NATO Must Go High-Tech

WASHINGTON (05/03/2000) - Despite recent successes in Bosnia and Kosovo, NATO must transform itself from a Cold War entity designed to counter the Soviet Union in Europe to a more expeditionary force equipped with state-of-the-art computers and communications equipment, according to a new study by Rand Corp.

The 19-nation alliance, which was formed in 1949, faces vast new threats that will require it to shift its focus from territorial defense to power projection, according to the think tank's study, "NATO's Future: Implications for U.S. Military Capabilities and Posture."

Chief among Rand's findings is the conclusion that NATO nations must invest in upgrading critical infrastructure in selected countries and modernizing their military forces so that they become lighter, leaner and more mobile. "This will entail, among other things, exploiting recent advances in surveillance, information processing, communications and precision weapons," the study concluded.

The study's author, David Ochmanek, recommended that NATO planners study Kosovo as an example in which military operations were transformed by high-tech command and control systems, real-time surveillance systems and precision-guided weapons.

NATO is working with the United States on the Defense Capabilities Initiative, which is meant to enhance cooperation between the militaries of member nations through the use of advanced computer and communications systems.

Defense Secretary William Cohen urged Congress last year to support the DCI after Operation Allied Force uncovered shortfalls in allied interoperability and secure communications. The technology gap forced the United States to carry out almost all of the air strikes requiring precision-guided munitions, Cohen said.

"The information-sharing problem is still there," said Douglass Perritt, deputy director of the National Infrastructure Protection Center, who spoke recently at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference on information assurance. "It's a trite thing to say, but you're only as strong as your weakest link."

Related links

"Technology gap threatens NATO alliance, Cohen says" [FCW.com, Oct. 14, 1999] http://www.fcw.com/fcw/articles/1999/fcw_10141999_nato.asp "Calculating costs, cautions from war" [Federal Computer Week, Oct. 4, 1999] http://www.fcw.com/fcw/articles/1999/FCW_100499_3.asp

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