NATO Defence Ministers agreed concrete goals for more ambitious training and exercises to maintain the lessons of interoperability at their meeting in Brussels on 21 February.
“Over the last decade, in Afghanistan, Kosovo and other operations, our servicemen and -women have learned to work together more closely than ever before. The challenge we will face over the coming decade is to preserve and pass on those skills, as our biggest operation comes closer to completion,” Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
“We will answer that challenge with what we call the Connected Forces Initiative: expanding our education and training, and enhancing our exercises,” he added.
As part of the initiative, ministers agreed that the Alliance should hold a major live exercise in 2015, and draw up a comprehensive programme of training and exercises for the period 2015-2020.
They also agreed that the NATO Response Force (NRF) will be at the core of the initiative. The NRF is the Alliance’s rapid-reaction corps, which is prepared and validated through an annual cycle of training and exercises.
“We will build on its exercises, to make sure each new group of forces is up to the task. And we will build on those exercises – for example, by including the battalion which the United States government has pledged to rotate through Europe for precisely this purpose, and by building in more contributions from other Allies and partners,” the Secretary General said.
“This will make the NATO Response Force a cooperation school, as well as a quick-reaction tool. An immediate resource, but also an investment in the future,” he said.
Ministers also discussed ways to make the Alliance’s defence planning and spending more efficient, more transparent and more responsive.
“That is largely a national responsibility. But NATO can help, by coordinating between nations”, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said.
Ministers also agreed that the Alliance should do more with NATO common funding to support Alliance’s priorities.