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Characteristics of the future: NATO hosts annual Chiefs of Transformation Conference in Norfolk

At a dedicated event alongside the Chiefs of Transformation Conference 2017, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Denis Mercier, hosted a ceremony to establish the relationship between NATO and its 25th Centre of Excellence – the Security Force Assistance Centre of Excellence based in Rome, Italy. Photo courtesy of NATO ACT, Norfolk, Virginia.

by Malik Glaspie

“The rapidly changing, complex security environment, will continue to be the main driver for NATO’s adaptation efforts,” said General Denis Mercier in his introduction to NATO ACT’s annual Chiefs of Transformation Conference in Norfolk, Virginia on Dec. 12-14 at the downtown Norfolk Marriott hotel.

On December 17, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) once again hosted its annual Strategic Foresight Analysis report in Norfolk. The report revolved around five syndicate topics; after speeches at the opening plenary, guests went to multiple rooms for syndicate topic discussions.

One of the syndicate topics was more effective decision making. The focus of this syndicate was to collaborate ideas and input on how to make NATO more unified and in sync when it comes to decision making. Several military personnel, as well as civilians, began discussion on several challenges of decision making such as getting out of older ways of thinking, education, utilizing technology and learning to do without technology. Throughout the discussion, the syndicate group had much to say about the necessity of technology and how generations, young and older, can find a common ground in using technology for better decision making.

“The future is not old military men, it’s millennials. If you don’t understand millennials, then we can’t understand how to change or how to make decisions. They’re less secure, they’re less resilient, they’re less independent, and they’re less social,” said Jay Paxton, Deputy of Strategic Communications for NATO ACT. “On the bright side, they’re very bright, highly educated, they want more access to information and they rely on technology a lot more than we do. So, when we look at who makes decisions in the process, we need to involve our subordinates.”

After a buffet lunch, a press conference with local college students was held by ACT Command Senior Jack Johnson, Air Marshall Graham Stacey and Admiral Manfred Neilson, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of HQ NATO SACT. The first of the three speakers, Senior Jack Johnson, gave a descriptive overview of his military career with NATO, NATO’s main objectives, and NATO’s relationships in foreign countries.

The next speaker, Air Marshal Sir Graham Stacey, urged reporters that despite how some may label NATO as warmongers its main goal is about “preserving unity and how to maintain cohesion.” The Air Marshall also spoke of NATO’s ideals of preventing future conflict.

“If you want to prevent war, you have to be ready to engage in it,” Sir Stacey said.

Lastly, Admiral Manfred Neilson spoke on what NATO stands for worldwide and its diplomatic relationship with Russia and other adversary nations. Admiral Neilson suggested a severity of conditions that could lead to war. However, Admiral Neilson alluded to the fact that “this isn’t the Cold War” and that NATO is focusing on other priorities, rather than preparing for war.