Updated: 30-Jul-2003 NATO IMS Speeches

Conference for Reserve Officers
56th CIOR
and military
and the 57th

24 Jul. 2003

The Use of Reservists within NATO

Remarks by General Harald Kujat
Chairman of the NATO Military Committee

General van Baal, first thank you for your kind words of introduction. And to (Lieutenant) Colonel Peters, for your invitation to have the opportunity to speak to you this evening. Colonel Kok, for having organised this.

The history of our nations’ armed forces spans many centuries and, all of us in NATO can be especially proud of the military successes we have achieved in the Alliance over the past fifty years. The efficiency and effectiveness of our regular services remains second to none - yet none of this unique operational capability would be possible if it were not for the full and complete integration of our Reserves.

Historically, and in most of our nations, reservists provided the necessary backbone elements of their country’s march on the path to nationhood. Reserves hold indeed a place of choice in our respective societies.

It was Barry Strauss, an eminent professor of history and classics at Cornell’s University in the United States, who said that political “…theory teaches that, unless the citizens of a republic serve in their own defence, they risk losing their freedom.1 ” As reservists, your dedication to both the community and the military is testament to this vision fathered by Machiavelli.

One of the great strength of NATO is that it not only allows every country to adapt and integrate their reservists to their own mutual advantage but allows each nation to maximise their specialist skills and vast experience for the good of the Alliance as a whole.

Throughout the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond, the fabric of our security rests to a large extent on the flexibility and adaptability of our reserve forces and nowhere is this more visible than in the excellent work of the CIOR, the CIOMR and of course the NATO-accredited NRFC do every day.

The prospects for the Reserves within NATO are good, and this is my message this afternoon. Our nations’ Reserves are healthy, they are net contributors to our operations and they provide for specialised capabilities.
For the next thirty minutes or so, I intend to talk to you about the role of Reserves in support of various strategic-level initiatives such as the NATO concept for the defence against terrorism, the NATO response force, operations and policies, starting with the latter. As the development and the use of Reserves are purely national responsibilities, I will focus on thoughts from my perspective, as Chairman of the Military Committee.

Part I – Policy and Strategy issues

The first subject I would like to touch upon relates to policy issues, both from an Alliance and a national perspective, at least from my point of view.

The NATO Military Committee recognised, with its overarching document titled “NATO framework policy on Reserves”, that there are substantially differing national approaches to the structure, quantity, type, funding, availability, training, call-up and utilisation of Reserves.

Thus, our aim is to provide NATO nations with policy guidance on the potential contribution of reserve forces to NATO’s defence interests, including their training, readiness and use in accomplishing NATO missions.

While recognising the prerogative of individual nations in all these areas, our intent is to identify both the value that reserve forces can bring to NATO and the measures needed to ensure that reserve forces are best able to meet their potential. I will talk about some of these measures.
As regards to training and readiness, reservists should replace, either individually or as a formed unit, regular force entities only when they are able to achieve the required state of readiness.

Any existing education or training programme aimed at improving the individual and collective skills of regular military personnel should be accessible to reservists in accordance with national rules and procedures.

Member nations should encourage reservist participation in joint and combined individual training opportunities by exchanging information on the availability of relevant individual training programmes. As there can be no substitute for experience acquired in the field, reservists should be engaged as much as possible in units deploying on operations.

One of the most difficult challenges to tackle and that is common to most nations is the issue of the availability of reservists. This availability depends on many important factors, such as political will, community encouragement and employer support. The cause of the reserve is best served in the development phase of the national policies and the Reserve issue needs to be addressed as early as possible.

You, as current and future leaders of your nations’ Reserves, have an important role to play to influence this decision-making process and I encourage you to become active in this regard.

True, NATO countries cannot easily convince managers to let their employees go. However, employers must be convinced that the cause of the military missions for which their employees are requesting to be released for action is noble and just.

Managers need to be made aware that several critical functions of any given operation could be seriously jeopardised should the Reserves be unavailable. This is particularly true in many specialist logistic, legal or medical fields where some NATO nations depend almost entirely upon their citizen-soldiers to maintain these crucial skills.

Another great test in a future of reduced force structures, budgets, and training opportunities will lie in tailoring the size of the reserve components properly, and then in keeping their members effectively trained and motivated.
A dilemma with the Reserves might be that they are more expensive that most people think. They are probably still cheaper to maintain than active duty soldiers, but one should not have unreasonable expectations.

