Smart Defence. A new Planning Approach of National and Regional Defence Capabilities

Essay, 2018

12 Pages, Grade: PhD



“Smart Defence

– A new Planning Approach of National and Regional Defence Capabilities”

- Introduction

- The Basics of Smart Defence

- Smart Defence – A National and Regional Approach

- Some conclusions and challenges ahead

- Bibliography


There are different perceptions about “Smart Defence”. Some are very ambitious, some others are sceptical. Many say that our Balkan region is still immature for such smart projects, and that it is practical for more developed regions with a happy history.

The authors of this article open this ‘food for thoughts’ debate for the research community of defence and security in the Balkans. They promote open discussions on what could be ‘smart defense’ areas at national, multinational and regional level.

The authors try to give answers to several questions: how to develop more capabilities with less resources? How to further prioritize the priorities? How to specialize in niche capabilities we can afford? How to promote multinational approaches and develop regional capabilities to face regional threats, and how to share and pool many of capabilities at regional level?

One thing is sure: the idea of going smart in this time of austerity is in the agenda of all defence organizations of all allied countries, and nobody can avoid that easily. On the other side, the idea of going smart is to be difficult especially when we go from theory to practice, so it will face time, energy and decision making difficulties.

The smart defence was one of the pillars in the agenda of Chicago summit and is expected to be one of the hot topics for the next years to come. The authors encourage independent experts and other civil and military researchers to provide their ‘for and against’ positions about smart defence in the Balkan region.

Key words: smart defence, niche capabilities, prioritization, specialization, multinational approaches, new security environment, restricted budgets, regional challenges, national sovereignty, new security challenges, NATO and EU integration, policy, political will, etc.


“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”[1].

This smart maxim of the late Steve Jobs is very meaningful with concerns of changes and transformation in an organization, especially international ones. This is a universal axiom; it is valid for all areas of reforms and transformation of the society. It is also relevant to security and defence.

This research project about Smart Defence is conducted at a time when the market is plenty of Smart things. We have heard among others: Smart Technology; Smart Solutions; Smart Phone; Smart System; Smart Card; Smart Programs; Smart Procurements; Smart Logistics; Smart Weapons or Smart Bombs; and last but not least Smart Defence, which is the main topic of my presentation today, with a focus in our region.

Why Smart Defence? Good question! We know that the Alliance and all allied countries live in a time for substantial changes. Other countries outside the Alliance are not excluded. The financial crisis is giving considerable impacts to the defence budgets of all European countries in the last years, especially after 2008.

During the last two years, almost all European Allied countries have decreased their defence spending. They have spent in total 48 billion USD less than in previous years, while the US defence budget was grown from 50 % to 75 % of the total NATO expenditures. Also, only 4 out of 28 NATO countries reach the target of 2% of National GDP agreed by NATO. On the other side, we see China increasing the defence budget 3 times in the last decade, India 60 %, and Russia 25 %, etc. “The Alliance - SecGen Rasmussen said - should not go from the financial crisis to a security crisis”; this would be unacceptable.

The central question of Smart Defence is how to develop more defence capabilities with the same or less resources? How to further prioritize the priorities? How to specialize in niche capabilities we can afford? How to promote multinational approaches and develop regional capabilities to face regional threats, and how to ‘ pool and share’ some of capabilities at regional level? And, how to find innovative solutions different from traditional ones.

Smart questions that require smart answers. So, when adopted, Smart Defence is going to be in itself a significant change in the defence policy of our countries. Instead of ‘ going alone’, it is a ‘ going together’ approach of doing some defence businesses.

There are different perceptions about “Smart Defence”. Some researchers are very ambitious, some others are sceptical. Many say that our Balkan region is still immature for such smart projects, and that it is practical for more developed regions with a happy history, such as Nordic, Baltic or other regions. Also, some others say that Smart Defence might be important for NATO as a whole, some say it is relevant only to big NATO countries, and some others say it might be effective for all allied countries, either they are big or small.

One thing is sure: the idea of going smart in this time of financial austerity is in the agenda of all defence organizations of all allied countries, and nobody can avoid that easily. Most researchers say that, in this time of growing globalization, it is expected to be the trend for the future.

In our opinion, smart defence is an option for all countries, and for all regions which have some common goals and interests. Especially now, when the conventional state-to-state confrontations are no longer in the list of immediate threats, we have to think about common threats of a transnational or regional character. Now, most of our regional countries are either EU and allied countries, or aspirants, or partners. It is a new era of cooperation.

Frankly speaking “smart defence” in our region is at the very initial phase, we have very small ‘smart’ examples at regional level. Why? Because Smart Defence projects, first and foremost, require a high level of mutual trust and confidence of the countries involved. Defence, especially, is a very sensitive issue to share when trust and confidence is missing, because you have to share key aspects of your national security. One key question is in the agenda: Are our regional countries prepared for that step ahead? Other countries of various regions have already developed several tools of smart cooperation, such as the France-UK Cooperation, the Baltic Experience, the Vishegrad country cooperation, the EU Battlegroups, the Center of Excellences, and so on and so forth.

