|19-20 November, 2005|
Gen. James Jones, SACEUR
Thank you, Ambassador Noev, for that generous introduction. I am deeply honored to be here this morning. Prime Minster, thank you for your remarks, to which I listened with great interest. It’s a great pleasure to be here Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.. Prof. Karaganov, it’s an honor to be on the podium with you. To my good friend Gen. Kolev: it’s always a great pleasure to be with you, either here in Bulgaria or in Brussels.
My task this morning is to briefly talk about transformation and, if you permit me, I would like to do so in a specific way. First, I’d like to make some general comments about transformation and then ask what perhaps is a more provocative question: for what purpose is the Alliance transforming? Transformation is a topic that has been around for a number of years. Transformation to me means change, but I’ve found that change is something that people generally like to do to somebody else, but not to look at themselves. The larger the organization, the harder it is to change.
But nonetheless, change is important. To put it in a business context, I would say that organizations must change in order to remain competitive; similarly, in order to face the new challenges of the 21st century, NATO must also change. Happily, the Alliance has the capacity, interest and commitment to do just that. But change is not easy. In my lifetime, I would say the biggest change in the Armed Force of the United States, which actually happened in the mid-1970s, was when we decided to go to a professional force—an All Volunteer Force. For me, that triggered the most profound change in the American military, perhaps in its history. Change can also occur in several ways. Most of the time we think of change or transformation as a physical process where you acquire new capabilities or new technologies and integrate them into your structures so you become better at what it is you do. In the military context, it means you are better able to achieve your missions. But transformation also means you might need a structural reorganization. It means looking at yourself holistically to see if you are properly organized for what it is you wish to do. For NATO, the Prague Summit of 2002 was very dramatic and ushered in an era of transformation. One of the most visible pronouncements of the Prague Summit in 2002 was the decision to expand by seven member nations. While the accession of our new members is complete, we are still very much focused on transformation, to include a complete reorganization of the military structure. We eliminated a number of headquarters that no longer served a useful purpose. We disestablished the Supreme Allied Command Atlantic and replaced it with the Supreme Allied Command for Transformation, which is doing extraordinarily useful work today and will continue to do so in the years ahead. We committed to remedying the military shortfalls in the Alliance through the Prague Capabilities Commitment; the nations also declared the Alliance would develop the NATO Response Force, which is NATO’s most visible expression of transformation in terms of military capabilities. The nations also informally agreed to maintain their defense budgets at 2% of GDP or better. Let me congratulate our host country Bulgaria for being true to that informal agreement, which is so very important. Change can also be defined not only as a physical change that I just described, but also as a cultural change, the way we think about the things we do. We are very much at the crossroads of two very different centuries in terms of how NATO is viewed and how NATO sees itself. In the twentieth century, everyone on both sides of the Atlantic—and particularly in our public domain—knew very clearly what NATO stood for. In the 21st century, is that understanding as clear as it needs to be? In my personal opinion, it is not. We need to do a better job of explaining to ourselves and to our publics why NATO in the 21st century might be even more important in terms of our collective security than it was in the 20th century. In the 20th century, NATO was a reactive, defensive and linear alliance. Things were clearer then. Our threats were easily defined and easily understood. NATO’s level of ambition was not to leave its territory but to defend it and to defend it in a reactive way, which meant that NATO committed never to initiate any kind of conflict. Things were simple; there was order. All of the organizational structures were built to support a massive force that was largely unmovable, reactive and defensive in nature. However, the world has changed, the security environment is different, and the Prague Summit was a visible manifestation of the recognition of that fact.
