The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is not immune to the bureaucratic bloat of many international institutions. In Afghanistan, for example, coalition forces report to their own country’s ranks, causing difficulties in coordination, planning, and execution in various situations. The separation of command structures in war theaters is not only ineffective, but dangerous. Without proper coordination between NATO allies, it will be impossible to take concrete steps in any military campaign I believe that the first step to utilizing "Smart Defense" is to cut back on the NATO "in country" bureaucracy
It is impossible for coalition partners to be effective if there is no unified command structure. Most importantly, the situation on the ground is constantly evolving, and it is impossible to accomplish anything if not all troops are "in synch. How is an American general supposed to coordinate with an Italian officer while each operate under their own domestic set of rules and regulations The parallel structures that dictate how each country can or cannot act are one of the biggest problems that the alliance faces.
The chain of command must be clear and based solely on one command structure. When coalition partners come together in a conflict, they are under the NATO umbrella and must shed their country uniforms With a level playing field, a clear structure will emerge.
This does not mean, however, that the existing branches of military units should be reshuffled. The key is to reduce, not rename. As a first step, the entire structure that is present in Afghanistan must be re-examined. Partner countries must make certain cuts, or consolidate different units in order to establish a clearer command structure. Once a tighter framework is in place, country-specific units must be eliminated and classified as strictly NATO. American forces, for example, report to NATO, not American generals. Therefore, Italian, British, or German troops are embedded with American units or visa versa. A stronger relationship between partners on the ground will only strengthen the alliance at the top of the decision-making levels.
A more unified NATO command structure will force nations to pool together resources. This interdependence between all NATO allies encourages each country to share its resources and invest in "Smart Defense." In this age of austerity, the budgetary restrictions that countries are facing will only increase. In the United States, the Department of Defense recently released its Strategic Guidance to project the international landscape and how to meet the threats of the future with fewer resources. The forecast is quite grim and requires much more cooperation with critical alliances, such as NATO. It is imperative that NATO partners act now to find better solutions to confront the fiscal challenges instead of delaying the inevitable Nations will ultimately "ensure greater security, for less money, by working together with more flexibility" in order to meet the challenges that each country faces from shrinking defense budgets. This is where the implementation of a clear and unified structure within the alliance is critical If nations are all "on the same page", they will be more willing to invest in "Smart Defense" because every countrys concerns and commitments will be addressed.
As a result, NATO member countries will have more say in specific visions for the future of the alliance. With a greater investment in cooperation, the sovereignty of the various nations will become even stronger. Each country will have a direct linkage to the alliance and therefore will feel a more robust presence. I believe that if NATO members can eliminate much of the "in country" bureaucracy, and therefore establish a clear and unified command structure, the results of that trimming will lead to a greater willingness of nations to invest in "Smart Defense".
Michelle Shevin-Coetzee is an undergraduate at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University, majoring in Security Policy with a minor in Arabic.