News | May 1, 2005

A New Military Framework for NATO

By Hans Binnendijk, David C. Gompert, and Richard L. Kugler Defense Horizons 48

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Although Americans and Europeans do not always agree on political strategies in the Middle East, they have a compelling reason to reach an accord on the need to strengthen North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military forces for future operations in that region and elsewhere. If adequate military capabilities are lacking, the Alliance will not be able to act even when its political leaders agree on the need to do so. But if it creates such capabilities, it will be able to act either ad hoc or across the board if a common political strategy eventually were to emerge. 

This article proposes a new and comprehensive military framework to help guide NATO improvements in the years ahead. This framework envisions a pyramid-like structure of future NATO forces and capabilities in five critical areas: a new NATO Special Operations Force, the NATO Response Force, high-readiness combat forces, stabilization and reconstruction forces, and assets for defense sector development. The United States would provide one-third of the necessary forces, and Europe would be responsible for the other two-thirds. For the Europeans, creating these forces and capabilities is a viable proposition because they require commitment of only 10 percent of their active military manpower, plus investments in such affordable assets as information networks, smart munitions, commercial lift, logistics support, and other enablers. If NATO succeeds in creating these forces for power projection and expeditionary missions, it will possess a broad portfolio of assets for a full spectrum of operations against such threats as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and cross-border aggression.