According to a story that appeared this week in Germany’s Spiegel news weekly, an internal NATO study finds the Alliance woefully deficient in many critical military capabilities. The report identifies 15 major areas of deficiency. These include: inadequate supplies of precision munitions, too few aerial refueling tankers, a lack of medical personnel, too few electronic jamming devices and insufficient equipment for special forces.
Outsiders have been complaining about this situation for years, even decades. NATO has tried to improve its posture, seeking to acquire, for example, the A400 transport aircraft, Global Hawk high altitude unmanned aerial systems and additional communications equipment. The difficulty is that the Alliance must rely on its members to acquire the right equipment, in the necessary quantities. As a consequence of each nation making largely unilateral decisions on what forces to maintain and equipment to acquire, the result is an overabundance of capability in certain categories, armored fighting vehicles and tactical fighters, for example, and deficiencies in many others.
This latest report is particularly troublesome because most NATO countries are devoting too few resources to defense even as they continue to misallocate increasingly scarce funds. Not only does this make it difficult at best, to put money where it is most needed, but there is very little left over for the training and exercises vital to the Alliance’s ability to actually operate together when called to action. As a consequence, NATO is growing hollow.
The essential challenge is to augment the standards that direct NATO’s Defense Planning Process. Quantity of forces is important, but in an era marked by unpredictable and changing threats, quality is even more important.
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