Historical archive

"Usability through transformation"

Historical archive

Published under: Bondevik's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Defence

(02.02.04) Opening Speech by Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold, at the Norwegian Atlantic Committee’s “Leangkollen” conference, 2 February, 2004.

Norwegian Defence - "Usability through transformation"

Opening Speech by the Norwegian Minister of Defence, Kristin Krohn Devold, at the Norwegian Atlantic Committee’s “Leangkollen” conference. February 2, 2004.

Ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests!

I’m pleased to be invited to open this year’s conference. It gives me a unique opportunity to address a distinguished audience on topics that go far beyond the interests of the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces.

We are talking about security – national and international – and how to address the future challenges. This is a common concern.

The awakening

In a few weeks the Government presents its new Defence Review, a Proposition to Parliament that covers the 4-year period 2005-2008. This new 4-year plan for the development of Norway’s Armed Forces overlaps with the current 4-year planning period by one year. The reason is the dynamic nature of our security environment.

When the former Government presented the last Defence Review in February 2001, the preparatory work took place in a substantially different security policy landscape.

Already in 1999, NATO’s strategic concept spoke of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction as real threats. However, at that time, these threats were largely theoretical.

We all know it is much easier to see in retrospect what the future brought.

“9/11” blew the remains of the traditional Cold War thinking to pieces. That day revealed a scenario that we were mentally, politically and militarily unprepared for.

“9/11” did not improve our ability to foresee the future. However, this tragic event did something to our understanding of the security threats of our time – and of our adversaries.

As history has often proven, it takes a disaster to fully grasp new realities.

The future security policy framework

The security challenges of today and the foreseeable future impose new requirements on our Armed Forces. As a result, we must adapt our defence thinking, our defence planning and our defence structures.

Today’s global threat scenario is characterized by ambiguities and complexities. There is no longer a well-defined single opponent who might decide to invade Norway or our Allies in NATO.

The existential threat against our national sovereignty and political freedom has been replaced by uncertainty and unpredictability. Today’s challenges and potential threats are diffuse and characterized by a gradual transition, or gliding scale, between national and international security, and between peace, crisis, armed conflict and war.

We live in a world characterized by globalization. Globalization implies growing interdependence between states as well as continents. Geographical distance from trouble spots no longer means security. On the contrary! Global interdependence means that ordinary people and societies may be directly affected by events that take place far away.

Threats may arise and develop rapidly and practically without any warning. Non-democratic states and non-state actors may be capable of inflicting devastating damage all around the world.

Norway may be drawn into conflicts we initially are not a part of. Several smaller conflicts may appear simultaneously, and animosities between states or political groups may evolve in new directions and spread to new geographic areas.

Fortunately, our own part of the world is characterized by a stable security situation. A new direct military threat against Norway – a threat of invasion – is very unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Central and Eastern Europe is now becoming an integrated part of the greater European security zone. The bloody conflicts in the Balkans are under control, and the door is open to the Balkans to become a peaceful part of Europe. For this we thank the UN, NATO and the EU.

Even if Europe has become a zone of peace and stability, there are new and tangible threats to the Western democracies. Our open societies are vulnerable.

Today, there is a need to expand the stability and security in Europe to neighbouring regions. From Africa, through the Middle East, to the Caucasus and South-Western and Eastern Asia, there is considerable potential for instability, crises, armed conflict and even war.

Different political groupings have proven repeatedly that they are capable of inflicting serious damage to western countries and to western interests, if they choose to do so.

From the media we know that terrorist attacks have been prevented on several occasions, in a number of countries.

There is a risk that the threat from weapons of mass destruction may be increasing. Different means of delivery might be used. Hardly any place in the world would be safe in the face of such potential threats. Also Norway has to face this reality, which means new requirements on our Armed Forces.

In summary, globalization and the variety of actors that might try to harm societies in Europe, North America, and elsewhere, mean that national security is more dependent upon international peace and security than ever before in history.

This new reality requires new approaches, new capabilities and new concepts of operation.

The Norwegian Armed Forces must adapt to this new situation. If our forces are to remain a relevant instrument in the future, our military capabilities must be usable. And usability requires transformation.

As Admiral Giambastiani, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, coined it: “ Transformation is not only an option - it’s an imperative”.

Transformation – to be continued

NATO takes this imperative seriously.

Through the reorganization of the command structure and the creation of the new NATO Response Force – NATO has already demonstrated an impressive will to go ahead. By dedicating an entire strategic command to work with transformation, the Alliance will encourage all NATO member states along that road.

Transformation is an Alliance-wide process, but it does not require the same measures from each and every nation. What we have in common is the overall goal: to have interoperable and usable forces available, when they are needed, where they are needed, and with the capabilities that are needed.

