NATO Review – Smart Defence: the parliamentary angle

November 8, 2019 posted by


Smart Defence:
The parliamentary angle What is Smart Defence? I suppose Smart Defence
means two things. One aspect would be mission…
a division of labour in missions, which means that nations can
mix and match with one another to pool and share the capabilities that are available
in the most efficient manner. And then, further down range
would be an enhanced approach to defence cooperation
and procurement, where people are actually buying
the weapon systems cooperatively, frankly to get the best value
for money that they possibly can. The simple fact is that we are
facing constrained defence budgets. And what this is all about
is getting the best value for money from the resources for defence. Does Smart Defence
require a new mindset? If it had been easy,
it would have already been done. And there are
some very thorny issues. For example, it’s all very well
to say we will all be better off if we can have a better division
of labour in our defence procurement. But if you’ve got a munitions factory
in your constituency, then you would like to keep that open. What we’re talking about
with Smart Defence are pooling capabilities,
pooling resources and that’s going to require,
if you like, a new level of trust. The buzz phrase is:
guaranteed access. If I own a certain capability
and I want to do something with it, nationally, I don’t have a problem.
If however I’ve only got that capability because I’ve developed that jointly
with an ally or a collection of allies, then there has to be some sense…
some rules of the road about how we all can make use
of that capability when we need it. Why will Smart Defence
work this time? The simple fact is, almost
since the Alliance was founded it’s been clear that there have
been many benefits available if nations could cooperate more in terms of the coordination in
missions and defence procurement. But it’s always been
extremely difficult to do because decisions on defence
procurement are taken nationally. The time has come when,
if you like, now there is no choice. The situation is getting to the degree
where defence capabilities you could see a step decrease,
unless more radical action is taken to get better value for money.
The benefits have always been there, but now the task is actually urgent. Is Smart Defence
a make-or-break project for NATO? The predictions of the Alliance’s
demise have been around for as long as the Alliance. And I would have to say
that the Alliance’s history is littered with dashed expectations
about capabilities initiatives. The acronyms go on: CDI, DCI, PCC, Prague Capabilities Commitment,
the usability goals… It’s not a new story. And the Alliance is
a remarkably resilient organisation. So, I would hesitate to describe
any initiative as being make-or-break. I do think that it is
extremely important that NATO grasps the nettle
of getting better value for money out of its resources collectively.
I do think that what we are seeing, are some constructive initiatives
that will help NATO do that. I’d like to think that there’ll be
an awful lot of projects emerging in Chicago and afterwards
that will breathe life and give life to Smart Defence. But I don’t think
that the Alliance’s future, if you like, would be made or broken on one
particular procurement initiative.

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