Center for Strategic Decision Research


Making Good the Shortfalls

General Sir Rupert Smith
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

When considering shortfalls in capability, we tend to examine the inventory and talk of filling the gaps. But, I suggest that there is more to be done if Europeans are all to have an improved capability rather than an increased inventory. My remarks will cover three points, and I assume the political will to spend the money and to make the changes that are necessary.

To begin, it is important to recognize why we, the European nations, are in our current position, with forces that are unable to carry out the activities we want to undertake. We got that way by following the NATO force-planning process. We did it quite deliberately. We had a plan. We were deployed. Our stocks were forward. The command systems were in place and static. We rehearsed our plans. We had reserves of men and materiel to increase the size of our forces. The European navies and air forces evolved as supporting forces for the United States Striking Fleets and the United States Air Force. The European armies concentrated on the territorial defence of NATO's eastern frontiers. Now, we need expeditionary forces to conduct operations for objectives short of those of general war. We need mobile and adaptable command and control. We need expeditionary logistics. And we need-and this is perhaps the hardest to find-reserves of men and materiel organized to sustain operations rather than to increase the size of the deployable force.

And please do not think that these new requirements are only for peacekeeping or for Petersberg tasks. I put it to you: with the enlargement of NATO and the decision not to deploy Allied forces in the new member-countries, Article 5 operations will need expeditionary forces. From a practical point of view, the next Article 5 operation will start as a crisis-response operation. So, how should Europeans make up their shortfalls so they can produce forces of utility, forces that succeed at a cost that their electorates will bear? I suggest we need to follow three mutually reinforcing tracks: a coherent approach to force planning, an organized structure, and technology strength.


I believe we need to achieve a coherent approach to the force planning and force development process between Allies, between alliances, and among the different nations' forces. Part of this force planning and development should involve force management. I use this term to cover the whole business of training and developing forces so that you can use them in an alliance as a single coherent force. As our alliances grow, and, as we conduct operations with each nation's contribution to these deployed operational forces being a small proportion of the whole national force and the deployed force, the need for force management increases. We will need to determine a coherent approach to this management, or we will all be completing for the same scarce assets. Nevertheless, that is simply process.

Much harder to develop, but more important, is a common doctrine, a way of war. Without this concept, we will fail to achieve coherence, and to set our priorities correctly. We have been told of the value of modernizing force elements if one cannot modernize all of it, as was the case with the Panzer forces of the Wehrmacht. I do not disagree with the example; I would just take it further and assert that partial modernization is practical only if you have a clear, valid concept for the use of the new equipment.


Europeans must find both a national and a multinational organizational structure for their forces that satisfies the potentially conflicting demands of: national sovereignty, political accountability to electorates, the desire for the greatest return on investment of the smallest amount of gross domestic product, and fightability-my word for the range of factors that enable commanders to direct the totality of their power in one direction. If the forces listed under the European Headline Goal are to be developed into a force of utility, these organizational issues must be faced. For example, should every nation buy an airplane?-Probably not. Should several nations club together to buy a fleet and provide service to other nations?-That would be a more effective force, but this approach would establish a dependency. Or, should the fleet be bought and held on a multinational basis, like NATO's AWACS? The answers to these questions would differ depending on the subject and the equipment under discussion. But as a general rule, I think it would be easier to hold equipment in common or to establish a dependency when organizing equipment and units that support the fighting organisations rather than those who fight. Although I have used aircraft as an example, in practice land forces are the ones most in need of these organizational changes and the costs will be more political and social than financial.


While I am not going to list the technology gaps in the European inventory, I do want to link technology to a coherent approach to force planning and to organization. Having a capability is more than having equipment; it is more than a fleet of tanks or a harbour full of ships. Capability, I believe, is the equipment times the way you use it times the will to use it. If you have a zero in any part of that equation, you have no capability, The way you wish to use your equipment and your will to use it have got to be considered when dealing with equipment and organizational factors. That is why we need the common concept or doctrine that I discussed earlier. On a previous occasion I made the point that, the means of war are the constant, they are the things we are going to have over a long period of time. If Europeans are to develop their forces to achieve European aims in a European way, then the more the means are similar and interoperable on both sides of the Atlantic, the more the Europeans will strengthen NATO.


Europeans have a shortfall in their ability to meet the demands of current circumstances. To do away with this shortfall, we need to develop a coherent force-planning process that includes the national and the various multinational requirements within a common doctrine and way of war. We need to make the necessary organizational decisions about holding, training, and employing our units, systems, and weapons. And, finally, we need to acquire the technology.


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