Indeed, the fast-growing technology and its impact on military equipment, tactics, techniques and procedures increase the problems of maintaining properly trained Reserves at a manageable cost.

I submit that the benefit of the reservist lies more in his or her education and mindset as opposed to be able to fly the latest aircraft or operate the most advanced armoured vehicle.

We, at NATO, have also our part to play. We should and do encourage publishing of reservists’ successful and meaningful work in publications such as “NATO review”. In fact, I urge you to link up with them and submit article proposals.

From a NATO strategy perspective, I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the most important initiatives NATO is pursuing at the moment as I believe it is important that you, as members of our nations’ Reserves, be professionally aware of what is going on.

One of the major strategic initiative concerns the new NATO Command Structure. The strategic environment is changing and so are we. We are transforming to remain the international security organisation of choice to protect our member-states’ interests. On 19th June, all operational responsibilities, wherever they would occur, were given to SACEUR and Allied Command Atlantic was dissolved. At the same time, a new strategic command was established in the United States.

Allied Command Transformation will be responsible for the conversion of the Alliance’s military capabilities so that allied forces are more deployable, sustainable and able to conduct joint and combined operations across the full spectrum of Alliance’s missions.

This new command will also directly support the transatlantic link, as its commander is dual-hatted as the commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, also responsible for the transformation of U.S. forces.
There is a great opportunity for reservists to contribute to our work in this field, as it requires no high degree of readiness. Rather a positive attitude, professional knowledge and an indisputable ability to think outside the box, particularly if these reservists possess speciality skills (like various types of scientists or engineers). This command has subordinate units on both sides of the Atlantic and is open for business!

Then, there is the NATO Response Force. Concept created before the Prague Summit by NATO’s Chiefs of Defence in the fall of 2002, the NRF and the rest of reforms will be the linchpins to modernisation. Our aim is to establish a pool of land, air and maritime combat forces to be employed under a Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters.

It will be supported by NATO’s collective assets, trained, equipped to common standards, and capable of being tailored to mission. It will be readily deployable on short notice and over long distances, combat ready and, from a technological point of view, superior to any conceivable adversary. It will be capable of fighting in a dirty environment (CBRN) and self-sustainable for a certain period.

In essence, it will be a NATO force that allows non U.S. and American 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 first elements of the NRF, five to seven thousands strong, will be operational before the year is over and will gradually increase it until it achieves full operational capability by 2006. In fact, the NATO Military Authorities are in the process, right now, to assess the various capability offers already tabled by the nations.

There probably is not too much effect reservists can have on the NRF because NRF equals speed ...and that usually does not equal reserve status.
However, a NATO mechanism to bring NRF developments to the reserve force would be helpful (perhaps a reserve office in the Joint Allied Lessons Learned Centre or the Joint Warfare Centre).

What I am saying is that, by connecting reservists to "hot-topics" and strategic issues, it could assist in preparing you for active missions. Frequently, reserve billets at educational facilities provide the proper forum to get the word out and you are encouraged to take advantage of all training opportunities your nations offer.

And proper preparation is just what is needed for successful engagement of the Reserves in NATO operations.

Part II – Operations and Partnership activities

Military operations are where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. It is important to realise that the capability to generate forces of trained and motivated citizen-soldiers is, in itself, an effective deterrent against aggression.

The reserve forces of member states play an essential role and contribute significantly to Alliance’s operations. SFOR and KFOR are the most conventional theatres of operations where we find reservists, but nations have also engaged them in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have indeed come a long way.
Some might have the tendency to think that the Reserves are called upon only when nations would face a large-scale article 5 situation, building up forces for the most demanding scenario.

We know, by experience, that the reservist comes in much, much earlier. Nations have different attitudes towards non-article 5 operations. Some are reluctant to train, deploy and employ reservists while others deploy almost fully structured reserve units.

Nations, the ultimate authority for development of Reserves, must ensure however that the individual reservist is able to fulfil his or her task to the appropriate standards. Once that standard is achieved, there should be no restriction regarding the reservist's ability to assume duties in support of NATO missions.

Reservists have the monopoly on a wide range of specialist, civilian skills that may be employed in support of military aims.

These could be media specialists, linguists and CIMIC experts but also many other skills - such as negotiators, engineers, and specialist logistic, medical and legal operators. Moreover, reservists bring maturity and experience to the often tricky and uncertain aspects of humanitarian operations.