Military transformation must be comprehensive. It must cover military culture, doctrine, organization, training, manpower, logistics and facilities.

But, above all, it requires a change in our mindset. Transformation requires a willingness to explore new concepts and new ways of doing business. And we have to admit: “new thinking” will always face obstacles.

Norway has obtained a significant role in NATO’s transformation process. By hosting the Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, we have a unique opportunity to take responsibility and to contribute to this process.

The Joint Warfare Centre will promote and conduct joint and combined training and experimentation. Improved interoperability is an important objective. The same is concept development and experimentation as a basis for new doctrines.

The idea is a functional division of labour: Allied Command Transformation and the Joint Warfare Centre will plan and develop NATO’s future forces, while Allied Command Operations at SHAPE will be responsible for exercises and for running operations.

This structure and division of labour is necessary to ensure that NATO forces will be capable of facing future challenges – and adversaries of a new kind.

To avoid misunderstanding, let me make one point unambiguously clear. Transformation does not mean that our current military structure is obsolete. It means that this structure has to be adapted in order to meet new and very different requirements. As a part of that, we also have to acquire a number of new capabilities that we do not currently possess.

The restructuring we began in 2002 represents a watershed. We are now well into a transformation process that will address a large number of recognized deficiencies. This puts Norway in the forefront in the transformation of NATO.

However, a lot remains to be done. We have to keep the momentum in order to be capable of handling the security challenges of the global age.

For environmental protection “ think global, act local” has been used as a slogan. For the security needs of our time the opposite, “ think local, act global”, provides a meaningful metaphor.

This has nothing to do with a pre-emptive strategy. I would like to stress that. But it is a good metaphor for how to handle the most important security challenges of our time.

The former Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson, has expressed the same idea in different words by saying; “ Either we go to Afghanistan or Afghanistan comes to us”.

The threats to international security – not to say collective security – require that we have to be able to act together within coalitions and alliances. The notion “national security” makes little sense except within a larger framework of international security.

Norway has drawn the political consequences of that. We are now continuing the transformation of our forces to enable us to handle challenges to our own and international security, through solidarity and close co-operation with our friends and Allies.

There is an additional important and compelling reason why the Norwegian Government pushes military transformation: the necessity for Norway’s Armed Forces to be interoperable with our Allies!

If our Allies transform their forces, we have to do it as well. If not, Norway’s Armed Forces will become unable to operate together with our Allies – in Norway as well as abroad. All political forces in this country that advocate the importance of NATO for Norway’s national security, should be aware of this.

NATO remains the cornerstone for Norway’s security. Consequently, the military requirements of the Alliance are a very important part of our defence policy. Any Article 5 operation – in Norway or abroad – requires that the Alliance’s members are able to operate seamlessly and efficiently together.

Transformation is therefore important to Norwegian security also in a purely national sense, and not mainly because of our military engagements abroad.

It is a major misconception that we are transforming our forces solely to contribute to international operations. That is not the case.

If Norway ever needs support from NATO, our forces have to be interoperable with our supporters. And, if any other NATO countries need support from Norway, our forces must be interoperable with the supported forces.

To summarize: For NATO to have continued policy value and military relevance, the member states need to transform their military forces to ensure interoperability and usability.

Transformation is important to keep the alliance trustworthy and relevant.

Let me point to the operations in Afghanistan as an example. Norway could not have contributed with Special Forces and aircraft in Afghanistan if these, and their support structure, were not interoperable with the other forces in the theatre.

Transformation is also a necessity in order to fulfil our Prague Capabilities Commitments. Through PCC, Norway as well as the rest of the Alliance members, have committed themselves to work resolutely to reduce the military gap between Europe and the United States.

Norway has taken the lead in NATO to acquire one of these critical capabilities. We have succeeded in launching a multinational strategic sealift agreement that already has been signed by several nations. This is the way to go for NATO to secure critically important and expensive capabilities.

A fulfilment of the PCC is crucial to provide NATO with the required capabilities for the NATO Response Force. PCC is providing NRF with the capabilities needed to meet future challenges in a wide array of scenarios.

Norway will contribute with relevant forces of high quality to NRF – forces that will be rapidly available and usable. We will shoulder our share of the responsibility, as will our Allies.

NRF will be the driving force in NATO’s transformation, and for this reason as well, it is important that we take part fully.

To prevent any misunderstandings: the transformation process will not reduce our ability to contribute to UN operations. Interoperability among the participating nations is a must even in UN operations.

So my message is: the Defence Review will continue the transformation process of Norway’s Armed Forces. We are in the forefront of the transformation process in NATO, and we are determined to remain there.

