The global threat demands an Alliance-wide response

MG Albert Husniaux , Chairman of NATO STO (Science and Technology Organisation); NATO Chief Scientist  What is Your comment on the initiative for Croatia to host a conference of the kind?  I think this is a very good initiative, it is always good idea to […]

MG Albert Husniaux , Chairman of NATO STO (Science and Technology Organisation); NATO Chief Scientist 

What is Your comment on the initiative for Croatia to host a conference of the kind? 

I think this is a very good initiative, it is always good idea to bring scientists and the military together to discuss how to support developing capabilities;it is timely as well, because we are now facing a lot of global challenges. It is really a good moment in time to have an exchange of views on what we need from a military perspective and what technology could offer to the future.

How often the events of the kind are organised in NATO countries and what is their aim?

I would think in most of NATO nations you will have this kind of conferences organised on a regular basis. Indeed, all of us in NATO feel the need to collaborate because the threat is global and the response needs to be Alliance-wide – global as well. We all face austerity, so we have to share our means and find the ways to work  together more closely.  

Is this in Your view a good start for Croatia?

I would think so. The first step is always to learn to know each other. It is very good that the Croatian Armed Forces took the initiative to organise this and to co-operate with your Parliamentary Assembly members and a think tank. You need to have exchanges of views between senior decision-makers, the politicians and the military, those with a more “technical”expertise. 

DId you expect the many presentations from the Croatian scientists that we had the opportunity to see today? 

I tend to think that if you organise something locally it will foremostly attract the people from the organising Nation, providing them with an opportunity to speak to each other in an international setting. Moreover, I am also sure that you have a broad technology base, a capable industry and knowledge in those domains addressing national needs. The numerous Croatian presence illustrates the need for national scientists to work together and learn from each other to work together and learn from each other to support developing capabilities for defence and security. 

The NATO STO like other NATO agencies is in a process of reorganisation. Is the process finished? I think I read that it was scheduled to be finished by the end of the year and can you briefly explain what kind of reorganisation it is?

The STO was established in July 2012. We were asked to continue to deliver an excellent programme of work while giving it more visibility and connecting it more strongly to the S&T stakeholders community. The overall aim was to increase the use of the STO programme to work as an important resource in support of the Nations/NATO objectives, such as the capability development. The STO reorganisation addressed austerity by looking for efficiencies where possible but foremost by continuing to deliver an excellent programme of work, ensuring the results of that programme of work were a valuable resource to use by the stakeholders.

There are two components in the STO. One is the Collaborative Network and the other one is a STO body dedicated to undersea research – the Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE), which is in La Spezia in Italy. 

If we look at the collaborative programme network, which generates the collaborative programme of work, we see an increase in the number of activities from 120 in 2009 to about 200 in 2015. We also observed that nations are more strongly connected to the STO CMRE programme of work. Nations have recently published a report, highlighting the fact that the CMRE PoW has been exploited well in the Nations. This illustrates an important point I would like to emphasise: we have focussed on connecting the NATO S&T communities of interest, those expressing an S&T need and those delering S&T. If you look at the participants and at how the programme is generated, you will see that there will be more and more connections with the communities expressing the requirements, which was one of the reform tasks. We aksi found efficencies: we have have less staff  in the organisation than we had in the past and we have reduced the cost of operating the research vessels; This is to say, in my view, we have made a good progress. It remains a challenge however to have decision-makers to continue investing in the longer term, in times when there are a lot of needs in a shorter term. That is true in NATO and in every nation as well. 

We saw the term Network in the STO site, which is a network of 3000 scientists; it sounds highly interesting, could You elaborate on the network and its functioning? 

THe basic idea is that the nations agree to co-operate, mainly funded from the national resources. What NATO will do is to provide an enabling and motivating environment for co-operation, to provide guidance regarding the S&T areas to work on. It is up to the nations to provide specialists to conduct the cooperative programme of work, sharing the results, sharing the burden and sharing the risk. That twice the year the governing Board – the STB – will meet at the level of national research directors, twice a year the technical committees will meet to define a collaborative programme of work and they will agree that in particular areas of interest. Then these representatives of the nations will go back to their nations and will seek the right specialists in the respective fields; and if the nation agrees to do that -and this is the network – the researchers will meet to conduct the programme of work and to deliver to their activity. You have to consider the Network as the Nations’ pool of subject matter experts delivering the programme of work in certain areas of interest to the nation and to NATO. They pool and share as appropriate per  project and once the project is finished they will start another one, not necessarily with the same experts;possibly with other ones. The STO is not a standing organisation, with a fixed personnel establishment -it is a network which we  draw upon on to conduct research, supported by a NATO Staff.      


Is it possible to expand the Network in the future or 3000 is an optimal figure? 

We did a recount – we thought that it was 3000; according to the Director in Paris the network is larger, close to 5000 scientists and engineers. The network will grow with the number of activities and with the need to of nations and NATO to further co-operate, but we need to refresh it as well. We need to look at the age of the experts and make sure that young people are coming in order for the network to stay dynamic  and continue to exist in the future. To me there is no optimum figure. It is about having the right people belonging to our reservoir of knowledge. As a rule of thumb I would say the bigger the better!


