New NATO Young Professionals Report

4th annual Young Professionals Day, March 24, 2015ACT Young Professionals Day is an annual, solutions-oriented exercise hosted by Allied Command Transformation (ACT) alongside the NATO Transformation Seminar (NTS). This year’s event was hosted in partnership with the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, and built on the success of the previous three YP Day events by convening sixty rising leaders, aged thirty-five and under, from across the NATO Alliance. The goal of YP Day 2015 was to engage the next generation of leaders in the process of producing creative and practical solutions to key NATO challenges….

Throughout the day, participants engaged with peers from around the world and senior thought leaders assigned to their working groups. The day opened with remarks from NATO-ACT Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Policy, Brigadier General Matthew L. Brand, and a keynote address from NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Jean-Paul Paloméros, who issued the delegates’ call-to-action—to produce innovative ideas that advance NATO’s mission in the evolving, modern global security environment….

Over the course of the event, a number of common themes emerged from every group’s discussions and suggestions. These themes were often developed or explained relative to each group’s specific topic, but they all shared similar sentiments. The most prominent recurring themes are listed below.

Joint Measures within NATO
One extremely common theme that arose in every group was a desire for greater cooperation between NATO member nations. While NATO has worked toward such a sentiment for its entire lifespan, the delegates felt that it should focus on a few specific areas. The first and most frequently mentioned was increased efforts for joint procurement, which every group felt would yield substantial practical and diplomatic benefits. Each group also independently stress the importance of joint asset ownership, and greater efforts to increase interoperability.

Adoption of Best Practices from Innovative Organizations
Each group stressed the numerous benefits for NATO in interacting with and acquiring best practices from innovative organizations. The suggestions for achieving this goal differed from group to group, but each agreed that NATO should seek out experts from such organizations. It was thought that the inclusion of innovative practices and thinking from outside the traditional NATO community would be necessary for NATO to address unconventional threats.

Further Integration with Other International Organizations and the Private Sector
Many groups decided that NATO should focus on greater cooperation with other international organizations which it overlaps with ideologically, politically, geographically, or simply in terms of its goals and functions, as well as with industrial and financial actors in the private sector. Such coordination would reduce duplication of efforts and materials, and allow for greater resource pooling and allocation. Some candidates for cooperation included the European Union, the United Nations, the African Union, OSCE, and ASEAN. The infusion of private-sector interests and investments would increase NATO’s capacity to invest in new technologies and expand its current military capabilities, while allowing NATO to establish common standards across producers, which would enhance interoperability. Potential private-sector partners included companies from the military-industrial sector and venture capitalists.

Improved Strategic Communications
NATO needs to aggressively develop its strategic-communication capabilities. It is important for NATO to effectively disseminate a compelling narrative that is capable of forging stronger relationships within the NATO Alliance but also without, with partner nations and unaffiliated populations. Strategic communications were also identified as a critical tool to overcome the hybrid-warfare challenge and keep NATO relevant. Specifically, delegates identified improved social-media capabilities as a low-cost way to achieve a wide variety of outcomes, including controlling the narrative and pursuing public diplomacy both inside of and outside of the Alliance’s borders.

Image: 4th annual Young Professionals Day, March 24, 2015