WASHINGTON — Since NATO was formed, its primary goal has transitioned from collective defense to cooperative security to crisis management. Today, NATO is juggling all three.

Maj. Gen. William Hickman, director of strategic plans and policy for NATO Allied Transformation Command, spoke to Defense News about juggling priorities.

Air policing is a tactic in the Baltics for countering Russia. Is this solely an act of deterrence?

What it does, it demonstrates the resolve, the cohesion of the alliance because these are multinational formations. It demonstrates that, in the Baltic area, these nations are not by themselves. The alliance is forward deployed to provide the necessary deterrents. It’s the same thing with the Enhanced Forward Presence [NATO’s forward-deployed multinational battalion battlegroups] in Eastern Europe. We know they’re very small numbers, relatively speaking, so they integrate with the host nation forces to provide security. We also understand that you have to reinforce these forces in times of significant crisis.

What investments are being made in advanced technologies to enhance security?

We want to look out for the future because the world is changing so quickly. Instead of saying we need more ships, more submarines, we look for an effect that needs to be achieved and then look for innovative solutions. In [the NATO exercise] Trident Juncture, we did some experiments using a semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles for logistics. We’ll continue to use experimentation to see what other innovative technologies can support the alliance and deterrence.

One area we’re looking at is the use of data. There is a tremendous amount of data between the nations, especially about readiness of forces. The ability to use that data more effectively is where we’ll look to the future.

The U.S. plans to make investments to help countries basically wean themselves off Russian technology. Should this have been a NATO effort?

From NATO’s perspective, it’s part of the modernization of these forces primarily from Eastern Europe. Over time, as these nations have the resources, we want to have better interoperability. Most of these nations want to have newer equipment anyway.

Does the U.S. provide enough support to Europe’s efforts to build domestic capabilities?

The U.S. forces buy from European companies. It’s more the other way, but it’s a significant amount of money. And in NATO, when a nation has a requirement, we work with that nation and other nations that already have that capability. If no one nation has the capability, we get multinational [involvement]. You get more than one nation together to build that capability together, and therefore increase interoperability.

To me, that’s the NATO version of what the European Union is trying to do with the European Defence Fund. For me, the 2 percent [of the gross domestic product goal for defense spending] is more about meeting identified requirements and that they’re interoperable. That’s harder to [pinpoint] than just 2 percent, but it’s what we really need.

Jill Aitoro is editor of Defense News. She is also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brings over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.

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