Take for example the support for civil implementation in Bosnia provided by local forces and by SFOR's civil-military task force. The task force, located in Sarajevo, consisted of approximately 350 military personnel. Initially drawn mainly from U.S. Army Reserves, the task force has subsequently become multinational.

Its personnel have mid-level and senior civilian skills in 20 functional areas, including law, economics and finance, agriculture, industry, commerce and business, structural engineering, transportation, utilities, housing, social services, cultural affairs, government, management and political science.
They bring an outstanding added value to operations that are never strictly military in nature.

Reserve organisations like yours, for their part, continue to play an important role within the framework of the Alliance. Organisms such as the CIOR and the CIOMR create and maintain ties at all levels, spreading a spirit of security and solidarity among the allies.

They also enhance communication and co-operation between the military, the politicians and the civilians in an era of operation ever increasing in complexity. They also assist in preserving democratic values.

It should come as no surprise therefore, that an additional challenge for NATO Reserves would likely be to export these themes to non-NATO nations. Our NATO citizen-soldiers have credibility, civilian-acquired professional expertise and military knowledge which qualifies them to act as excellent and persuasive ‘ambassadors’ with partners’ members of parliament and defence establishments among others.

NATO reserve members are trusted in both the military and civilian camps and can therefore exert a very positive image of democracy when they travel to partner countries. In doing so, they promote the concept of establishing and maintaining democratic control of the armed forces. This is very important as we are actively preparing for NATO’s second wave of accession next year.

Either directly or indirectly, many of NATO’s classical and conventional operations are in support of the fight against terrorism. The idea behind undertaking operations out of area is to keep insecurity at arms’ length and to prevent insecurity being imported into our nations.

The Alliance recently adopted its Military Concept for Defense against Terrorism. Deriving from it and given the high degree of readiness required, it is unlikely that reservists would have a major role in counter-terrorism (offensive operations) or anti-terrorism (defensive operations) except in the case where specific threat warnings would have been received. Then, reservists could be used to protect key national infrastructure such as power plants, airports, sites of government etc).

However, there could be a very important role for you in consequence management. Reservists could provide specialist knowledge and experience in areas where regular forces do not need to have a standing capability.
The concept assumes that military contributions in consequence management would be in support of civilian authorities, and examples of reservist contributions could include: medical support, engineering support, decontamination support, extra "policing", re-establishment of essential services, command and control organizations.

Let me share with you the American experience in this regard. After 11 September 2001, the U.S. established planning and co-ordination groups (under various names) to conduct interagency planning and operations ("interagency" in this context meant connecting, inter alia, the American FBI, CIA, Department of the Treasury, Department of Commerce, Department of State, and Department of Defence).

These groups proved extremely valuable in tracing terrorists' financial transactions, tracking them down, and arresting them, more often than not with the assistance or co-operation of another government.

Often, the civilian personnel sent to participate in these co-ordination groups were military reservists who already had a working knowledge of military procedures, terms, and organisations. Conversely, military reservists could exploit their contacts in the civilian community to expedite liaison. As NATO nations develop their plans in this field, this possibility could be kept in mind.


Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, NATO is doing very well thanks to you all. It will increasingly engage itself in operations out of area specifically to sustain the Alliance’s enduring strategic concept agreed by all nations in 1999 in Washington. This will contribute to keep our member states secure by preventing insecurity being imported.

As both military personnel and responsible members of their community, reservists are one of NATO’s most valuable resources. In addition to their military experience, reservists can add value by virtue of their civilian expertise and the close relationships that they help NATO nations to establish between the military and the civilian communities.

The NRFC and the CIOR have an important and complementary role to play. As the NRFC serves formally to provide policy advice to the military committee on reserve issues, I nevertheless invite both organisations to foster cohesion and mutual understanding to the benefit of NATO. Both organisations prove to be valuable information brokers as nations tackle their individual challenges. Much work has been done. Much more work is to be done. The process is on going and will probably never finished. So is the NATO transformation process.

I again thank (Lieutenant) Colonel Peters for providing me with the opportunity to speak with you today. But I also thank each and every reservist of all NATO nations present here this week.

Tomorrow is the last day of the workshop. I wish you good termination, and enjoyable gala dinner and best wishes as you return to your respective nations.

  1. STRAUSS, Barry, Reflections on the citizen-soldier, Parameters, U.S. War College, 2003, p.66. Go to Homepage Go to Index