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Fri May 18, 2012, 09:15 AM

'Smart Defense': Should Europe's Militaries Specialize?


U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and NATO Secretary General Rasmussen unveil the logo of the Chicago summit meeting in Brussels. (Reuters)

An inescapable fact of modern defense planning is budget austerity. Smaller budgets are prompting some tough thinking across Europe and in the U.S. about how these countries can maintain their global security posture with less money. Under normal circumstances, less money would mean less equipment, fewer people, fewer activities, and fewer operations.

NATO, however, seems to think it can get around the limitations of a smaller budget. "Smart Defense," as they call it, is based around a simple idea: specialization and cooperation, in accordance with the principles first established at the 2010 Lisbon Summit. Adam Smith wrote of the economies of scale that a factory might achieve by specializing labor, and NATO wants to apply this idea by encouraging national militaries to specialize in specific mission areas will allow them to cooperate together to achieve a much greater, more capable, NATO force.

The Smart Defense framework rests on a couple of assumptions, however, that could be tricky to apply. Cooperation is not always easy, as with NATO's experience in Libya. Last year, it was not easy to build even a tentative consensus about the alliance's role in intervening there -- and if it weren't for U.S. equipment and logistics support, the intervention could have taken a dramatically different shape (if it happened at all).

Before national specialization, a relatively cheap, quick campaign like the Libya intervention was already straining NATO, which is also still fighting in Afghanistan. Within the alliance, not all member countries were enthusiastic about the bombing campaign. This poses a critical question for future NATO operations: once countries specialize so much that they depend on one another to carry out a military campaign, what happens to NATO's military effectiveness if its political leaders start disagreeing?

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Reply 'Smart Defense': Should Europe's Militaries Specialize? (Original post)
xchrom May 2012 OP
Fumesucker May 2012 #1
JHB May 2012 #2

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri May 18, 2012, 02:55 PM

1. I read a story a long time ago of a small nation under threat from much larger nations..

They finally decided to train and equip every able bodied citizen as a covert assassin, a lot of course sucked at it but some few were really good.

I can see advantages and disadvantages to this approach.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri May 18, 2012, 03:14 PM

2. That sort of thing sounds good until something gums up the cooperation...

...then one country's force gets mauled because the support (which is supposed to be provided by another country's forces) isn't actually in place and working when it is needed.

Then there's the countries who can't afford special units or a lot of heavy equipment, so their sons get the ol' infantry duty and the most opportunities to bleed.

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