As we execute the will of the nations expressed at the Prague Summit, we are also in the midst of a profound cultural transformation, which leads me to ask the question: to do what? The challenges we collectively face—being asymmetric and non linear and attacking the very seams of our societies collectively and simultaneously in many different ways—argue for a capability and a cultural change that presupposes the fact that proactive engagement is better than reactive engagement. Flexibility and agility in our new force structure is imperative. Being able to deter is a great contribution to our collective security, but being able to react quickly is also uppermost of our minds. One thing is very certain: speed is important and speed is expensive. So as we restructure and organize ourselves to be able to be more responsive, more agile, and more proactive we are entering a period where common security perhaps has replaced the 20th century’s theme of common defense. Common security, as we are seeing in the global security environment, means that NATO forces could be employed in, and deployed to, many different parts of the globe to do many different things. I’d like to quickly recap what NATO forces are doing today. In Afghanistan, NATO is preparing to assume an even larger mission. In the Balkans, as the Prime Minister mentioned, NATO’s mission in Kosovo continues. On the Mediterranean, NATO’s Article V mission, ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR—a counter-terrorism mission—is making the Mediterranean perhaps as safe and as secure as it has ever been. In Pakistan, NATO is bringing relief to thousands of people as winter approaches. In Darfur, the Alliance is assisting the African Union to build its peacekeeping capacity and, in the process, is also working in that region of Sudan as a partner with the United Nations and the African Union. In Iraq, NATO is making a significant contribution by training young future Iraqi officers, training Iraqis in our own nations and providing much-needed equipment for the emerging Iraqi Army. NATO is doing all that while at the same time developing the NATO Response Force, which will reach Full Operational Capability next summer. So change is going on around us. But I would suggest that in order to be true to the tenets of transformation—there is no magic in transformation—it is hard work and about maintaining budgets so that you can finance transformation. I have said to all my colleagues who talk about transformation that you can truly be transformational provided you do not reduce your budgets and your military forces at the same time. If you do both simultaneously, it is not transformation, but simply developing a lesser capability. The virtue of transformation is finding savings through reorganization and downsizing so you can make the investments in the capabilities that allow you to be able to do more with less. With less people there is less topline investment in your manpower costs. When you reinvest those savings, you can acquire more capability and be more useful to NATO and for your own national priorities. This is a difficult concept to understand. The fact is that transformation—if it is done well—allows you to do more with less, and so allows you to reduce your overall costs and invest in other areas that make your Armed Forces more effective. I’ve told my own service and my own military that the best example of transformation I know is the infantry battalion of the 21st century, which—properly transformed—should be able to do the work of the infantry regiment of the 20th century. In other words, increasing capability by a ratio of roughly 3 or 4 to 1. I think that’s a good way to describe the positive results of change. Size of force equals neither commitment nor capability in the 21st century. It is the usability of those forces that makes a difference, and we will see that more dramatically in the 21st century.
In the time that I have left, let me try and answer the question I posed at the outset of my remarks: transformation to do what? The asymmetric challenges of the world are quite significant and pose perhaps an even greater threat to our collective security than anything that I have seen in my lifetime. We must ask ourselves what it is that we wish to be able do and what it is that we wish to specifically task an organization like NATO to do in the future. For instance, what is NATO’s fundamental role in confronting the challenge of terrorism? How do we respond? Is terrorism a NATO responsibility or is it just a national law enforcement operation? What does the Alliance do in the face of proliferation? What is the proper response of a transformed alliance to ensure that terrorists and non-state actors do not acquire the technology that gives them greater capabilities than they have already demonstrated, unfortunately successfully, in many of our capitals and in various parts of the world? What happens when a non-state actor makes a leap to another level of capability and lethality, with a biological weapon, a radiological weapon, or a chemical weapon, to say nothing of a nuclear weapon? What is the strategic value of NATO in such an environment? What is the role of the Alliance in shoring up critical infrastructure in a strategic sense? How do we shore up critical vulnerabilities in a world where terrorist and non-state actors can penetrate the seams of our societies and find the Achilles heel of our infrastructure and attack it? How do we better protect the critical lines of communication for our energy supplies, the access to which we all depend on? What is our role regarding the very clear link between drug trafficking, criminality and the infusion of resources into terrorist organizations from those activities? Lastly, what might an organization like NATO be willing to do in the 21st century about proactively helping struggling democracies across the world to anchor themselves, by developing security forces and institutions through training and engagement, and by teaching militaries how to function in support of a democracy? Wouldn’t that be an example of proactive engagement, where the proactive costs are always cheaper than the reactive costs in the long term? NATO clearly cannot do everything and NATO clearly cannot be everywhere. But if act strategically, we can pick our times and we can pick our spots and we can make a difference. So with this transformation that is ongoing, if it is well financed, if it is adhered to, and if agreements are lived up to we can in fact transform NATO in such a way that it can make a great difference in our collective security in the 21st century. It can make a great difference by being more proactive, agile, and flexible across the spectrum of operations. Very few people, myself included, would have thought three years ago that NATO would be in Afghanistan, or thought even one and a half years ago that NATO would have a mission in Iraq, or thought even six months ago that NATO would be involved in a humanitarian operation in Pakistan. But this is the transformation, this is the evolution. NATO cannot simply be a reactive force waiting for a conventional conflict the likes of which may not happen and hopefully won’t happen. NATO cannot afford to sit idly by and be underutilized in responding to the asymmetric threats that are collectively attacking and threatening our collective security.
I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister this morning and my meetings with the President and the Defense Minister all reaffirmed Bulgaria’s commitment to being a full member in the discussion and implementation of the strategy that would defeat these asymmetric threats by engaging them in a proactive way. This is encouraging, this is topical, and this is what is needed.
Ladies and gentlemen, it was a pleasure to be with you this morning. I look forward to our panel discussion. I thank you for your interest in the Alliance and for the ideas and the energy you bring to the discussion. Finally, let me say thank our host country again for the hospitality and for the idea of this very important conference. Thank you very much.