Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

NATO Intelligence and Information Sharing: Improving NATO Strategy for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations

Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

NATO Intelligence and Information Sharing: Improving NATO Strategy for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations

Article excerpt

Problem and Importance

A key challenge facing the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO)-the world's longest lasting and most successful multinational military alliance-is how to reform its information sharing structures to address the complex operating environments NATO will face in the future. This challenge, while seemingly perpetual, has become further complicated since the dissolution of NATO's original opponent, the Soviet Union. Because NATO conducted no military operations during the Cold War, it never truly faced the need to share information in a rapidly evolving conflict scenario. However, since 1991 it has mobilized numerous times in response to new threats and situations that required the expedient flow of information.

Today, NATO's European members face a disparate array of security threats ranging from a revanchist Russia to an influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. NATO operations have been as diverse as security and reconstruction in Kosovo and Afghanistan, military and police training for the African Union (AU) and the Iraqi government, disaster relief in Haiti, Pakistan, and the United States, counter-piracy operations near the Horn of Africa and in the Indian Ocean, and rendering humanitarian assistance to members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.1 These operating environments require NATO to move beyond Cold War-era structures that stifle information sharing.

Threats today often involve actors operating outside of formal legal and security apparatuses, requiring a more comprehensive understanding of the economic, social, and political elements that often drive modern conflict.2 To meet the security challenges of today and tomorrow, NATO must rethink how it shares information within the Alliance and with external partners.3

Current Alliance intelligence structures do not facilitate the needed capacity for sharing. At the corps level, NATO units often have insufficiently sized intelligence staffs.4 At the Alliance level, no central authority exists with the power to vet, empower, and lend accountability to NATO members and non-NATO organizations to share intelligence.5 Sharing at this level is further hindered by a lack of trust between NATO member states.6 NATO's ability to share intelligence and information with outsiders is similarly compromised by a lack of trust and the absence of well-developed mechanisms for sharing.7 Mechanisms that do exist tend to be under-utilized.8

International confidence in the willingness and ability of NATO to provide an effective response to international crises is waning in the wake of operations such as those in Afghanistan and Libya. Yet it is exactly these types of conflicts in which the Alliance and its member states are most likely to engage in the future. At the start of this decade, five out of six NATO operations took place outside of the Alliance's territory.9 It is for exactly these types of conflicts new informationsharing structures need to be designed and implemented.

Shortcomings of Current NATO Policy

Intelligence policy specific to NATO is lacking standardized practices and products, mostly due to the consensus requirement for NATO decision-making.10 Within NATO, there exists a wide array of offices working on intelligence production and dissemination with little coordination at the working and leadership levels.11 A review of intelligence actors within NATO conducted by the authors of this article reveals an organizational landscape of competition, politicization, and hoarding similar to the US intelligence community prior to 9/11. In lieu of guiding policy, intelligence sharing within the Alliance remains problematic and each organization has little incentive to share. Agencies have internal rules against sharing and no rewards for sharing. NATO intelligence analysts often resort to their individual country's production and disclosure standards, reducing the timeliness and utility of shared intelligence products. …

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