Next Steps for NATO

The Necessity of Greater Military Interoperability

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Belgium, November 15, 2016. Francois Lenoir / Reuters

In 2006 and 2007, when U.S. Army Lieutenant-General Benjamin Freakley commanded the Combined Joint Task Force-76 in Kabul, Afghanistan, the headquarters for all military operations east of the Hindu Kush, he found that the greatest threat to his operations was, in fact, technology. He was overseeing a dream team of competent and eager soldiers from various U.S. allies—Canada, the Netherlands, Romania, and the United Kingdom—and yet he couldn’t provide information to them out on the field because they had each arrived with completely different communications gear, whether it was FM radios or satellite phones. Although his U.S. kit would directly connect him to his own soldiers because they were all equipped with high-tech radios capable of receiving instructions directly from battlefield headquarters, his directives only reached the unit commanders of the allies’ troops, which risked putting the allied soldiers in harm’s way. In the past,

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