The Basics of Smart Defence

The essence of “smart defence” is not about how to spend more or how to spend less; it is how to spend better, under the NATO SecGen slogan: Prioritize, specialize, and provide multinational solutions”.

Initiated in Lisbon in 2010, the Smart Defence was one of the pillars in the agenda of Chicago summit 2012, and is expected to be one of the hot topics for the next years to come. A package of 24 Smart Projects out of 150 smart solutions, identified by ACT together with all allied countries, is now under negotiation or implementation. Initially, Albania planned to be part of 8 multinational solutions and is still working on this effort .

In our opinion, ‘smart defence’ may have a specific approach for our region. The Balkans is a region of small countries with a total of about 550,000 km2 and a population of over 60 million people. We initiated with the Vilnius group after the Washington summit, later we continued with the A3 Initiative with the US in May 2003 with 3 countries (Albania, Croatia and Macedonia). From October 2008, we are 5, together with Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later we expect to be more.

All our countries have and will have pressure to national budgets; there is no doubt that pressures to defense budget will not be excluded. Our small regional countries cannot develop all required capabilities on their own. There is an urgent need for new solutions. Being flexible and pragmatic, away from being conformist and traditional, are two key elements of a smart defense. A new vision should be developed; a new mentality should be articulated. Capabilities we cannot afford at national level, could be developed together, following the best practice of other regions.

Of course, going smart in defence in our region is much easier in theory than in practice. In this evolutionary effort, we need to overcome some historic traditional barriers for security services and the armed forces. Now, I believe our region is in a more favourable position than several years ago for smart choices and solutions. In order to start with ‘smart solutions’, we need first, smart ideas to convince our political masters, and second, we need political will. “Where there is a will, there is a way”, is a n old saying in almost all our languages. In my opinion, the glass is going half full.

Smart Defence – A National and Regional Approach

In order to be more practical, I have explored some of the priority areas we can apply a ‘ smart defence’ in our countries and in the Balkan region/ A5 community or other formats:

First , we have to follow a ‘smart defence’ approach at national level. If we do not start at national level, we can not go to regional level. When building national capabilities, we should avoid parallel capabilities in the armed forces, police, information services, border control units, customs services, etc. We cannot develop a bit of everything and everywhere. We need to prioritize, and now under the ‘smart defence’, we need to further prioritize the priorities. Studies have shown that there are still many duplications of national capabilities of the security institutions in land, air and maritime areas. Small countries of the region cannot afford maintaining or building national capabilities with almost the same mission in different national security institutions.

Second , ‘smart defence’ is about development of most critical capabilities through elimination of surpluses, obsolete capabilities, or units of low frequency use. The concept of usability is a primary test for future forces. Again, we cannot afford to maintain military units which belong to the past and do not resist to the existing or expected security situations. As Secretary Rasmussen rightly argues “Our guiding principle should be to cut fat, and build up muscle [2]. SSDR is the right tool to identify surpluses of “fat” and shortages of “muscles”. This is a lessons learned from the history.

Third , we need to develop a ‘smart defence’ concept at regional level. We together should build a new mentality for a better cooperation in the area of joint and common capabilities needed to face common threats and risks to the region. In the emerging security situation, no country in the region can develop all required capabilities to deal with the full spectrum of threats we are facing today and tomorrow. Where necessary, ‘regionalization’ of some defence capabilities, based on NATO standards, is a smarter choice to be considered by all our countries. The best security is shared security”, sais Secretary Rasmussen[3].

Forth , we need a ‘smart defence’ for the development of collective defence capabilities of NDPP (NATO Defence Planning Process). This ‘ smart defence’ has to do with the implementation of the Partnership Goals, Force Goals, or Capability Targets of our countries. This is a very important area of cooperation. NATO is in the transition phase of the NDPP and NATO Forces 2020, and we should take advantage of this period to develop the capabilities we need for Article 5 or Non-Article 5 contribution. To build more and spend less, we can establish a regional framework for the development of specific Partnership Goals, Force Goals or Capability Targets. The best practice to follow is to develop a SEEBRIG-type unit or the EU Battle-group example under the “single set of forces concept

Five , we need a ‘smart defence’ with regard to joint participation in NATO/EU/UN or Coalition led missions. Joint participation in NATO-led operations, based on the experience of A3 Joint Medical team and the current POMLT case in ISAF. Going together in operations is much better and cheaper than going alone . This is an area of great interest for all of our regional countries.

Six , we need a ‘smart defence’ with special focus on the development of some specialized niche capabilities. All our countries have traditional units and specialties, for which NATO is in real need. What NATO and EU need from our countries today are not mechanized or motorized battalions; they are in need for EOD, C-IED, MP, OMLT, POMLT, CIMIC, PRT teams, and other small specialized capabilities, which can be better provided by smaller nations .

