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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

19 May 2016

ITEC 2016: NATO Transformation an Ongoing Process

We face challenges in every sector of NATO activity and are working hard at engaging with every part of our community to ensure we meet and overcome those challenges, and to enhance the capabilities we already have.” Brigadier General Henrik R. Sommer, Allied Command Transformation’s (ACT) Assistant Chief of Staff for Capability, Engineering and Innovation took the opportunity of ITEC 2016 in London to brief journalists on some of the challenges and activities that ACT faces and some of the lessons learned from recent activities.

For the first time in some while we face lower budgets and that will have an effect on the way in which we prioritise our activities in the immediate future, reprioritising by allocating funds to the most pressing needs,” he said. That means, essentially, that much closer engagement with industry is required – as, indeed, with other sectors of the community such as academia. “We have to develop closer relationships and start to ask better questions – like ‘how would you solve this requirement’ – to get better answers,” Sommer said.

A lot, of course, has already been done in this respect. ACT’s Security Foresight Analysis has helped to frame the likely threat envelope the Alliance will face in the period leading up to 2030 and this, in turn, helps to shape and scope the capabilities the 28 member alliance will need to generate – and thus the training needs of its member forces.

As far as training and simulation is concerned, Sommer sees a number of inevitable developments – developments that both NATO and the wider community must identify and integrate into their solutions. “We need to identify what is feasible in ten years – we have to gauge which of those systems in the laboratory now we can implement in the next ten years. NATO exercises will be structured differently to take advantage of new technologies and reflect the changing way in which our combined forces need to be trained: we will make much greater use of modelling and simulation and will also see much wider use of artificial intelligence. A lot of manpower might be released by better use of this sort of facility and that can only be a good thing,” he said.

He went on to agree that NATO definitely needs to find ways of getting more utility out of the available budget – but pointed out that he considers it important to recognise this is in fact trying “to do more with the same,” rather than the oft cited rubric, “to do more with less.”

Consultation with industry and with other agencies that have similar or parallel objectives and capabilities is already widespread, although Sommer agreed that NATO cannot rest on its laurels, but needs to maintain and even accelerate the pace and scope of engagement. He cited the Innovation Hub initiative and the NATO Industry Forum (which will take place in Brussels on November 9 this year) as examples of the focus ACT continues to place on engagement. Extensive discussions also take place with the European Defence Agency (EDA) on a regular basis, in which the synchronisation of capability development is a high priority.

We are very careful to ensure there is no duplication of effort but mutual support instead in everything we do with other sectors [of the defence and security community] – that’s our overriding responsibility. We have challenges – but we can bring about win-win results,” he concluded.

Tim Mahon, ITEC