There are some critics who claim that the UN needs “traditional” military forces of the old kind, and not the highly modern forces we are now developing. I am not sure what “traditional forces” means in this context. Regardless, it is an illusion to believe that the UN only needs lightly armed manpower on the ground, and no modern equipment.

Let me remind you that Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is a UN approved mission. The same was the case for the EU operation Artemis in Congo, and the current stabilization mission in Iraq is also a UN approved mission.

In other words, there is little reason to believe that all UN missions are low risk operations that are simply personnel intensive and do not require advanced materiel and robust force protection. On the contrary, several of the latest UN missions have proven to be high-risk operations.

Of course, traditional peacekeeping missions like in Lebanon – where Norwegian forces made an important contribution during 20 years – should not be ruled out. But let me remind you: We did have fatal casualties in UNIFIL. The notion that traditional peacekeeping was safe, while the new kind of peace operations are not, simply is not true.

In the future, we will have forces suited for all kinds of UN missions. There is no contradiction between being able to contribute to NATO operations and being able to contribute to the UN.

It is important that military forces are trained and exercised for the mission they are tasked for. They have to be trained to handle the risks and challenges they face during their mission.

Training and exercises are necessary to secure the required level of competence. They are a must for the ability to carry out any kind of military operation – wherever it is taking place.

Norway’s unique climate and geography, in a NATO-wide context, provides us with ideal training conditions for cold weather operations. Our Allies and close partners know that, and we will provide them with the necessary facilities for training and exercises under such conditions.

The set-up of a new Alliance centre for winter warfare at our National Joint Headquarters in Stavanger will be a valuable contribution to NATO’s need for appropriate training and exercise facilities.

This new Centre of Excellencefor Cold Weather Operations will also provide great benefits to our own forces. As a result, they will get highly qualified Allied forces as training partners. Most of this training will take place in North Norway.

Transformation – prioritizing the operational units

Transformation is a continuous process. However, it does not mean that we are constantly changing equipment and procedures. That would be financially impossible, inefficient and counter-productive. Continuous transformation implies that the ability and will to change is maintained, even after today’s initial focus on transformation has faded.

By making the ability to change a cultural habit, Norway’s Armed Forces will be able to adapt to new challenges in a future that we currently are unable to foresee.

I guess a number of people attending this conference had an ambition to get into shape after Christmas. At least some of you may have thought of, so to say, reducing your bodily volume. A new year, after all, is a time for resolutions.

The Armed Forces will also have to go through the very same process. But contrary to an individual who may make up excuses and delay the process, the Armed Forces have no choice: they have to get into shape.

There is no excuse, even if the process is tough and painful. There is no financial room for over-weight in the Armed Forces. We have to trim excess fat.

A few years ago, the body of the Norwegian Armed Forces was characterized by a very large head, physically over-dimensioned compared to the rest of the body. The body had a substantial weight and volume, but you could see that the mass did not contribute to efficiency, agility and mobility.

Transformation means re-shaping the military body to give it the necessary agility, punch, technique and mobility to be usable in present and future security scenarios.

So what is the status? The strategic level command of Norway’s Armed Forces has been substantially trimmed down. Our force posture has become smaller in volume but more usable.

The term “ lean and mean” is in many ways a good description. We cannot do everything, but what we do we must do well. In today’s security environment, quality is more important than quantity.

One of our important tasks is to scale down the non-operational parts of Norway’s Armed Forces to a volume and structure that is sufficient to serve a smaller but more agile operational structure.

What does this re-shaping of our military body give us, then? It means that a larger part of military funding can be directed towards investments in equipment and operations, and less towards support functions and bureaucracy.

We are well on our way in that direction already, but this trend must be reinforced and sustained. Today’s threat scenarios require new capabilities and modern equipment. We must make all necessary efforts in order to get as much operational capability out of our defence budget as possible.

Norway’s Armed Forces are in need of substantial investments. We need to upgrade and replace many elements of the existing inventory.

We have ordered new frigates and new fast patrol boats. We are upgrading our armoured personnel carriers, and we join NATO in common funding of a strategic airlift and air - to - air refuelling capacity.

Our F-16s will reach the end of their lifecycle around 2015, and we are already looking into options for a replacement.

This adds up to a substantial amount of money. Making our Armed Forces more cost-efficient is a pre-requisite for being able to shoulder these critical investments.

We can reduce the stockpiles of weapons and ammunition that we acquired for the former large mobilization army, but these savings are needed for new capabilities.

Furthermore, we must implement modern administrative and logistical tools to reduce the bureaucratic costs. We will continue to reduce the number of personnel and the infrastructure that are not required in order to produce operational capability.

The Armed Forces have already reduced the costs and increased the efficiency in their handling of salaries, by centralizing this function to Harstad. All invoices are now handled from Bergen, with reduced costs and increased efficiency. But the process of reducing costs related to administrative and support functions has only started.

