Lawmakers warn NATO on technology investment shortfalls

Tbilisi, 27 May 2017 - NATO governments received a stark warning Saturday that the Alliance’s ability to respond to security threats will be critically undermined without speedy action to reverse declines in Research and Development spending that have eroded the transatlantic advantage in military technology. 

“If NATO is to remain credible as an Alliance, there can never be any doubt about its ability to fulfil its three essential core tasks of collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security,” said a draft report presented at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

“Defence R&D is crucial to all of them,” added the draft by US Congressman Thomas Marino for the NATO PA’s Spring Session in Tbilisi. “It is essential that the Alliance has the full spectrum of capabilities at its disposal to deter and defend against any threat.”

The Assembly meeting gave lawmakers from Alliance nations a first chance to discuss the NATO summit held in Brussels on Thursday which stressed the need to boost defence capabilities with a greater sharing of the burden of military spending. Several cautioned that without adequate investment in security, the key mutual defence commitment contained in Art. 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty would be undermined.

“There is no use roaring like a lion about Art. 5, if you don’t have any teeth,” stated British legislator Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale. “We have to act together here and not rely always on the Americans to do all the heavy lifting.”

The draft report noted that spending by those Allies in the European Defence Agency fell by 23.5% between 2006 and 2012. Meanwhile, Russia’s defence R&D doubled from 2012 to 2015 and China’s defence R&D spending is estimated to be expanding in line with defence spending which grew by 150% over the past decade.

Marino’s report was one of several which stressed the urgent need for the Alliance to adapt to fast-moving technological developments that are bringing fundamental changes to the security landscape.

Against the backdrop of the proliferation of threats from the likes of North Korea, Iran and non-state players such as Daesh, legislators underscored the importance of effective NATO defences against ballistic missiles.

“Ballistic missile proliferation poses a distinct challenge to NATO territory, assets, populations, as well as member states’ deployed forces,” said a report drafted by Canadian Senator Joseph A. Day. “A modern, dynamic, and geographically-flexible missile defence system will deny adversaries the benefits they may seek to pursue via a missile-based offensive strategy.”

A draft report debated in the NATO PA’s Defence and Security Committee focused on the growing importance of space-based assets in civilian and military life.

“Space-based system coordination plays a vital role in all current NATO key pillars of defence; allowing for the effective management of conventional forces at home and abroad, nuclear deterrent systems, and the evolving ballistic missile defence system,” said the draft report authored by Madeleine Moon, a British Member of Parliament.

“Loss of the space assets would significantly hamper any modern military’s ability to respond to not only defend vital assets and populations, but also to respond quickly and efficiently in a crisis,” it added.

The rapid development of so-called Internet of Things (IoT) which enables networks of physical objects that to communicate with each other and their external environment also presents benefits and risk for security, said a draft report from the Assembly’s Science and Technology Committee.

“As armed forces deploy IoT devices and applications, the number of entry points for cyber attackers will only grow,” said the report drafted by Slovene lawmaker Matej Tonin. “Governments must also redouble their efforts on cyber defence and security and critical infrastructure protection, given the growing number of IoT devices and services being deployed.”

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