Outcome Report: GLOBSEC 2022 Bratislava Forum Defence Roundtable

Prior to the main programme of this year’s GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum, a high-level closed-door event was held on the side-lines of the main agenda. Continuing the long-standing tradition, the Defence Roundtable featured a constructive and forward-looking discussion on the most pressing defence topics. The discussion was organised in partnership cooperation with the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic and George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. This annual tradition was held for the first time on a GLOBSEC Boat, a special venue for the 2022 edition of the Forum. The debate touched upon latest developments in the European defence cooperation, with the involvement of key stakeholders from the military, Ministries of Defence, NATO, EU entities, and leaders from the private sector. Two main panels, one dedicated to future procurement and one to multi-domain operations, were discussed, with the emphasis on the influence of the war in Ukraine. Furthermore, expert panels also debated the need for a closer link between the public and private sectors, as more intimate cooperation of the two sectors represents one of the guiding aims of the Roundtable.

Session 1 – How does the imminent threat on the Alliance’s borders influence future procurement?

Led by

  • Marcin Zaborowski, Policy Director, Future of Security Programme, GLOBSEC Policy Institute

Speakers

  • Marian Majer, State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic
  • Lela Chikovani, First Deputy Defence Minister of Georgia
  • Ralph Ketzel, CEO, KMW
  • Krasimira Stoyanova, Vice President, Head of CEE, SAAB

Summary points – Session 1

  • Crises are good springboards for development. It is crucial to better understand the security setting and its implications and improve foresight compared to 2008 and 2014, when major security situations caught decision-makers by surprise. Discussions on procurement have been hard to communicate and explain to the general public in recent years. But now, it is time to open these debates and to understand that we stand on the frontline.
  • Peace in Ukraine and stabilized transatlantic communities are the main goals. With the help of Allies and the help of industry, all actors must strive for this overarching goal. It is crucial to balance the political will and the readiness to provide support. The discussion on solutions and assistance that can be provided should remain active and open.
  • The need for transparency and urgency must be balanced in the procurement process. Having defence equipment stocks is crucial, as revealed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But national defence investments have been underfunded for years. The only way out is the proposed European solution of common funding. Member states cannot be solely responsible for the defence investment. A key aspect of the process is diversification of the market in order to achieve transparent procurement.
  • Modernization of the procurement system is needed. The first step is to set clear priorities throughout Europe. The debate between the private and public sectors about procurement is between those who need it and those who can provide it. The system’s structure is very antiquated in all the European countries and, therefore, not responding promptly. Consequently, efficiency is the key. A full armament across all the domains of defence is not sustainable for the future. Instead, a more viable solution is joint procurement programmes to achieve the desired policy objectives.
  • Defence needs are based on threats. The capabilities we develop and obtain need to address those threats to sustain peace. However, despite the unpopularity of the concept, to sustain peace, it is necessary to be ready for war at all times, because many European counties currently live under the spectre of imminent threat. History has confirmed that whatever happens on the borders of one country will not remain isolated; it will spill over. For this reason, we need fast deliveries from businesses and secured supply chains, which requires investment.
  • Comprehensive trainings are crucial to sustaining the resistance. It is not enough to deliver material and military equipment if the technology cannot be operated. Early training of military personnel at all levels (operators to generals) is the key to ensuring that modern technologies are used correctly.

Session 2 – The Ukraine War, Multi-Domain Operations, and 21st Century Security

Led by

  • John Barter, Senior Vice President, GLOBSEC

Speakers

  • Jonathan Hoyle, Vice President & Chief Executive Europe, Lockheed Martin
  • Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, 4th President of the Republic of Croatia
  • Colonel Jon Byrom, Commander of the 2nd Multi-Domain Task Force, U.S. Army

Summary points – Session 2

  • The way we do defence business needs to change. This requires a transformation of mindsets, procedures, procurement and processes. Additionally, there is a need for structured planning in order to ensure sustainable procurement for enhanced capabilities. This notion is crucial for countries transitioning from eastern to western procedures and models; this is an important step to take to adapt faster and ensure interoperability.
  • We closed the capability gap; now, we need to close the gap in spending. Investments and defence budgets are increasing, but more strategic planning is required. Defence spending should not only depend on the end of the fiscal year but have a long-term strategy on what capabilities have to be stocked and what equipment needs modernization. Priorities must be re-ordered, and investment in innovation, research and development must be at the forefront.
  • The conventional domains are essential, but the “new” frontiers should be prioritized. Apart from land, air and sea, the cyber and space domains should be treated with great urgency. Territorial conquest and territorial aggression that we are now experiencing may seem like a return to the basics, however, it is more complex. The new domains should not be overlooked as they are not excluded in this conflict either. The traditional domains may be emphasized, but the new ones, such as information warfare and cyberspace, are clearly playing a role in the war in Ukraine.
  • Public-private partnerships will be the driver of innovation. The link between both spheres will drive innovation and competition in the private sector. The mindset must change regarding these partnerships and the investments into R&D. The focus should be on purposeful spending, which often falls victim to fiscal rules. Because of the procedures in place, governments will aim to increase the spending close to the year´s end to ensure a promised spending target is achieved. Meanwhile, R&D remains hugely under-invested since it is one of the spheres that requires mentioned long-term planning and investment.
  • Multi-domain operations (MDO) must better incorporate cyber, space and information domains. The MDO must include MDO Reconnaissance, MDO Targeting, and MDO Synchronisation to work properly and best achieve mission success. The question is how this can be achieved under the umbrella of NATO and its 30 members. MDO is difficult to synchronize because of classification issues between the domains, interoperability of the Allies and partners, the capabilities available and their synchronisation. MDO is the future of warfare since the emerging technologies, automation, and networks will increase the complexity and dynamics of future battlefields.
  • Interoperability is fundamental. It allows the commanders and the soldiers to receive the right orders, be in the right place, and take down the right target in the heat of theatre action. The networks are the connection between the domains. Operation systems, networks and platforms need to be interoperable. A successful integration and access across all domains will ensure credible deterrence.

1 year of the Future Security Defence Council

GLOBSECs Future Security and Defence Council was launched at the 2021 Defence Roundtable. Following up on the year’s work, the final report “Adaptive Portfolio: Catalysing NATO’s Performance Through Innovation” was introduced and presented by Council members President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Marcel Grisnigt, Senior Vice President, Chief Corporate Development and Integration Officer at KNDS

The project focused on defence innovation, geoeconomics, and technological competition. The research work of the Council began before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has since introduced a new security dynamic in Europe. The war highlighted the three critical concepts of the final study: the intensifying systemic competition, which illustrates an all-encompassing paradigm shift; the rise of geoeconomics, defined as the projection of economic power within and across the domains; the breakdown of inter-alliance consensus over strategic priorities.

Approaching the NATO Madrid Summit 2022, the work of the Council underlined the gaps in NATO’s innovative potential and proposed a set of concrete recommendations for the decision-makers of NATO and its Allies and the subsequent Strategic Concept outlined below:

  • The Alliance needs to align defence innovation with economic security;
  • NATO needs to advocate what kind of innovation it wants and needs;
  • NATO’s innovation needs have to be underpinned by a resilient innovation ecosystem;
  • Defence innovation has to be pushed to the frontline;
  • To garner persistent support and ensure maximum leeway, NATO needs to change the way it does business.

The initiative will continue beyond the NATO Summit and will answer to the current security environment by addressing the issues of re-learning deterrence and ensuring resilience for the future.