Capabilities: NATO, a facilitator of capability development [fr]
NATO promotes the development of the capabilities needed to fulfil its missions, whether by providing guidance to Allies on the development of their national capabilities and promoting multinational cooperation, or by collectively developing capabilities which would be otherwise inaccessible to one nation
To do so, NATO’s Defence Planning Process (NDPP) allows the Alliance to decline its ambitions on the basis of a generic planning which aim is to identify required capabilities as well as the gaps to be filled according to existing or planned ones.
The defence planning process aims at ensuring that the Alliance possesses the necessary capabilities to achieve its ambitions, as assigned by the highest Allied political authorities. This political ambition is reviewed every four years and translated into a set of capabilities required for its realization (i.e. minimum military / capability requirements) over a 20-year timeframe.
Based on existing or planned capabilities reported in national inventories, Allied Command Transformation (ACT) identifies critical gaps and proposes capability targets for all Allies. This process takes into account different political principles such as the need for fair burden sharing between Allies, as well as reasonable challenge, and also the goal to limit any capability dependencies on a single nation.
These capability targets are of two different types: quantitative and qualitative. They consist both of existing capabilities to be maintained in service and new capabilities to be developed. The process of allocation of targets tries to match as much as possible with the specificities of each nation’s armed forces format and ambitions. A process of interaction is conducted between the Alliance and the nations, then among the Allies, before a final approval by the Ministers of Defence. The implementation of targets by each Ally is reviewed every two years and subject to a report submitted to the Ministers of Defence.
The latest version of the NDPP (October 2016) also permits to identify needs that cannot be covered by a single nation. Collective capability targets are therefore assigned to NATO as a separate and single entity. Once approved by the Allies, those collective targets can be developed through common funding as part of capability packages funded by the NATO investment process (NSIP). The NSIP is intended to finance significant investments required by the Alliance, or capabilities in direct support of the command structure. Examples include NATO oil pipeline programmes, air base rehabilitation programmes, the Air Command and Control System (ACCS) programme for the development of an air surveillance system, and the ballistic missile defence command and control programme.
In order to help nations to reach their capability targets, the Alliance encourages the establishment of multinational cooperations between Allies. This is a shared responsibility between Allied Command Transformation and the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNADs) and its subgroups. This facilitating role includes work on standardization and interoperability, and regular exchanges with the industry, the NATO Science and Technology Organization, Centres of Excellence and partner nations. With the support of the International Secretariat, these efforts translate into initiatives for pooling the development and acquisition of capabilities, which are proposed for approval to the Ministries of Defence in draft letters of intent (LOI).
In 2011, in order to further encourage multinational cooperation made necessary by a context of budgetary austerity, the Secretary General launched the Smart Defense initiative. It enables to suggest to Allies, most often on the basis of the NDPP’s work, potential areas for cooperation. Smart Defense projects are often driven by the principles of specialization and regionalization,notably European, in close coordination with the so-called Pooling & Sharing initiative launched by the EU. The importance of this initiative was recognized by the Heads of State and Government at the Chicago Summit in May 2012 in a statement on defence capabilities.
France fully supports the Smart Defense initiative, which should lead to a better burden sharing between both sides of the Atlantic and to a greater responsibility of Europeans in defence, which is inherently linked to the strengthening of the European defence industry. France takes part in 23 out of the 38 projects (in particular in the fields of logistics and medical support) that resulted in concrete achievements.
Facing difficulties to bring those multinational cooperation projects to fruition, the Allies approved in 2014 the Framework Nations Concept in order to facilitate for specific projects - most of them being currently of capability nature - the aggregation of smaller countries around an Ally acting as framework nation. This initiative addresses both capability development and operational readiness. Implementation of these projects takes place on the basis of a regional grouping, a common operational experience, existing multinational agreements or strategic proximity. Several Allies (Germany, United Kingdom, Italy) have initiated projects in this context.
In terms of capability development, France remains vigilant to ensure that Allies remain the key players of capability development within the Alliance, since NATO cannot be a substitute for states’ responsibility in defending themselves, managing their investments and deciding on the use of their capabilities. Moreover, these initiatives should not lead to an increase of NATO’s common funding since the capabilities developed within a multinational framework should to be financed directly by the Allies concerned. The scope of jointly financed capabilities must therefore remain limited.
France also promotes coherence and complementarity between NATO’s capability development initiatives and those of the European Union. This imperative of coherence between the actions of the Alliance and those of the European Union was underlined in the joint declaration on cooperation between the two organizations signed in the margins of the Warsaw summit in July 2016, and later detailed in the joint communiqué of NATO and EU Foreign Ministers in December 2016.
France finally promotes a fair share for the European defence industry in Allies’ capability development. In 2012, Allied Heads of State and Government recognized for the first time in a NATO document the importance of a strong European defence industry. This constitutes a logical evolution since the redistribution of industrial benefits to Europeans is the necessary corollary of a better sharing of the burden, as France has long stressed.