Mon, Nov 21, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Europe faces a serious deficit in its security and defense needs

Greater military integration in Europe will require sustained leadership by heads of government, military officials as well as NATO and EU leaders

By Klaus Naumann

The gap between Europe's security needs and its military capacities is widening, and most European leaders lack the will to do what is necessary to close it. Forces built to defend the European heartland from a Soviet attack are unsuitable for the kinds of operations that define today's post-Cold War environment.

Today, Europe needs improved capacity to combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), deal with failed or failing states, contend with regional conflicts and respond to humanitarian crises. Yet defense spending across Europe remains flat or in decline.

The problem is more than budgetary. The fragmented nature of European defense procurement, the Byzantine rules of the European defense trade and industrial capabilities shaped by the Cold War legacy all sap Europe's ability to meet its military needs.

Given these hurdles, the obvious way to improve European defense capabilities is by coordinating the efforts of individual countries, the EU and NATO to create a set of enhanced collective defense capacities. The overlap in membership between NATO and the EU makes such defense cooperation both possible and logical, if not unavoidable.

Difficult choices

Of course, difficult choices lay ahead. Political leaders must create incentives and financial headroom for their forces to undergo the necessary changes.

First and foremost, savings generated from restructuring must be reinvested in transforming military forces. After all, generals will be more inclined to identify efficiencies if they believe that doing so will ultimately enable them to enhance their capabilities.

Political leaders should also seek to stabilize defense budgets by creating separate funds for unforeseen multilateral peacekeeping operations, like the Balkans and Afghanistan, and by putting defense planning on a multi-year rather than an annual cycle.

Such predictable budgets will better enable European leaders to establish defense planning targets that address the priorities of military transformation.

At a minimum, 25 percent of annual budgets should be allocated toward research, development and procurement, with no more than 40 percent spent on personnel.

This won't be easy, because there is a basic conflict between modernizing an army and the political pressures to maintain military wages and jobs.

But these trade-offs must be made if Europe's military is to meet the Continent's security needs. At the most basic level, governments must take a hard look at conscription and territorial defense forces, which eat up far too much of Europe's military budgets.

Because no European state can afford to "go it alone," military reform demands greater integration and information sharing, as control of information will be key in future conflicts.

Pooling of infrastructure [bases and ports] and logistical assets [transport], including training facilities for common equipment, will generate big savings, as individual countries rationalize the long "logistical tails" of manpower and equipment that support armies in the field.

Nations should forge partnerships across national lines with like-minded allies -- a model exemplified by the new joint Spanish-Italian Amphibious Force.


Nations that cannot afford to field expeditionary forces capable of performing the full spectrum of 21st-century missions should make greater use of specialization to enhance their contribution to Europe's collective defense.

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