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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » October 24, 2002
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Let's Work Together
October 24, 2002   
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The 2002 NATO and Multinational Concept Development and Experimentation (CDE) Conference was held in Warsaw Oct. 16-17 on the topic: "Collaborating for the Future."

It was the second annual CDE meeting, this time addressing issues on military transformation, new military concepts and collaborative venues.

"It's not a race from point A to B. There is no point B; we're not building a bridge to the future, because a bridge is a static device, implying we know what the future is. We don't," said Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski, director of the Force Transformation Office of the U.S. Defense Department. Although the conference wasn't held with as much fanfare as the informal meeting of NATO ministers in Warsaw this September, it was prestigious for Poland and it did manage to generate some new ideas.

Transforming defense

The CDE is a relatively new member of the NATO family. Originally conceived in 1998, it became part of the Defense Capabilities Initiative talks in 1999 and was approved and implemented in September 2000. Now in its third year, NATO CDE manages 10 working projects, including "A Framework for a Multinational Joint Command Concept" in the United Kingdom and "Coalition Combat Identification" in the United States.

"I'm delighted that Warsaw has the opportunity to host this conference; the Polish Armed Forces see the CDE as fundamental to the Alliance's attempts to address the problems of transformation and explore all potential military opportunities for multinational cooperation," said Major General Mieczys³aw Cieniuch, chief of the Strategic Planning Directorate of the General Staff. The key word of the meeting at the Marriott Hotel was "transformation" and speeches focused on bridging the military gap between the United States and other members of the alliance, from both the American and European perspective.

From the Industrial to the Information Age

"To achieve more interoperability among the NATO nations, we must view NATO CDE as a collaborative transformation tool that adds value by transcending the national and NATO agency stovepipes and produces infrastructure by which information is shared on topics of common interest," wrote Richard K. Gallagher, deputy assistant chief of staff of the Allied Command, in his welcoming remarks. "The reasons for change are multiple: a new political context that emerged after 9/11, limited financial means, long-term perspective and perhaps most importantly: the ongoing shift we are witnessing from an Industrial Age to an Information Age, one which should be made cheaper and more effective."

"The transformation is about providing new forces, not simply updating existing forces," said British Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham. "This need has two causes: first, the collapse of the civil union and the end of the Cold War in Europe; second, the expiration of the technology that occurred within the last few years. The end of the Cold War means that Europe doesn't need large forces any more but has to be ready to attend to events that crop up. This calls for forces which are much more deployable and can be sent all around the world—Iraq, Afghanistan or Kosovo, for example.

As a result of technological expiration, information is now available in huge quantities, very accurately and rapidly allowing us, for example, to target weapons much more accurately. We can now afford to have rather less at the front end delivering the actual explosive effect, proving that we have information gathering, sorting and distribution at the back end. So it's a shift in balance. Perhaps most important for transformation, however, is that a different kind of a mindset is required. We have to learn to be much more agile and responsive, either to technology or to events."

The European perspective differed somewhat from the American one, partly due to the position of particular members within the alliance itself. One point of discussion dealt with cultural barriers as obstacles to teamwork in a multinational environment. There is no single European viewpoint, as all European members of the alliance exist in their own conditions for historical reasons, and they want to stay that way. Another sticking point was the industrial side. Since the United States has large, modern industries and substantial knowledge, ways of sharing these should be worked out, without killing European industry—was the conclusion. Such was the answer to critical voices saying that the United States was overwhelming other members of the alliance. Blackham disagrees: "It is simply the biggest and strongest military member. It's also the wealthiest and it has the greatest investment in technology, so it will inevitably set the benchmark for a lot of things. We have to find ways of matching them."
Teamwork and operability

"Jointness, as presented, results from networking activities," argued Major General James Dubik from the U.S. Joint Forces Command. "It can be achieved through the use of networks allowing access to various capabilities at the same time... Ground forces can get access to air forces, air forces get access to naval forces, naval forces to space and ground forces. In this way, military officials have once again denied the idea of a joint force replacing the traditional tripartite division. Jointness comes in how we plan, prepare and decide and how we act, not necessarily how we're organized as individual units."

An important feature of the CDE for Poland is its existing equipment and systems; it is not just about new technology and larger defense budgets, it is about innovation, agreed participants. As for the Polish army, Blackham says he noticed that it has already undergone a substantial transformation from former membership of the Warsaw Pact to membership of NATO. "I have the impression from talking to Polish officers here that they will understand that we're going to need a different kind of forces and I'm sure that Poland will try hard to achieve this."

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