full range of Alliance missions.

Second, the NATO Response Force would be a mechanism for spurring NATO’s continuing Transformation to meet evolving security challenges. This second purpose of the NRF is what I call the corner stone of an integrated NATO Transformation Process.

This Collective Capability will be ideally suited to take advantage of the Transatlantic link concerning Transformation and must be the vehicle upon which our Transformation efforts will bear. It will promote interoperability with U.S. Forces and for it to fill this purpose; U.S. elements must be part of it.

Through experimentation and rotation this NRF, as the nucleus of the Transatlantic link, will be expanded progressively to enlarge the Alliance’s common base.

For this vision of Transformation to succeed, the United States must actively participate in this common ground. If not, the ground is no longer common and the Transatlantic link will weaken, in some ways, a weakening of the link between handle and blade.


Thus in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, transformation is indeed vital for the alliance. There is a very tangible reason for NATO to engage in this Transformation Process and it is in order to achieve the mission imparted upon us by the heads of states and government in the 1999 Strategic Concept. This purpose is clear and simple.

Transformation is not only about technology, but first and foremost about concurrently developing all elements of the Capabilities system in unison to make the adaptation to the new security environment effective.

Overmatch in technology means little without a co-evolved overmatch in military culture factors (such as doctrine and procedures developed for well-trained soldiers and leaders to be applied as directed by competent leadership that has been properly educated).

The NATO Response Force is the vehicle of choice to focus the Transformation Process as this innovation will provide NATO with a balanced weapon to fill the full range of its missions. As such, it is the common ground for all members of the Alliance and should be seen as such. But the NRF is not the end state. We must transform all of our Forces and their Capabilities.

The United States must be an equal partner in the Alliance’s Transformation Process. This means of course participating in this nucleus of common ground, the NRF, but also in all facets of the Transformation Process. In other words, the United States must be part of the NATO knife, both in its handle and in its blade.

It falls from this discussion that Alliance Transformation is a necessary process all member nations must buy into in order to ensure NATO’s ability to achieve the enduring security vision expressed in the Strategic Concept.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope my comments were thought provoking and will generate debate and discussions among the participants and especially during the syndicate discussions. We are in this together and we must row together for the boat to cut through the waters of the challenges imparted upon us.

Again, thank you to both Admirals Forbes and Giambastiani for your unfaltering support and dynamism.

Thank you.

  1. Not to be confused with morale, which refers to welfare as opposed to moral, which refers to the spirit.
  2. Clauswitz, Carl von, Vom Kriege, 16.A., hrsg. V. Werner Hahlweg, Bonn, 1952, S.177 (zit.: Vom Kriege), p. 255.
  3. Fehrenbach, T.R., This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness, Macmillan, New York, 1963.

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