Gen. Jean-Paul Palomeros (NATO)
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WASHINGTON — The general in charge of NATO’s training and strategic planning recognizes the budgetary problems afflicting member states, but believes the organization must focus on training and interoperability to remain effective after the drawdown in Afghanistan, he said during a roundtable with reporters Wednesday.
French Air Force Gen. Jean-Paul Paloméros, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation at NATO, described a challenging environment for cash-strapped member states as NATO transitions from its focus on operations in Afghanistan.
“NATO can only encourage nations to keep up their investment, not to reduce their budgets, but we try to cope with the difficulties of the time, and we fully realize that the crises have some effect, but we hope as well that when the nations get out from the crisis they will reinvest what they can in defense,” he said.
“Defense needs a long-term investment, and what I mean by long-term investment is long-term enduring will to invest. You cannot build a solid robust defense system if there is not this long-term political commitment.”
But while expressing confidence in continued support by member countries, he also emphasized that the primary objective needs to be interoperability and training as NATO stands up its Response Force as its primary military group post-Afghanistan.
“The tendency when we have a reduced defense budget is to cut in those less visible parts of our inventory, but one day or the other you will pay [for] that,” he said. “As we will redeploy from Afghanistan now, there will not be in the near future foreseeable major operations. We have learned very much from operations, so we have to re-concentrate, to reinvigorate our training and exercises to make sure that we are prepared and that we are optimizing the resources.”
That doesn’t mean that new capabilities aren’t needed. Paloméros said that NATO has recognized a demand for greater intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, and is working on several programs.
“We spotted the joint ISR as a shortfall, because there is a very high demand on that, so we said we should invest in joint ISR, we should invest in interoperability, we need more platforms and we’ll see how that can happen,” he said
Those platforms can be expensive, which could pose problems for NATO countries as they battle over who should foot the bill. To that end, Paloméros said that he envisions an emphasis on joint development programs between countries to help share the cost.
And although he would not specify which of the mission capabilities or equipment need to be de-emphasized or eliminated to save money, he made it clear that decision must be made.
“If we have to get rid of some assets, we have to propose that now,” he said
But Paloméros emphasized that the training of the Reaction Force, including a major exercise planned for 2015, is not only critical but the only way to avoid wasting money on systems.
“There will be no need to get a very sophisticated platform if we are not able to train the people to use that,” he said. “I’m a great fan of new generation aircraft, drones, but what I know from previous experience as chief of the Air Force [France], if you are not able to train and exercise your people properly, this is useless. So I would say perhaps it’s time that we re-concentrate a little bit of our attention on this human perspective; it’s so important and so crucial.” ■