More U.S.-NATO Industrial Links Needed

By Keithly, David M. | National Defense, October 1999 | Go to article overview

More U.S.-NATO Industrial Links Needed


Keithly, David M., National Defense


Allied nations that fight jointly should produce weapons together

Looking back on NATO's military victory in Kosovo earlier this year, observers agree that the United States would not have conducted the recent Balkan operation alone.

Kosovo is a European problem that Europeans are willing to confront, and the United States is involved as part of NATO. Although working with allies is increasingly important to the United States, combined operations are becoming more intricate and troublesome.

Operations in the Balkans have demonstrated-once again-that a militarily unsurpassed United States is gaining a technological lead on allies as well as adversaries. In growing measure, low-tech forces, particularly former Warsaw Pact members now friendly toward the United States, cannot function alongside a U.S. military outfitted with denser and more sophisticated information networks.

Moreover, as U.S. aircraft, satellites, and airborne radars bolster non-U.S. forces, maintenance of long-term alliance cohesion becomes problematic. The allies are uneasy with such burden-sharing arrangements, as is the United States. The salient industrial-- strategic implication is unmistakable: allied nations that fight together should produce weapons together.

COMMENTARY

Over time, revolutions in military affairs result in profound changes in the way nations engage in combat. Instrumental to the evolving revolution in military affairs is the application of information technology-permitting strikes upon enemy forces with greater accuracy and from longer distances. High-tech battlespace engenders decisive maneuver and more extensive power projection. At the same time, 21st century warfare presupposes the ability of cooperating military organizations to avail themselves of technological opportunities, principally by utilizing and sharing information networks.

Weaponry standardization is scarcely a new NATO issue, but present technological divergence threatens the very fabric of the alliance. Cautioning NATO to "mind the gap," recent studies identify technological disparities as the alliance's most compelling concern.

Ensuing problems, if they are not addressed, could well result in alliance rifts. The United States and its principal allies will drift apart if they are unable to cooperate more closely on the operational level. It would be ironic if such a drift were to occur as Europeans are become more attuned to their security interests. They also seem to appreciate NATO's value more than ever, and are responding accordingly. After all, who could have imagined even five years ago that German forces would be involved in Balkan combat operations?

What is to be done? NATO forces must be better tailored to combined joint task forces, a cornerstone of NATO operations-separate but not separable from the alliance. …

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