Do you think that NATO  funding for common sci-tech projects is sufficient and which projects can be highlighted? 

The first point I would like to make is the principle that in general NATO does not have a lot of “own“  means. They belong to the 28 Nations, mostly on an individual basis. NATO is an Alliance which brings the nations together and nations bring the means ; what NATO will grant is Command and Control . The same is true for science and technology; the major part of the resource investments come from the Nations (to conduct the 200+ elements of the Collaborative Programme of Work). There are exceptions: you have the Science for Peace and Programme, which is funded by NATO (the collective of 28 NATO Nations). It is intended to foster the cooperation with the partners and in the Science and Technology Organisation we also have small programme funds for partner support and and of course you have the of the funding for the CMRE. 

Is there an area of science and technology to be singled out as crucial for NATO and EU security? The subjects highlighted today were the IT, UAV and composite materials? 

It is always difficult to single out one area, so let me quote some examples of subjects the Nations are keen to address through the STO programme of work: autonomy and unmanned systems, cyber defence, big data, human performance enhancement , modelling and simulation, advanced materials, advanced manufacturing, directed energy weapons. 

These examples address military requirements. NATO(STO) will look at its needs, express requirements, analyse them and translate them into science and technology language, aggregating them into S&T priorities for NATO. These priorities are: precision engagement, advance human performance, information analysis and decision support, social and organisational behaviour, autonomy, communications and networks, advanced systems concept, data collection and processing, energy, platforms and materials. These ten priority areas are further detailed per area.   Bear in mind that, when we talk about priorities in a NATO context there is a difference as what you would expect in the national context. In NATO the concept of priority is what we – as a collective of 28 – think is of importance for all of us. It is up to nations to decide whether they see that as an individual priority as well and to invest resources.  That is the advantage of working in a network – you have your own views and augment these with the views of 28, discussing with your Allies,  comparing notes and at the end sovereignly deciding what to do. 

Should NATO nations invest into sci-tech projects more from their national budgets or is it better to leave it to the private sector and acquire finished products?

There is no „one size fits all“ answer.  What is of foremost  importance is to use your National resources in the best possible way . There is no golden rule – it really depends on the domain, on the nation etc. 

Let us consider an example: modellation and simulation. You could benefit from commercial gaming technology, developed in the private sector which you could use in your defence and security simulators. You would also need the military scientists work, having defined standards of interconnection between  the different simulations models and having developed high-level architectures and programming languages. This kind of synergy, building on each other’s strenghts, is probably a good way of using the resources. One should try to find them domain per domain, nation per nation.  

Are there any substantial differences between the defence and security sci-tech area between old and new NATO members? THis is the first Croatian meeting of the kind. Do you see any gaps between eastern and western Europe or are they getting closer and closer in this regard?

You cannot deny  that there was a historical difference. Nations with a different past have joined NATO  and I think they have integrated very well at the pace and speed they can afford. Looking at Science and Technology you observe that S&T has had a different role in the various Nations of the Alliance. There is no golden rule, what counts is that you inject into NATO science and technology the knowledge you want to share and which can be of benefit to all NATO Nations. What counts is that you can use the network to get the knowledge you need to develop your nation. 

Does NATO STO aim to bridge the difference  between the two categories of nations?

I think scientists bridge the differences in a natural way. Constructive challenge is a part of the scientific methodology . What scientists do is to compare knowledge,  the evidence and the scientific data to co-operate on certain projects; the universal language is the language of the science. Within science and technology it goes naturally, I would say, because you compare notes about evidence, and there is no big or small in knowledge. 

To what extent the defence and security projects push the progress of the humanity forward; how to respond to the views that defence projects are lethal business: how far are we from the conviction that defence is for the development of the global scientific and technology  community? 

I could give you a few examples,  of which some are more commonly known, of the results of the “military science“. To start with a slightly provocative example:  you could say that nuclear energy is a spin-off of the military development. Another example of military-developed technology is the GPS, developed by the U.S.  Nowadays you grab your mobile phone, with a built-in GPS, to find a way in a city you don’t know.  The GPS is the result of 40 years of investment in S&T , in basic science, developing an extremely  precise clock based on extremely complicated physics. No civilian company would ever do that. Another one, which you may not be aware of is – is the Internet. Internet functions through different protocols and different standards, and these protocols were developed by the military. There are of course also examples of niches of military research which have to do with the nature of warfare. I would question however that technology can only be used to deliver lethal effects in a warfare environtments. An on the other side of the spectrum, you have purely civilian technologies which can be turned into lethal weapons. Hammers, which were designed to drive down nails can be used to break skulls. Are we going to stop developing hammers?

To me it is about the use of science and technology, not about the nature of science and technology. And mankind will always explore, science and technology being one of the strongest exploration means.  

Is there anything  you would like to add perhaps? 

I enjoyed being part of the conference. I feel it is my task to be an ambassador of what science and technology in NATO can bring to all nations and to partner nations and to recent NATO members in particular. I am happy to be here and serve Croatia; in both ways, sharing what NATO STO can bring to Croatia or what Croatia could bring to NATO S&T.