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ROME — NATO leaders searching for operational and strategic simulations are using 2013 ITEC simulation and training show to flesh out their requirements and pinpoint gaps in training and technology.
“At the strategic and operational level, it’s not as apparent to us what our requirements are,” said Brig. Gen. Perry Matte of NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.
Speaking on a panel with other uniformed NATO leaders, Matte said the alliance is still looking for a means to simulate large scenarios and exercises at the higher levels. Tactical training, which is done largely at an national level so that service members are already prepared when they join forces, is the stronger part of the simulation portfolio.
“I think we do that very well,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Jose Antolin of NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps-Spain agreed that NATO needs to focus on collective preparation, rather than on tactical skills that receive the bulk of attention at trade shows such as ITEC. Exercises training the higher echelons do not rely as much on physical airplanes or ships. Instead, they draw on knowledge, planning, strategy, and coordination – abstract skills that no weapon trainer can meet.
“The kind of training we’re talking about is not as sexy as what I’ve seen around here,” Matte said.
And the vision for NATO Joint Force Command-level training and beyond is still developing.
“We just don’t know what that next step looks like yet,” he said.
Some potential gaps include getting high-level officers involved, managing interoperability and simulation capabilities in different nations, and creating complex command post exercises in an era that demands additional exercises with fewer resources.
Matte said procuring the technology was not necessarily an issue of funding but rather a previous failure to bring forth the questions and requirements, combined with the inability to find a sim that adequately connects various components such as international organizations and non-governmental organizations in complex exercises.
Brig. Gen. Giovanni Fungo, assistant chief of staff for NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, said attending conferences such as ITEC were crucial for leaders to find cheap but effective simulations and engage with industry about possibilities as they attempt to broaden their exercises. While industry might appreciate more detailed guidance, NATO itself is still fleshing out requirements itself.
“I can’t tell you what we want until we realize what we need,” Matte said.