August 12, 2014

NATO Summit Must Make Further Progress on Smart Defense

By Richard Weitz

Next month’s NATO summit needs to make greater progress on so-called Smart Defense, the alliance-wide effort to get more collective benefits out of individual members’ defense budgets. The initiative aims to induce NATO governments to acquire military capabilities collectively that they cannot afford individually, so that even members with limited resources can contribute to expensive joint projects.  
 
The May 2012 Chicago summit launched almost two dozen Smart Defense projects in such areas as logistics and sustainment; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and force protection. One country leads each project. For example, Germany is in charge of pooling maritime patrol aircraft; France leads the effort to establish multinational field hospitals; and Denmark heads the project to improve cooperation in procuring, storing and maintaining a wide variety of munitions.  
 
The already completed logistics partnership for helicopter maintenance in Afghanistan—in which NATO members agreed to repair their deployed helicopters onsite, rather than returning them home for repairs—is an example of a successful Smart Defense project. Smart Defense advocates hope that, by conducting a few such successful flagship projects involving only a few players and narrow tasks, other allied governments will try more-challenging projects. In addition to short-term Tier 1 projects, medium-term Tier 2 projects under consideration include joint procurement of aircraft, radars and missile defenses, and joint operation of armed drones. 

Read the full op-ed at World Politics Review.

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