SACT Commander General Paloméros : “Strategic Awareness is the Key to the Future of NATO”


2014-02-20 by Murielle Delaporte

As the preparation of the next NATO Summit in Wales early September heats up, French Air Force General Paloméros was in Washington during the last week of January for a Transatlantic Forum organized by Allied Command Transformation (ACT) with CSIS, which focus was on “Rebalancing and Reinforcing The Transatlantic Bond. “[ref];[/ref]

In a round table following the event, he described his duties as SACT since he took office in September 2012 as concentrating on the following priorities [ref]Reporters’ round table, January 29th, 2014[/ref]:

  1. Reinvest in training and exercise and education via the Connected Forces Initiatives (CFI).
  2. Develop effective capabilities in NATO through NATO planning and Smart Defense.
  3. Develop new partnerships which is crucial for the Alliance.
  4. Reinforce and reinvigorate the transatlantic bound for the future and set common goals.

This [fourth priority] will be a key topic for the next NATO Summit, where Heads of State and Government of NATO Allies and Partners will meet early September in Wales, in the United Kingdom: it will be the door opener for the success of NATO in the future.

This Summit hence will be a true Transformation summit as it will touch the Alliance in a new phase and in a new area with the transition of the Afghan mission.

It represents a genuine opportunity to reinforce the cooperation, the interoperability and the readiness of our forces, and therefore better prepare the latter. 

General Palomeros making opening speech at last year;s Allied Reach conference in Norfolk, VA. Credit: ACT.
General Palomeros making opening speech at last year’s Allied Reach conference in Norfolk, Va. Credit: ACT.

“The next NATO Summit] represents a genuine opportunity to reinforce the cooperation, the interoperability and the readiness of our forces, and therefore better prepare the latter.”

Given the constrained budget environment, SACT stresses that NATO must « optimize what it has and train the people to make sure they are able to use common C2 systems (…).

NATO can only encourage nations to increase their defense budgets, but we fully realize that crisis have effects.

However, we do hope for reinvestment in defense, as it needs long term investments and long term enduring will for investment. You cannot invest in systems without long term political commitment.

The level of investment is important, but the stability of the commitment is as much crucial.

We have to take care of legacy investments, but we also have to look into the future.

What I know is that we have to make the best out of any single dollar, so we have to find new solutions.

There are solutions which can help the Allies to mitigate defense budgets reduction.

In that sense it is a key role for NATO and SACT to aim at full interoperability.

We should train for that and that is why exercises are so important: optimizing the resources to train people at the standards of NATO. Technology is useless if you don’t train people to use them. »

According to former Vice Admiral Carol Pottenger, deputy chief of staff for capability and development (2010-13), 80% of NATO equipment for the next 20 years are legacy equipment, the task of ACT being to determine what should be the remaining 20%, whether connectivity or cyber.[ref]NATO ACT’s Chief of Transformation Conference, Norfolk, Virginia, December 2012[/ref]

“The question is to balance quality and quantity”, says General Paloméros.

“The NATO planning process is meant to keep the balance knowing our level of investment.

It is necessary to avoid overstating needs resulting in long term investment problems, while not overstretching our forces: balance is key.

Some nations for instance are very keen to keep CBRN capabilities, and we must encourage them.

Our rule is to organize the capabilities to make sure these national resources are available for NATO; we make sure we do not miss any capability in the inventory, as that would be irresponsible. 

We must focus in particular on our logistics needs because we tend to reduce what is less visible at times of budget cuts, but one day or another you will pay for that.

Some nations for instance are very keen to keep CBRN capabilities and we must encourage them. We need to keep the balance between high end capabilities and avoid shortfalls in sustainment; otherwise the former will be useless as well. It is a difficult equation. The key is a clear dialogue between NATO and the future the nations envision for themselves.

We assess the nations’ capabilities and set a target and see if they can fulfill that target; if there are shortfalls, we make sure to identify them. It is the case as far as JISR is concerned, as there is a high demand on that: we need more platforms and more joint capabilities, such as the AGS system (Allied Ground Surveillance). The European have also decided to launch a joint drone project for the future that will be very helpful for future operations. (…) We need to support better JISR capabilities for NATO as [the need for them] has grown in many operations: efficiency needs to be improved for better strategic awareness and being able to make better decisions in the process of a crisis.

This is what we really must organize to make sure we are very interoperable with a joint ISR set of systems and people trained to use that.  

We have to find a cost-effectiveness ratio to any kind of system depending on the flexibility and multi-roling of the platforms.

There is a new fighter generation able to provide good ISR and hover capabilities (…), but we have to make sure all new generation systems are combat proven and integrated. Joint ISR is key to that. (…)

We need to have an overall capacity prospective, i.e. to find the best balance between the resources and the best technologies that we have and how we mix all of that to have the best results.

We should focus on the effects, the results: whether the intelligence is provided by a man on the ground or a satellite, what we need is a persistent reliable and sharable information which would be available for the tactical unit, the men on the ground…

This is the ultimate objective. (…)

It is transforming intelligence to enable the commanders to apprehend and have a clear situational awareness.

This is not easy to achieve: we saw that in Libya; [ref]At the time of the Libyan operation, General Paloméros was Chief of staff of the French Air Force.[/ref]we worked it very much in Afghanistan, as well as in maritime operations.

This is why I see JISR as the key for the future: I would call that strategic awareness, because it is really about a strategic checklist ….”, SACT concludes.