As the cost of militaries increase, NATO allies can benefit from an efficiencies-driven Smart Defense program, Allied Command Transformation officials said here yesterday.
Army Lt. Col. William Brown III, ACT Core Team member, and Richard Perks, ACT Capability Development Strategist spoke with reporters during the 2012 Chiefs of Transformation Conference. The event brings together NATO, partner, industry and government agency professionals to share best practices and expand collaboration.
“What Smart Defense really tries to do is help allies work together,” said Perks, adding that even a small uptick in multinational group projects could significantly reduce the burden on individual allies.
“It’s about facilitating allies’ efficiency in their own defense programs … and by doing so it’s better for NATO,” he said.
Brown agreed, noting that NATO aims to build and maintain capabilities that increase its effectiveness and relevance.
“Smart Defense is one of the ways that we are helping the nations to meet the demands of capability requirements as we go forward,” Brown said. “We try to align the capabilities, achieve economies of scale and reduce duplication.”
To do that, Brown explained, Smart Defense first examines the capabilities under a conceptual lens in helping to produce policy through NATO-level discussion. Next, he said, the core team takes a pragmatic approach to execute the ideas.
“We have 148 Smart Defense projects and proposals that cover a wide range of areas from procurement to training … a lot of them in the logistical realm,” he said.
Brown cited a recent helicopter maintenance success story in which allies merged powers and unearthed major savings.
“Instead of nations having to send their experts and their maintenance people to Afghanistan to do scheduled maintenance on the aircraft, they are able to work together through the NATO logistics committee [in which the U.S.] had the lead and several nations participated,” Brown said.
Ultimately, Brown explained, the Smart Defense project saved a nation 1.2 million Euros by enabling it to leave the aircraft in place for repairs instead of sending it back to its home station.
Equally important is operational readiness, Perks said.
“The helicopter stayed there, and whereas it would’ve been three or four months before it was available again, it was available in three or four weeks,” he added.
Perks also emphasized that NATO’s capabilities are largely rooted in what the allies bring to the alliance. Because some NATO members have experienced difficult financial times, Brown said, Smart Defense is not a new concept, rather one brought to the foreground based on necessity.
Brown also noted the value of smaller countries that have positively impacted the alliance.
“It’s great to see a country like Slovakia or the Czech [Republic], who both have robust programs in the chemical and biological area [and] are providing some of the expertise on the projects related to that,” Brown said.
The Czech Republic’s flight training program has been a feather in the nation’s cap, Brown added.
“Instead of every nation having to train five to 10 pilots per year, let’s work together on that. You can just imagine fixed costs when you run a flight school,” Brown said.
“Smart Defense will continue if we’re able to get the mindset included in everybody’s beam,” he said. “It’s not always going to be about pushing projects or proposals under the Smart Defense banner, but we need to make it so that it is included as part of the [NATO Defense Planning Process].”
NATO’s defense planning process, according to Brown, is a top-down approach where the requirements for member nations are being provided by NATO, while Smart Defense helps provide a bottom-up feed with the projects and proposals the nations use.
“The nations have come up with these ideas,” Brown said. “If they believe that a project is important for them to pursue, the fact that they’re working in a multinational effort instead of trying to do it themselves … you see the efficiencies of these projects as they go forward.”
Perks shared Brown’s sentiment.
“Smart Defense addresses the fiscal reality head on,” Perks said. “Capabilities are big, they’re expensive, they’re complex and it’s increasingly difficult to build them, so we have to come together — it’s the way ahead.”