Remarks by State secretary Øystein Bø:

CSIS Event: “Assessing the Third Offset”

State secretary Øystein Bø in Norwegian Ministry of Defence held these remarks at the CSIS Event in Washington DC, October 28th 2016.

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Øystein Bø attended the CSIS Event and held remarks on “Assessing the Third Offset”.
Øystein Bø attended the CSIS Event and held remarks on “Assessing the Third Offset”. Credit: Harald Støren, MFA


I appreciate the opportunity to speak here today at this event, on a subject of great importance. I want to thank CSIS for hosting and for inviting me. The Norwegian Ministry of Defense has a long-standing and valued relationship with CSIS. Your work is as relevant and as important as ever. When discussing Third Offset, it is important to keep in mind that Allied security is inseparable from US security. We often focus on how the US provides security for its allies. But the fact is that we are all committed to each others security, including that of the US.

US Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work in discussion with State secretary Øystein Bø.
US Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work in discussion with State secretary Øystein Bø. Credit: Harald Støren, MFA

We definitely do not take the US for granted, but still, burden sharing goes both ways. How we deal with the security challenges in the High North is one example of this. Norway has made considerable investments in military presence, readiness, surveillance and in providing situational awareness. We, of course, do this to meet national needs. But we also do it on behalf of NATO, and in support of the US.

We can, in many ways, be seen as the Allied gate-keeper of the North, taking great responsibility in this strategically important area.

When I say that your security concerns are our security concerns, I also point to, in broad terms, why the Third Offset Strategy matters for Norway.

There are many reasons why the allied dimension is important. I will focus my remarks on two main areas, in which allies can support the 3rd Offset.

Washington DC, October 28th 2016
Washington DC, October 28th 2016 Credit: Harald Støren, MFA

Firstly, allies can effectively support the Third Offset Strategy and the development of the concept through our insights into the evolving threats and challenges to our security. The developments addressed in the Third Offset Concept, are not only relevant to the US. They are felt and experienced by allies as well. Many European allies are in fact on the front lines.

As an example, Norway - a neighbor to Russia, and one of the very few Allies that did not drop our focus on Russia after the cold war - sees first-hand how Russia, through military modernization, has significantly increased its military capabilities.

Key themes in this modernization effort are improvements within command and control, mobility, network-centric warfare, modernization of the nuclear force, investments in the submarine force and the introduction of long-range precision-guided strike missiles.

Of particular interest for Norway, NATO and for the USA is how these capabilities are changing the strategic situation on NATO´s Northern Maritime Flank.

The Russian Bastion Defense Concept is back on the agenda when allies meet. In this concept, Russia would forward-deploy and establish a zone of control down to the GIUK Gap. This could include a capability to project force into the North Atlantic and disrupt Sea Lines of Communication across the Atlantic.

This is an example of the type of challenges that the Third Offset can and should address.

This is also an example of how Allies can provide US decision-makers with situational awareness, valuable insight into regional conditions and provide important perspectives on current and future security trends.

The second way in which the allied dimension is important, is through direct support with skills and technologies. This has both a human dimension and a technological dimension.

More effective collaboration and human-machine interface is a key component in the Third Offset Strategy.

For Norway the assumption of having a woman or man in the loop is extremely important. I am fully in line with Bob Work on this. This is not just a moral or ethical issue. As Bob, I too believe that a primary asset of the Norwegian and Allied Armed Forces is our people. The skills, competency and the values and knowledge that our personnel bring with them from our open and free societies are crucial.

Norway has a highly skilled and educated military force. Through our conscription service, which applies to both women and men, we are able to recruit from the best and brightest, thus having a unique recruitment will for our professional forces. We have a comprehensive education and schooling system that provides our military forces with the skills needed to operate in an increasingly complex battle space.

So, we must not solely focus on the technological aspects and on gadgets. The human dimension is as important. As an alliance, I believe we have a huge advantage in this area.

The human factor might be challenged, as robotics and autonomous technologies advance, but I believe maintaining the principle of "man in the loop" will eventually be to our advantage.

But, turning to technology and capabilities, there are definitely important areas where Norway can support Third Offset.

The Norwegian Defense Industry is small in relative terms. But it is highly innovative. And in some niche areas Norwegian companies deliver cutting-edge military technologies.

This includes the Kongsberg Group, which produces the Naval Strike Missile and the HUGIN autonomous under-water vehicles. It also includes NAMMO, who makes the rocket motors for the ESSM, IRIS-T and AMRAAM missiles.

We don’t have – and we have no ambition of having - a fully-fledged national defense industry. We focus on areas where we have comparative advantages, and with a strong focus on quality, advanced technology and continuity.

One example is our HUGIN unmanned under-water/surface mine countermeasures system. Norway began working on this during the 1980s and it is one of the first systems of its kind in the world.

The HUGIN fuses autonomy, robotics and Human-Machine-Interface. And the result is a highly capable and advanced system, exemplifying the highly relevant technologies that makes Norway a credible and relevant contributor to the Third Offset Strategy.

An important success criterion for the Third Offset is fostering a culture of innovation. In Norway, we have been able to do this by establishing close interaction between our Armed Forces, defense industry and the defense R&D community.

Given our small size and our topographic and climatic challenges, we have had to do things smartly. And to think out of the box. As technology develops at an ever-increasing pace, our experience is that being small and lean is an advantage. It makes us even more agile and adaptable, which is particularly important from a Third Offset perspective.

Development of Mini satellites, as mentioned by Secretary Carter this morning, is one example. We have launched our own mini satellites and we are struck with their efficiency, endurance, and not least low cost.


In conclusion, therefore, allies have an important role to play in developing and implementing the Third Offset Strategy. 

Allies have valuable insights into the nature of the evolving threats. The US should use its alliance relationships to promote and foster a common understanding and awareness of the threats and challenges. This is an important starting point for the Third Offset Strategy.

Allies also have human skills, competency, capabilities and technologies that are relevant in realizing the Third Offset Strategy.

No nation can match the US in terms of the sheer size of the defense technology sector. However, we should seek partnerships among allies that leverages each nation’s comparative advantages.

This begs an important question, which I realize is complex and touches difficult issues, such as jobs and national defense industry. Should the US, or Europe for that sake, look more into making use of technologies and innovation that Allies have already developed, and focus on other development, in stead of tying up resources to develop what is already available. I believe, in the long term, the only sustainable answer to that question is "yes".

The bottom line is that we face the same challenges and threats. No country – not even the USA – can or should face these on its own. Together we are stronger. This holds true also for the Third Offset Strategy.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to the discussion.

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