In times of austerity such as these, we must all remember that if there is anything more important than saving money, it is to have that money well spent. Money saving has never been - nor can it ever be - an end in itself, and it must be backed with an adequate dose of creativity. Almost ten years have passed since the European Security Strategy (ESS) settled a strategic doctrine, and here we find Europe divided between two different security conceptions: some believe that the best option lies in a "European army", while others still argue that European security is essentially the "Atlantic Security". However, those who believed that Europe's defense could rest in NATO's hands for the present and coming generations had a wake-up call, with the US signaling that it may not lead future operations in and around Europe. By incentivizing the NATO member-states to give priority to those capabilities which NATO needs most, and to specialize in what they do best - in order to do more with less - Smart Defense demands cooperation as much as strong political will. In my view, the path to its success lies in a four-pronged strategy:
First, the European Defense Market must be liberalized and Europe's military needs harmonized through scale economies. Performing "Pulling and Sharing" is a hard task, especially among Europe's major powers, with long-established national defense industries. However, these are the very same countries which are at this very moment reducing their defense budgets. In my view, here lies an opportunity to focus on the other European countries which ought to start by specializing and developing ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and aerial refueling capabilities, and they must be provided with incentives for doing so. As Claude-France Arnault recently pointed out, "[w]ithout technologies, we can't act in the future". An important step was taken in 2007 when the "Progress Catalogue" was approved, describing the existing European military capabilities and identifying the strategic priorities as well as its main weaknesses.
The production process could occur in two ways: if a country is able to develop a specific technology or capability all by itself it should do so. If not, it may still develop one (or some) of its components. And since many European countries are well established armament manufacturers, some of the other countries should focus on producing ammunitions for those weapons. NATO could act as an intermediary, helping the nations to establish what they can do together at lower cost, more efficiently and with less risk. The limitations recently displayed in Libya - where the European forces rapidly grew out of ammo and had to rely on American ISR for targeting and air refueling - should not occur in the future. Therefore, although Europe is being forced to reduce its defense budgets, its military prowess would be enhanced and duplication will be avoided. And this is no small detail: in 2009, European Union countries had nearly 90 different weapons programs, while the United States, whose defense budget more than doubles that of the Europeans, had only 27. The maintenance of a largely fragmented European market has ceased to make sense as much as it has become unsustainable.
Second, the EU package of directives that have been applying across the European Union since August 2011, which aim to simplify procedures for moving military goods amongst member-states, must be put to better use by helping small and medium-sized enterprises to break into other member state's markets and offer global licenses in addition to individual export licenses. Bureaucracies, whose cost amounts to over €400 million a year (according to the European Commission) would, therefore become avoidable.
Third, the Treaty of Lisbon's mechanism of Permanent Structured Cooperation must be used to achieve greater cooperation not only between Europe's major powers (in November 2010 France and the UK revived the spirit of Saint-Malo and signed a Defense and Security Co-operation Treaty), but also between all member-states. Being an open and inclusive mechanism, it should be used for that purpose.
Fourth, initiatives such as Estonia's Cyber Excellence Center, the Baltic Air Policing and the European Battle Groups (EBG's) must be encouraged and enforced, as they represent a model for all Smart Defense-related projects.
A temporary downside to some of the aforementioned measures will come for the countries who have long established national defense industries, as some organic changes may have to be performed in their factories, such as having their machinery converted. However, such changes should be financed by both EU and NATO and regarded as an important investment.
The Atlantic Alliance and the European Union are two fundamental pillars in an increasingly complex and unpredictable international (chess)board. If the Atlantic allies are allowed to synchronize themselves, Smart Defense might just do the trick of bringing these two pillars together.
José Guimarães is an International Relations Student at the University of Minho.