Seven , we need a ‘smarter defence’ with regard to Civil Emergencies. Civil Emergency is the primary area for cooperation and development of joint capabilities, especially with neighbouring countries; bilaterally, multilaterally or regionally . The last years, Albania had both a flood and a fire crisis situation and several regional countries helped our country. We are committed to do the same, and we should continue this approach of helping each other in these cases.

Eight, we need a ‘smart defence’ through applying a ‘pooling and sharing’ approach at bilateral, multilateral and regional level, where possible. Pooling &Sharing could be a better way to develop capabilities which overcome the possibilities of our individual nations, such as a Regional Airspace Management System, such as BRAD (Balkan Region Air Defence), a Regional Air Policing System. Also, none of our countries is able to develop Strategic Airlift or other highly expensive capabilities, but we can work on alternative approaches based on national, regional, or collective level.

Nine, we need a ‘smart defence’ in support of the Education and Training, Infrastructure and Maintenance. Where necessary, ‘pooling & sharing’ some of the national training and education institutions, is a very efficient tool to get closer our armed forces, and save considerable spending . The efforts made so far are to be appreciated, but this is the largest area for ‘smarter projects’ in our region to be further explored by the experts. Among others, Albania has made available a Senior Regional Course on Security and Defence, successful so far.

Pooling & sharing can be further extended when building and using the capabilities of existing and future Regional Centres of Excellence, or Facilities for Training and Exercises of regional countries. I think all countries should provide a menu of national capacities for regional use .

Using infrastructure, maintenance and logistics capabilities of countries at bilateral, multilateral and regional level is another area of smart cooperation. For example, for a small region such as the Balkans, instead of having separate capabilities in all regional countries, we can use at a regional level destruction sites of excess ammunitions, or repair and maintenance factories, ship-building and shipyard facilities, and many other services. Communication is another area of interest to promote interoperability of our forces.

Ten, but not the least, ‘Smart Defence’ is not completed without the Research and Development element. We cannot find smart solutions without research and development in our defence institutions. Smart solutions require smart peoples and smart defence organizations based on knowledge and innovation practices. In my opinion, R&D in the security and defence area should become a new element in the agenda of cooperation among our regional countries.

We identified only ten areas of a smart defence approach in our region. Of course, there may be tens of others to be explored and discussed in different formats. We have provided a “food for thoughts” paper with some conclusions and challenges ahead related to Smart Defence in our region.

Some conclusions and challenges ahead:

- SD application requires first of all a strong political will at national and regional level and new legal arrangements (MOU);

- SD may require short, mid and long term solutions. First, we can accept the concept and then explore the areas of common interests;

- SD Capabilities, we cannot afford at national level, could be developed together. A good example to be followed is the successful approach of the Baltic countries;

- SD is a big change in the national defence policy; as such it should be reflected in the National Security and Military Strategies of our countries, and in SDR (Strategic Defence Review).

- SD may be further extended to a broader ‘ Smart Security’ agenda at national and regional level, as Security and Defence are interrelated topics which cannot be separated.

- SD projects will positively affect the improvement of the security and political solidarity in the bilateral, multilateral and regional level;

Challenges of Smart Defence

- Smart D: change of mentality and mindset on the sovereignty of the regional countries: a balance between national sovereignty and shared sovereignty and solidarity for some security and defence capabilities;

- Smart D: a better coordination of defence reforms among the regional countries and political will for sharing the sovereignty in Smart Projects;

- Smart D: a long term investment in the area of training and education, and promotion of research and development and innovative methods;

- Smart D: review and integration of parallel capabilities in the security institutions in air, sea and land, training and education, logistic and infrastructure;

- Smart D: introduction of the services of the third parties in defence and security, as well as private companies and services;

- Smart D: It should be adopted not for the sake of the SD concept, but for projects with special shared expertise, interest and benefit;

- Smart D: Mid and long term projects which guaranty the maturity of our region in order that the investment is useful;


- NATO Strategic Concept, Approved by the Heads of States and Government of the Alliance, Lisbon Summit 2010

- Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speech at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, 30 September 2011

- General Stephane Abrial, Speech at Defence Ministerial meeting, October 5-6 in Brussels.

- Foreign Affairs, “The Atlantic Alliance in Austere Times, NATO After Libya”, July/August 2011 edition, Anders Fogh Rasmussen,

- “The New Strategic Concept – Three different perspectives”, NATO Defence College ‘Vox Collegii’ Magazine, January 2011.

- “Security policy in an era of budgetary constraint'', 21 Jun. 2010. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speech at the conference of the Security and Defense Agenda in Brussels

Chicago Summit Declaration, Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Chicago on 20 May 2012

[1] Steve Jobs’ famous question to John Sculley, former Apple CEO

[2] Secretary Rasmussen, Munich Security Conference, February 2011

[3] Secretary Rasmussen, speech at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, 30 September 2011

Excerpt out of 12 pages


Smart Defence. A new Planning Approach of National and Regional Defence Capabilities
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Thimi Hudhra (Author), 2018, Smart Defence. A new Planning Approach of National and Regional Defence Capabilities, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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