From Ivo H. Daalder, U.S. Mission to NATO:  [W]hile Europeans don’t spend enough on defense, they also don’t spend efficiently. Europe’s $300 billion annual budget, as former Secretary Gates said, “if allocated wisely and strategically, could buy a significant amount of usable military capability.  Instead, the results are significantly less than the sum of the parts.”

Our European Allies support pooling and sharing—in theory. In practice defense cooperation remains far too rare among European states. Pooling and sharing takes a back seat to domestic defense industries, which are used to bolster economies and employment. Long term capabilities and security are sacrificed in the interests of short-term economic gain. 

Consider the forty-plus specific proposals made by NATO’s Allied Command Transformation to improve multinational cooperation among the Allies. Projects like armored reconnaissance vehicles or jammers against remotely controlled IED’s. To date the Allies have followed through on only fourteen of these recommendations.

The problem is that Europe is content to depend on the US for core defense capabilities. Last year’s operation in Libya only accentuated the growing capability gap, as the US provided 75 percent of all intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets and flew 75 percent of aerial refueling missions. In addition, we provided the bulk of trained targeteers, and sold precision guided munitions to our Allies after their inadequate stockpiles had rapidly depleted. If the operation had gone on much longer, it would have been increasingly difficult to sustain. 

So the problem is clear. But what is the solution? To spend more and spend smarter, we need to know exactly where our money is going. 

In this sense, the solution is to create what we might call a NATO Force 2020—a clear picture of NATO in the year 2020, with all the capabilities necessary to confront modern and future threats. By defining and building a NATO Force 2020, we can align NATO’s forces with its new Strategic Concept. That’s the document created at the last Summit in Lisbon to chart NATO’s course over the next decade. The next Summit in Chicago is the chance to make NATO Force 2020 a reality. There we can steer NATO’s evolution over the next eight years, making the Strategic Concept more than a vision. At the core of NATO Force 2020 should stand the NATO Response Force, ready and able to meet future challenges. Even as countries spend less on defense, the NRF can be an agent for focused transformation. A capable NRF will shift the burden of security from any one Ally to the collective as a whole, ensuring NATO responds quickly and effectively if and when needed.

But this capability can only be obtained with commitments to common efforts in other areas. Let me mention three. First, a commitment to NATO intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets. . . . Second, realistic training and exercises should be an integral part of NATO Force 2020. . . . Third, role specialization is another important way forward for a resource-constrained Alliance. . . .

I’ve explained today why NATO must reform. I’ve submitted that we expect more from our European Allies. And I’ve suggested some goals for NATO’s evolution and for European investment. But as President Obama said, the underlying truth that led to NATO’s creation over sixty years ago remains relevant today. In a dangerous world, Europe and America are safer together – and so is the rest of the world.

Excerpts from Remarks to U.S. Army Europe Senior Leader’s Forum by U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo H. Daalder, "Europe’s Strategic Importance to America Security."  (photo: U.S. State Department)