Center for Strategic Decision Research


Allied Command Transformation

Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, KCB OBE
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation

What I propose to do in this presentation is to give you a clear understanding of Allied Command Transformation (ACT) and its focus on capability development. We in ACT serve two customers, namely ACO (the operational commander in Mons) and the member nations. Our purpose is to provide insight into the future, identify transformational needs and thereby the capabilities required to fulfill them. Admiral Giambastiani is very clear that our business is to make those two entities successful. ACT’s success is governed by the success we generate in our member nations and in ACO.  


As far as transformation goes, I am absolutely clear in my mind that transformation is about doing business in a smarter way, and that requires leveraging modern technology. But just as importantly, in fact in many respects more importantly, it requires leveraging modern thinking. That means looking at new concepts, at new doctrines that do not cost-adjust intellectually. It also means thinking about transformation differently. The word “transformation” implies that you go from A to B to arrive at your destination. That is not the mindset we are trying to generate. Rather we are trying to generate that we live in a changing world that will continue to change, and that though we may have milestones in our transformation journey, the journey is never-ending. We are always going to need to see what the future holds and learn what we have to do to meet it. Therefore, although ACT may be a contemporary organization for changing the Alliance, we can’t all sit back and relax after a change; I am afraid I have to make you much more uncomfortable. 

Transformation is about looking at how we can move from where we were in the Cold War, i.e., doing business as an Alliance at the borders of Germany as individual nations in our own sectors. We have to move from that way of doing business to a very much more integrated, interoperable, smarter approach—one in which all our Services work collaboratively. We must also seek those capabilities that the future requires us to have. 

We are very focused now on transforming the military elements of the Alliance. That does not mean that we can’t occasionally—and Admiral Giambastiani does this quite a bit—reach out of our sandbox and gather views about how business can be done more smartly within NATO headquarters. We in ACT are transforming the body of NATO, the muscle arm and through it we are also influencing the bit above the neck, which we think of as the political part of NATO. 

There are several different views of transformation. As a European in ACT, based in America, it is very easy for me to be labelled with a Stars-and-Stripes package. Some nations believe that the U.S. is trying to change the Alliance to look a lot more like America. But let me summarise what I have seen over the last year. The U.S. has the resources to experiment and see what may make things better in the future; their resources are not limitless, but they are vast compared with the EU contribution and therefore they can experiment across a wide area and take risks. Some results will be very different from those expected. In the U.S. these are not seen as failures. In Europe, however, we are constrained by resources, and therefore must focus our experiments on almost certainties. We conduct risk-free experiments that guarantee a positive almost already known result. In doing so we constrain our experimental scope. 


The American and European mindsets are also very different. The U.S., I think, is very much focused on technological solutions to many of the problems. We in Europe have a more balanced view—that technology is important but there must also be a more pragmatic and cheaper way of doing business. We are more sceptical and believe we should continue in a pragmatic way until the technology is there and stares us in the face. We are not willing to take as many risks. Many people believe that the U.S. is after a gold-plated solution, and indeed it is the only nation that can afford a gold-plated solution. In Europe, the question is, ‘what is the minimum we can buy into?’  ‘How low can we place the capability bar?’  That is how, in my view, the two groups are looking to do business together. We must all recognize the differences and be ready to negotiate within them. 


Capability development is our raison d’être. When ACT was created and the NATO Response Force formed, it was determined that the NRF would be the mechanism through which we would try and incrementally improve the capabilities of the Alliance. We would keep raising the bar of capability for entry into the NRF and experiment within it to see what we could do to do business much better. We in ACT have now created a Capability Management Framework against which we will develop capability in clearly defined areas. We will use a bottom-up and a top-down approach. We will look at requirements by addressing the capability needs of each mission type, look at what that might mean in capability terms, and then see what new capabilities are required. We will cascade down from requirement to capability and then develop those capabilities to provide them to our customers. We will look at the lessons identified from current operations, look at ACO’s needs and demands, and work our capability development from those points as well. 

Defence planning is a very important area of our focus. We have got to make our planning process smarter in order to meet the needs of the expeditionary Alliance of the future. Already, in the less than two years of our existence, we have made significant changes to the bi-annual process of looking at how defence planning takes place within the Alliance. During the last Defence Requirements Review (DRR), we looked very closely at force numbers, at the logistics that are required to support an expeditionary force, and at whether we in the Alliance can generate the necessary forces to meet the level of ambition. We have also looked at armament requirements and at command-and-control packages. There is more to do here, but we have produced a much more informed DRR in 2005 than we have ever done before, and it will come before the Military Committee very shortly. 

Another area we looked at, which is a sensitive area, is Resources. Nations can have sufficient forces in their arsenals, but we need to look at whether or not they can afford to take these forces off the shelf and send them out to do business. The usability of forces is something that I think is very important to assess as part of the defence planning process. 


I would like to conclude with just two points: The cataloguing of how we do business and a few challenges that are out there. 

When we were created the Military Committee asked us to write a document called the Strategic Vision. This document, a joint ACO/ACT document, looks out 15 years and asks: “What are the likely challenges the Alliance will need to meet and what capabilities will be needed to meet them?” From this document have come three goals for our transformation journey: Coherent effect, decision superiority, and deployment and sustainment. And out of those have cascaded what we call our seven Transformational Objective Areas:  

  • Effective Engagement 
  • Joint Manoeuvre 
  • Enhanced CIMIC 
  • Decision Superiority 
  • NATO Network-Enabled Capability 
  • Expeditionary Operations 
  • Integrated Logistics 

Klaus Naumann brought these objectives up as areas we should be focusing upon, and I am glad to say we are. 

There are a number of challenges in our work, but given the time constraints I’ll focus on only one here: The simple one of resources. ACT is new; it was budgeted as if it was a rebirth of SACLANT with a completely different mission, but it was given the same amount of money. While expectations are high, the resources given to us are low. Therefore we have a lot of unsatisfied ambition out there, and we need to quantify it and expose it to nations. Our Headquarters is doing exactly that. We are, however, continuing to push as hard as we can to ensure the transformational success of ACO and our member nations. 





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