Updated: 27-jun-08 NATO IMS Speech



27 Jun. 2008


by General Henault to the Military Committee/Chiefs of Defence on the occasion of Handing over the Chairmanship

Welcome to all Chiefs of Defence, their spouses, the Strategic Commanders, the Milreps & spouses, DCMC, DIMS, Staff and my wife, Loraine, whom I’m happy to have with me in the HQ for the second time this week.

I have been touched by your comments, Wolfgang [German Chief of Defence General Schneiderhan], and the many other words of congratulations and best wishes that I have received in recent weeks.  I recognise, however, that none of the successes that we have achieved are mine alone to claim.  All of you, as Chiefs of Defence, and the Strategic Commanders, the staffs in the Headquarters and in the nations, have contributed to the positive picture you have painted.

Three and a half years ago, you (or your predecessors) paid me a great honour, by electing me to act on your behalf and do my utmost to ensure that this committee and your representatives in Permanent Session, deliver the best possible military advice to the North Atlantic Council.  That has been challenging and sometimes frustrating, but I have always been able to rely on your support and energy to work through the issues back in the capitals, and, where necessary, to come together to find the compromises that deliver consensus.

When I took over the Chairmanship in 2005 from Harald Kujat, I looked at the direction NATO was heading and where we might focus our efforts.  At that time, I concluded that we must give first priority to our operations, both today and tomorrow.  Secondly, I reinforced the importance of the Transatlantic Link as the supporting pillar of the Alliance’s Centre of Gravity and cohesion.  Thirdly, I stated that NATO’s relationships with major international organisations, particularly the European Union and the United Nations, needed to be upheld and strengthened - with a particular emphasis on complementarity.  All three areas sit against the backdrop of an Alliance in full Transformation.

Well, operations have certainly remained our/your priority, and will undoubtedly continue to be for the foreseeable future.  I recognise the courage and leadership shown by you and your nations in supporting these operations, in an increasing difficult and dangerous strategic environment.  The sacrifices made by your soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen are painfully felt throughout the Alliance, but we have a job to do and it is being done professionally in the face of danger and with a determination that leave me continually humbled.

I have seen your forces operating in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans, and I have witnessed the pride they have in representing you and NATO.  They understand the tasks they are being asked to fulfil.  They also understand that, in some cases, their role is not as well understood by their publics as we, their leaders, would like - or expect.

It therefore falls to us to communicate those messages more clearly, so that they can continue their work without the weight of public uncertainty over NATO’s operations.  In that respect, our public messaging has improved significantly over the past three years, thanks to our Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy staff, but it needs to get even better.  As individual nations, you know what you do best; let’s share that and tell our publics how well our men and women actually do their difficult and often dangerous jobs.

Turning to my second priority, the Transatlantic Link.  There can be no doubt about the impressive manner in which we have adapted, changed, modernised and improved our capabilities.  That process has been shepherded well by Jim Mattis and Allied Command Transformation.  But we should accept that operations are also a key driver for change.  Increasingly, we need to factor that into how we conceptualise and look ahead to the future of the Alliance.  And, we need to determine how we can best improve our operational capabilities, make our transformational decisions and interact with our many partners, military and civilian.

When I spoke to your Military Representatives yesterday at my last MC-PS, I reminded them that we have had a number of successes over the past three years.  Amongst others, we agreed on the expanded scope of our operations in Afghanistan, on the revision of the applicable OPLAN, on the reconfiguration of the forces in Kosovo into a highly effective structure, and on pragmatic options for the NATO Response Force.

And, we have transformed.  Phase 1 of the PE Review, so diligently and emotionally debated, was endorsed by you in Victoria last September.  Phase 2 remains to be endorsed, with its inherent challenges, but I am convinced that NATO will achieve consensus and ultimately deliver a leaner, stronger and more relevant Command Structure.  There are still difficult decisions to take, but my experience of the past three years tells me that you will not shy away from eventually finding the common ground required to come to an agreement.

The third priority I outlined in 2005 was the need to nurture and enhance relationships with other International Actors; I highlighted in particular the European Union.  I have been particularly pleased that my relationship with General Henri Bentégeat has promoted such a close interaction between our two organisations.  I have also been able to reach beyond the immediate NATO family, and have travelled, with Loraine, to Australia and Japan and Pakistan, amongst others, to ensure that even those very distant partners are given every opportunity to articulate their concerns and aspirations with regard to NATO.  My visits to Japan and Australian were first evers for a CMC; I am confident that Giampaolo will be able to build upon that.

Nous devons également garder à l’esprit que plus de 60 pays ont participé au Sommet de Bucarest en début d’année. L’invitation des pays non OTAN, contributeurs de troupes à la réunion en session des chefs d’état-major, qui a naturellement suivi en mai, a permis une fois encore de renforcer le caractère ouvert de nos opérations.

