NATO General Palomeros Responds to Member Questions

Atlantic Community, 25.11.2013.

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The Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Jean-Paul Paloméros, answers questions about procurement, multi-national air force projects, cooperation with the EU, Smart Defence and interoperability among Allies with different technological advancement.

NATO's Allied Command Transformation drives, facilitates, and advocates continuous improvement of Alliance capabilities to maintain and enhance NATO's military relevance and effectiveness.

General Paloméros launched this Q&A with an exclusive video statement about the work of the Allied Command Transformation (ACT), the Smart Defence Initiative, the Connected Forces Initiative, the NATO Response Force, and the NATO Defence Planning Process. Then members from 12 different countries submitted 51 questions. Now we are excited to present five questions and answers on a broad range of issues.

Kristian Alexander Kennedy, MSc LSE Graduate, Toronto, Canada: Armaments cooperation, standardization and the fostering of a robust technological and industrial base in NATO member countries are vital ingredients if NATO transformation is to be operationally effective. What are the implications, if any, of the Turkish decision to procure an air and missile defence system of Chinese manufacture for NATO's efforts to craft an interoperable missile defence system?

General Paloméros: First and foremost, it remains a sovereign domain of competence for each nation in the Alliance to decide the acquisition of equipment. Second, I would highlight that the Alliance has made tremendous progress in the field of armaments cooperation, standardization and the fostering of a robust technological and industrial base through, for example, the ACCS (Air Command and Control System) programme, or more recently, the JISR initiative launched in Chicago by both France and the USA, with the support of all the other Allies, which will have many implications on the short, medium and long term as far as capacity development and interoperability are concerned.

Georgi Ivanov, The Atlantic Council of Canada: With increasing costs for military procurement in a time of decreasing budgets and economic difficulties, can European cooperation in air force operations go beyond transport aviation and policing in the Baltic to include integrated, multi-profile, air force squadrons between countries?

General Paloméros: European cooperation in air force operations already goes far beyond transport aviation and policing in the Baltic.

Operations in Libya proved that several countries could integrate their assets into a multinational framework and conduct operations with multi-profile and integrated air wings. To achieve such a level of combat effectiveness, standardized procedures and interoperable assets were requested. The combat effectiveness was all the more improved that these means were used to train together.

Beyond real combat operations, certain nations have developed some multinational initiatives that help to conduct standardization and enhance interoperability. These initiatives can be performed within a bi-multilateral agreement, within a NATO or even EU framework. Therefore, it is of high interest to consider all the existing initiatives.

As an illustration, the European Air Group (EAG) is a European initiative which contributes to enhance the air capabilities of nations, which also can be made available to NATO. It was established in 1995 to build on close collaboration between the British and French air forces in the first Gulf War and the subsequent Balkans operations. The European Air Group consists today of seven member nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom) working together to stimulate change and collectively to enhance the tactical capabilities of the Group's air forces through better cooperation.

The European Air Transport Command (EATC), owned by the three Benelux countries, France and Germany, is another good example of building together a structure which belongs to no organisation but streamlines the existing national capabilities to make their availability more effective and efficient.

Carlos Bausa: The European Union Military Staff (EUMS) is currently building a training capability almost from scratch. There are ongoing EU initiatives such as training doctrine, training system, training portal, etc., very similar to ones taken for Allied Command Transformation (ACT) since 2009. My question is: has any formal collaboration been established between EUMS and ACT in order to promote synergy?

General Paloméros: Within this agreed framework, informal staff talks are conducted with the EUMS by the International Military Staff (IMS) as well as ACT. These talks contribute to enhance mutual knowledge and develop practical synergies, in all domains of common interest, while avoiding duplication of efforts.

Education and training is clearly a topic of common interest and is systematically addressed during the informal staff talks. Main shared efforts consist of identifying the common E&T priorities and in figuring out how to share best practices, lessons learned and ensure a complementary approach to addressing E&T. In this respect the Connected Forces Initiative aimed at continuing to improve the preparation of NATO forces is an excellent tool to support the preparation of that single set of capabilities, of those Allies also members of the EU, which can be made available to both the EU and NATO.

Flo Kling, Bundeswehr University Munich: "Smart Defence" sounds like a nice concept, but how do you make sure that the framework nations for a specialized task stick to their commitment and don't let the rest down?

General Paloméros: The Alliance is comprised of sovereign nations, bound together by their commitment to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area and unite their efforts for collective defense and for the preservation of peace and security. Promoting and supporting Allies efforts to work together to develop and use their military capabilities effectively and efficiently is the main goal of NATO's capability development efforts.

In this perspective, each allied nation remains responsible for its own contribution. The concept of a framework nation and specialized tasks is one idea that is still being discussed. It could potentially offer a means to provide better focus for capability development amongst Allies, enhance interoperability and act as a multiplier for existing national capabilities. It could also offer the potential for additional capacity to be generated for operations.

Any progress in this domain must be balanced against the risk of defense efforts reduction in "supported" nations and the commitment of potential framework nations to make available their capacities they would support.

Daniel Murchison, on behalf of my class, Critical Approaches to Global Security, at Western University Canada: How will NATO address the planning challenges of interoperability and harmonization vis-a-vis the disparities in technological capabilities among member states?

General Paloméros: It is undeniable that there exist disparities of technological capabilities between members of the Alliance. As the nature of an alliance is to maximize each member contribution, interoperability issues are considered essential to ensure of NATO's forces effectiveness. If not tackled properly, several areas such as communications for example are more likely than others to generate significant difficulties during operation.

This is why the NATO Defence Planning Process includes interoperability standards in targets assigned to individual nations as well as to the whole of the Alliance collectively. By addressing these targets, nations and NATO ensure that contributing capabilities, regardless of their size or level of sophistication, can "plug" into the NATO backbone and interoperate seamlessly with other national capabilities deployed.

The last decade of high operational tempo has allowed verification and validation of interoperability levels by often performing "in-theatre" validation. With the draw down from Afghanistan, NATO will rely more heavily on exercises to test and validate interoperability levels among the forces. This is the essence of the NATO Connected Forces Initiative. In addition, NATO has created an interoperability task force whose mission is to identify and address some of the most critical interoperability issues as a result of the lessons learned from past and ongoing operations. This effort has already impacted a large number of existing STANAGs (Standardization Agreements) and the development of new ones in response to emerging interoperability requirements.