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Rapid response on NATO agenda during Norfolk, Virginia conference

By Mahogany Waldon, Antonio Garland and Richelle Hammiel

Supreme Allied Command Transformation Gen. Denis Mercier speaking with journalists following NATO's COTC15 opening panel discussions. Photo by Tykhari Coles

Supreme Allied Command Transformation Gen. Denis Mercier speaking with journalists following NATO’s COTC15 opening panel discussions. Photo by Tykhari Coles

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) brought its annual Chief of Transformation Conference to the Norfolk Waterside Marriott in Norfolk, Virginia from Tuesday, Dec. 8, through Thursday, Dec. 10.  The conference highlighted the goals and plans for NATO’s Allied Command Transformation (ACT), which is one of two NATO Strategic Commands (SCs). Located in Norfolk, the ACT is the only permanent NATO headquarters outside of Europe.

All 28 of NATO’s allied nations were present which included attendees and military officials from countries including the United States, the U.K., Jordan, Sweden, Estonia, and France.

Wednesday’s events began around 8 a.m. with a video keynote address from Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow.

“This conference is an opportunity to connect and exchange views and collaborate,” Vershbow said.

Following the keynote address, attendees of the conference were able to enjoy two panel discussions. The first discussion entitled “The Road to Warsaw” (that included commentary from the conference’s host Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Denis Mercier of France) was a discussion on the steps NATO will take as it plans for its Warsaw Summit in 2016 that will take place in Warsaw, Poland.

Much of the panel discussion was focused on the strategies that needed to be reinforced and implemented from NATO’s 2014 Wales Summit. According to NATO’s Defense Policy and Capabilities Director Timo Koster, there were three main takeaways from the Wales Summit.

“NATO requires access to Russia’s full approach to its military capabilities both conventional and nuclear, a principal choice needed to be made in NATO’s rapid reinforcement, and a balance is needed between commanders and political oversight,” Koster said.

The second panel discussion was entitled “The Changing Face of Warfare.” At this panel, all members of the panel spoke in depth about topics ranging from the strong need to maintain alliances or partners to cyber capability.

The first speaker Lieutenant General Jeff Lofgren, Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS), stated that future threats are evolving fast.  This has proved to be true in light of recent terrorist attacks.

In order for NATO to improve its responsiveness, which is one of the largest issues of NATO, there must be efficient interaction between all NATO members and allies to eliminate any confusion that could prevent them from being prepared for warfare.

Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Denis Mercier told Spartan Echo reporters about the importance of NATO including its rapid decision making process.

“The rapid response decision-making process is not always easy. There are 28 countries within NATO. The process has been the key of success for the Alliance. This process also maintains unity within the Alliance and improves cooperation with all nations,” Gen. Mercier told the Echo.

Most recently, NATO utilized its rapid decision making process, which includes having NATO members on the same page when it comes to defense, in the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13.

General Mercier said that the defensive alliance was a way to assure that all members of the alliance and parties are made aware of defense strategies.

In regards to NATO’s future plans up through 2030, Mercier said “We have to look at the big picture. Because of the trends we are facing, everything leads us to deal with the short term.”

For more information on the Spartan Echo’s participation in the conference, please read