Overall, I see very good things on the horizon for the operations, transformation and partnerships objectives of this Alliance.  I know you will continue to work with Giampaolo toward the successful achievement of those goals.

In the past few days, I have been given the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of a considerable number of individuals and organisations that have supported me and this office over the past three years.

First of all, in this forum, I would like to thank you, the Chiefs of Defence, for your unwavering support, advice, guidance and wonderful hospitality.  Loraine and I have been able to visit you in your nations’ capitals, and sometimes further afield, and we have been hosted so graciously by all of you.  We have been equally well received by your Heads of State, ministers and other political leaders, and have been privileged to hear some of their innermost thoughts on the strengths, weaknesses and unmistakable value of the Alliance.

In addition to the CHODs and their wives, I need to thank the Strategic Commanders and NCSA for their unwavering support.  John, thank you for your unambiguous advice, your astute guidance and the exceptional leadership that you provide to our operations.  Jim, thank you for your diligent, forward-leaning and committed leadership of our transformational and training programmes, and for the intellectual approach you have brought to ACT.  And to NCSA (Ulrich), thanks for you innovative leadership and for keeping all those electrons flowing.

In particular, many thanks for what all three of you and your organisations bring to the Transatlantic Link.

I have also enjoyed strong support from the DCMC, who has provided a clear operational focus and a new dynamism to the Military Committee.  Karl, thank you for your advice your and tireless commitment to the Alliance.

And, to DIMS - Jo, my great colleague and friend, (also my flying training student nearly 35 years ago), has continuously driven the International Military Staff to deliver the staffing and promote the intellectual rigour needed by the Military Committee.  We have had a pretty busy three years and the IMS, from the ADs to the desk officers and Admin Staffs have been outstanding in their preparation and execution of the Committee work.  Joe, thank you.  And, thanks also to EXCO and his staff, who have managed to juggle the many different requirements of the different committees, and keep us clearly on track.

I mentioned the back room staff at the Headquarters earlier this week, but, again, I extend my sincere thanks to them (in particular the interpreters) who are always kept on their toes by our interesting interventions and accents, (particularly my French-Canadian accent!), and my frequent departures from my prepared speakers.  Merci beaucoup de votre grand professionnalisme.

My own staff, the SAs and MAs, secretarial, administrative, and security have worked tirelessly to ensure that I arrive on time, with the right advice and able to work on your behalf to the best of my ability.  I am most grateful for their efforts throughout, with a particular thanks to my MA1 (Richard) who has an extraordinary work ethic and leadership and management skills, which go well beyond the norm.  Promoted BGen and will be ISAF Spokesperson.

I would also like to recognise also the immensely important role the Secretary General has played in supporting me and the role of the Military Committee.  He has always taken the time to interact the Chiefs of Defence during Chiefs of Staff sessions, and has been steadfast in his belief in our military advice and the manner in which it should be provided.

Je suis très reconnaissant aussi à la Belgique, notre pays hôte, pour le soutien qu’elle a apporté pendant mes trois années de présidence. J’ai eu l’honneur d’être reçu en audience par le Roi la semaine dernière et de recevoir la Grand-Croix de l’Ordre de la Couronne, ce dont je serai à jamais reconnaissant. L’hospitalité et l’accueil réservés à l’OTAN témoignent de la richesse de l’héritage multinational et pluriculturel de ce pays, et de Bruxelles et de Mons en particulier. Jean-Marie, je voudrais remercier August pour tout ce qu’il a fait, au travers de toi.  Et je te remercie, toi et Betty, pour votre grande amitié.

I would like to once again acknowledge the critical role that our spouses play in our careers; and, I am delighted that so many have been able to join us today.  Without you, we would all be rudderless.  We can never thank you enough for all that you have done, but we always say it whenever we can.  My specific and heartfelt thanks go to Loraine, of sticking by me over these last three years and also the vast majority of my forty-year career.  I am looking forward to spending more time with her and our family; with the rider, as I have told many of you, that I can go flying once in a while.

Finally, I would like to thank Canada, through you, Walt, for proposing me as a candidate for this post, for supporting my entire team while we have been here and for providing me with a career that has stimulated, excited and offered me the opportunity to serve in many parts of the world, and in NATO, in this, the most senior military position in the Alliance.  And, let me offer my sincerest congratulations to you and Leslie for your selection by the Canadian Government to be the next CDS for Canada.  It is a richly deserved honour.

I have been privileged to serve you all, humbled by the unwavering commitment of our/your servicemen and women, from all nations, and have done my best to return the trust that was placed in me to complete the job I was given.

And, in my own way, I hope that I have made some small contribution to the betterment of this Alliance and to its future successes.  In the end, I am now both ready and anxious to turn to the next chapter of my life with Loraine.  We leave Brussels enriched by what you have brought to us, and confident that our paths will someday cross again.  Come and see us in our “little house of the prairie”.

A tous et à toutes, merci beaucoup, et au revoir.

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