Buying into Smart Defence

Chicago Nato Summit (Chicago Nato Summit Committee, photo by Will Knight

IISS’s Alexander Nicoll says a weak point at the recent NATO summit in Chicago was the failure so far to involve the defence industry more closely in the Smart Defence project. This is a topic that also interests Bastian Giegerich, IISS Consulting Senior Fellow for European Security. ‘Smart Defence will not blow over and go away as earlier capability initiatives have,’ Giegerich says in an article co-authored by Henrik Breitenbauch, from the University of Copenhagen’s Centre for Military Studies. Rather, this is ‘the beginning of a new way of thinking about how NATO does defence, including procurement’.

So instead of being influenced by past attempts into thinking of international cooperation in terms of delays and market-distorting principles, industry should seize the opportunity to ‘sell products that would not otherwise be sold’.

‘While earlier doctrinal revolutions have been about creating joint and combined forces, smart defence adds a third essential leg: internationalisation,’ the authors write. … ‘Each new capability development project will from the outset be designed with at least one allied nation.’ Indeed, Giegerich and Breitenbauch suggest, some new spending will probably only get green-lit if it is international.

It is easy to criticise Smart Defence, Giegerich admits in another article in the latest issue of Survival. ‘Some will say it is a fancy new term for old ideas. Others might argue that it will not work, for a whole host of reasons, or suggest that projects long under way or lacking ambition have been repackaged to create the illusion of progress.’ Yet, while acknowledging the validity of these criticisms, he insists that the challenge remains to make better use of scarce resources in an era of uncertainty. ‘This, after all, is the core business of strategy,’ Giegerich says.

Read more in Survival: NATO’s Smart Defence: Who’s Buying?

Chicago moves ‘Smart Defence’ forward

US President Barack Obama throws a football during the NATO Chicago summit. White House photo Pete Souza

By Alexander Nicoll, IISS Director of Editorial

As defence budgets are being reduced, the NATO Alliance faces the prospect of a significant weakening of its collective capacity to ensure security for its members. But closer coordination on what to keep and what to cut could significantly mitigate the effect of spending cuts by individual allies. Decisions taken at the just-completed NATO summit in Chicago represented an encouraging step towards improved cooperation.

Leaders pushed forward the Smart Defence initiative of Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in several ways. They approved a ‘Defence Package’ designed to advance the three strands of Rasmussen’s plan: prioritisation, cooperation and specialisation. The last of these is especially sensitive because it could involve countries deliberately dispensing with particular capabilities and relying on others to provide them on operations – thus raising issues of sovereignty.

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US ‘pivot': what it is and what it’s not

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard before soldiers and guests at the Royal Army Air Force Base in Darwin, Australia, Nov.17, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By Alexander Nicoll, Director of Editorial

The United States will remain perfectly capable of carrying out its commitments as a member of the NATO alliance as it rebalances its global military posture in line with the ‘pivot to Asia’ announced earlier this year. This was according to Leo G. Michel, from the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the US National Defense University, during a IISS meeting in London yesterday.

Michel said common interpretations of the ‘pivot’ strategy had not done it justice. In fact, the shift to greater attention towards Asia was not new, and changes begun by the George W. Bush administration were being carried through. What was being done was a re-examination of security arrangements with specific countries, such as Japan and South Korea where the US already maintained substantial forces. The outcome would be to move around some military assets, to increase them in some parts of the region and reduce them in others. US Marines would be rotated through Australia, littoral combat ships would move to Singapore, and there would be closer military ties with the Philippines.

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