Increased cost-efficiency means reducing the base structure, although there are only minor adjustments ahead of us this time. The major restructuring in this field has already taken place.

Transformation – new personnel requirements

To make our military forces more usable, we need fundamental changes in the military employment laws and regulations.

Under the present legal regime, commissioned officers are employed until their retirement age. The result has been an officer corps with an average age and average rank substantially higher than desired. Instead of a pyramid, we have something like a cylinder.

The operational units at the sharp end need younger, well-qualified and experienced officers. We need an employment regime that opens up for flexible rotation and a better distribution of burdens than the present personnel regime.

We must create a system that makes it possible and beneficial for officers to leave the military ranks in their mid-thirties. Once active service in the operational units has ended, the Armed Forces simply cannot offer useful employment to all officers at staff level.

At that age the officers leaving are still young enough to be attractive on the civilian labour marked. We must also provide them with a good opportunity for further education. The Defence Review will describe in more detail how this may be done.

Finally, there is one more important legal framework that needs to be changed if our Armed Forces are to be fully usable. We need a legal basis to order commissioned officers to take part in international peace operations and other missions that fall outside the scope of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Today, all international operations except Article 5 operations are based on volunteers. Normally that is no problem, but we have experienced situations in which Norway was unable to participate with the required forces due to a lack of volunteers.

Put simply, the lack of one officer with indispensable expertise could block Norwegian participation in a particular operation. In fact, we could risk that Norway becomes unable to field forces approved by Parliament and already committed by the Government.

An officer could thus practically veto a parliamentary decision. As a nation we cannot live with that kind of uncertainty.

Norway needs reliable Armed Forces, forces that are able to deploy and operate where and when needed. Our Armed Forces are a vital tool of security policy. Our commissioned officers must accept this.

However, participation in international operations will continue to be based mainly on volunteers. Direct orders to participate will remain the exception.

During the Cold War we were pretty sure that we would obtain a strategic warning that would enable us to mobilize and prepare for a major attack. That is not the case today. We have seen how international terrorism may strike without warning.

Therefore, we need a sufficient number of fully manned and equipped units that are ready to deploy rapidly without prior additional training or preparation. To fulfil these requirements, we need to adjust the manning of these units, including an increased use of enlisted personnel.

Conscription will still provide the main basis for recruiting soldiers and officers to the Armed Forces, and remains a vital instrument to ensure a close link between the Armed Forces and society.

In 2001, Parliament decided that the needs of the Armed Forces should decide how many conscripts are required each year. Furthermore, the Armed Forces should be able to choose the best.

It remains an important political objective to have as many men and women as possible to serve as conscripts in the Armed Forces each year. However, the Armed Forces cannot spend substantial financial resources on training conscripts that are not needed.

Therefore, to properly compensate those who do serve, financial and other benefits must be adjusted. The Defence Review puts particular emphasis on this. We must ensure that service as a conscript is both meaningful and rewarding.

That is the most essential, according to the conscripts themselves, not that the majority of all potential conscripts are called upon to serve.

By reforming the officer career system, the educational system, and adjusting the number of enlisted personnel, the transformation of our Armed Forces will take a big step forward.

Transformation means cooperation

Transformation is not only a process involving the military structure. It is also a process involving closer and deeper defence cooperation with other nations and international organisations.

During the past decade, Norway has extended and strengthened the cooperation with our Nordic neighbours in several military areas. Today, what we have labelled our North Sea Strategy is at the forefront.

In particular, we want to go into a very close operational co-operation with Denmark, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Germany. The synergy of more integrated units and a division of labour will be significant.

To give you an example: When 18 Norwegian, Danish and Dutch F-16s operated together over Afghanistan, a common support structure made it possible for each nation to provide only one third of what otherwise would have been needed. This kind of co-operation represents the way of the future.

To compensate for limited resources, we seek to achieve relevance and usability through the North Sea Strategy and other cooperation agreements. Increased division of labour and specialization among particularly close allied partners, seem to me as the right way to go.

An additional rational is that close multinational co-operation may give us access to advanced military capabilities that we are unable to acquire on our own. The North Sea strategy, therefore, may have important benefits also for our ability to handle tasks at home.

This way of thinking in terms of strengthened multinational cooperation is also a part of the transformation process.


The coming Defence Review aims at a steady continuation of the ongoing transformation process.

This process comprises both the individual and organisational ability to adapt to a changing environment. It is a process that seeks to make the ability to adapt into an inherent part of our military culture. It is a process that involves strengthened co-operation with our Allies and strategic partners.

And that in itself is a good thing.

Thank you for your attention.