Smart Defense - Cooperation, specialization and prioritization are the neat catchphrases trying to embody this new defense concept which is meant to prepare NATO for a security role in an environment where "security is globalized" (Anders Fogh Rasmussen). However, the road of NATO's evolution is littered with similar projects whose aim it was to create a more cooperative and efficient defense strategy among member states. What can then be done in the context of Smart Defense to ensure its efficiency and sustainability? Vital to a comprehensive solution is the role of future leadership and multinational cooperation.
When talking about Smart Defense, Ludwig Decamps, the NATO Director of Smart Defense, refers to the process of implementation as "learning by doing" and emphasizes the "strong focus on building it bottom-up". In these two sound bites, Decamps already touches on two critical and valuable aspects of the discourse, namely the implication that Smart Defense will be a long-term project during which essentials will be 'learned', as well as the importance of a bottom-up approach driven by member states. Yet in order to make the process of learning by doing sustainable and creating an effective bottom-up strategy, I propose two policy initiatives that will enhance NATO's ability to create a true cooperative, multinational approach among member states. Both initiatives focus on the long-term success and sustainability of Smart Defense and therefore focus on the next generation of leadership.
The first policy initiative could simply be called "Smart Leadership Initiative" (SLI). The aim of this initiative is to invest in a new generation of future policy makers or defense officials and to make them not only familiar, but experts in the field of Smart Defense and to establish it as part of the curriculum of certain programs (Security Studies, Political Science, Public Policy etc.) at selected universities and institutions. Through close cooperation with NATO, professors and students could investigate defense policy in their respective country, work on alternatives in line with Smart Defense, develop networks amongst each other and work towards an implementation of Smart Defense in their own country. NATO support could be in form of grants, mentoring of programs or information sharing. The advantage of the SLI would be its focus on the next generation of defense and policy experts and leaders and their expertise and support for a more specialized and cooperative approach to defense policy. It would also stress NATO's commitment to its new policy by demonstrating the organization's willingness to invest in future leadership to ensure long-term planning and success. With Smart Defense being a newer field of defense policy, there is ample academic opportunity for more extensive research and learning, comparisons and proposals.
The second initiative revolves around the need for a new level of trust which has often been called for by NATO leadership. An integral part of the Smart Defense approach centers on the idea of guaranteed access for certain military capabilities and the necessity of flexibility in this context. Yet member states are often very protective of their national capabilities and thus the level of trust and willingness to share has to be promoted and supported. By creating a comprehensive multinational framework for policy makers and defense officials in the form of international forums, workshops, visitor exchanges and informal gatherings, NATO can stimulate and facilitate cooperation, understanding and trust among its members. Target audiences would be members of the SLI, officials or professionals in high level positions, such as members of defense or budget committees, military leadership or even representatives from the defense industry. The goal would be to create a cooperative working environment for individuals who are involved, interested and engaged in issues of Smart Defense and who possess a position of influence or leverage in their home country to further its cause.
Both policy approaches, the Smart Leadership Initiative and the multinational framework, are built on the idea of creating sustainable support for Smart Defense policies instead of advocating short-term ad-hoc projects that are not rooted in genuine cooperation, trust and support for the program. Yet one could argue that implementing such wide-ranging initiatives require an already existing level of support and commitment from member states. However, I do believe that NATO leadership has already proven its dedication and faith concerning Smart Defense, due to economic and political realities affecting all member states. These realities create the perfect environment for NATO to implement both initiatives in order to produce and support a new generation of capable leaders.
The following generations will grow up in an increasingly globalized world with more opportunities and experiences in bottom-up participation. Individuals will be exposed to multinational realities at a much higher level than the generations before, due to advances in technology, travel and exchange. NATO needs to understand these new realities and take advantage of them.
Sarah Wagner is currently a Political Science graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Supported by the Fulbright Commission, she is studying U.S. Afghanistan policy for a year before returning home to Germany.