The Benelux Deployable Air Task Force: A Model for EU/NATO Defense Force Integration

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Editorial Abstract: Colonel On observes the success of Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg in combining aspects of their individual military strengths to create the Benelux Deployable Air Task Force, a rapid-response expeditionary capability. The success of this initiative offers one. model for improving EU/NATO rapid-response efforts while simultaneously allowing member states to optimize their own limited defense resources.

BELGIUM AND LUXEMBOURG formed the Benelux Deployable Air Task Force (DATF) in September 1996 in an effort to optimize the effect of their limited defense resources. Components of the Belgium and Netherlands air forces were combined with a tailored Luxembourg security force to form the Benelux DATF-viable, highly specialized packages to support the gamut of military operations. Current security themes in the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) focus on the formation of corps-sized task forces that emphasize "long-range application of force, deployability, sustainability, and effective engagement" in peacekeeping and peacemaking missions throughout and beyond the US European Command (EUCOM) area of responsibility (AOR).1 In achieving this vision, European member nations seek to organize their individual capabilities through bilateral and multilateral arrangements to form specialized task forces. The Benelux DATF has been a model that illustrates the positive effects that achieving interoperability within multilateral coalition resources has on increased capability for military roles and missions. This article describes the DATF's organization and its possible future role in NATO and an EU Rapid Reaction Force (EU RRF). It also compares the NATO goal of formally integrating member-nation assets with those of the DATF example, which merely pools capabilities for greater effect. Despite the 2002 Prague Summit's repeated commitment to leverage military technologies and field an EU RRF in 2003, NATO and EU-member defense budgets have continued to decline. That decline pressures these nations to pool their combat and support assets within multinational task forces to be able to field a military capability that can successfully serve in future contingencies.

Benelux DATF Origins-Developing an EU Military Identity

Since the inception of NATO, and most notably with the growth of a military structure within the EU, European nations have sought multinational cooperation in building defense forces. NATO's struggle with interoperability and burden sharing has continued in recent years due to the divergence in defense budgets and the resulting differences in military capabilities between the United States and the other members of NATO. The United States has been called on, during most post-Cold War missions, to provide all strategic airlift, intelligence gathering, and the preponderance of logistics and airpower; the other NATO members carried out "manpower-intensive tasks such as long-term peacekeeping."2 In the 1990s, the EU expanded its focus from economic interoperability to aggressively explore the development of European military capabilities. Initially, initiatives such as Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTF) and the European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) were collaborative ventures with NATO. The CJTF organization enabled the EU to use NATO resources for peacekeeping operations without US involvement. During the approval of this concept in June 1996, President Jacques Chirac of France termed this multinational pooling of European assets as "separable but not separate forces."3 The Eurocorps was a formal example of this effort to integrate NATO assets into a multinational force. The Eurocorps includes forces from Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, and Luxembourg and maintains a permanent headquarters to execute NATO- or EU-directed missions.4 The Eurocorps participated in NATO operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, and its headquarters commanded the Kosovo Force from March to October 2000. …