National Security

The Force of Tomorrow

The Army's top general on the future of war.

Over the past 11 years of continuous combat, the Army made great strides at the tactical and operational levels of war. We evolved our tactics, fielded new equipment, and modified our organizations, all while combating determined enemies. These changes were necessary, and they produced an Army without peer on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. However, they do not fully prepare us for the diverse array of challenges our nation faces in the coming years. Changes in the character of modern conflict demand that we continue to evolve as an institution, even as we remain focused on our primary task -- to fight and win our nation's wars.

Throughout the course of history, world events have always presented militaries with both complexity and unpredictability. Today's environment sustains this norm, but adds the unprecedented speed at which events unfold and information travels. The pace of change is accelerating. There are emerging factors at work in today's strategic environment that we cannot ignore. The sheer number of connections between people and societies has increased exponentially. An ever-present global media can instantly elevate local actions to matters of strategic import. Technology and weapons once reserved to states can now find their way into the hands of disaffected individuals and disruptive groups. International tolerance for civilian casualties and collateral damage from military operations has decreased while the capabilities to inflict such damage have spread to a growing number of illicit actors.

These factors call for an Army that is globally engaged and capable of rapidly employing scalable force packages from the smallest to the largest depending on the demands of the situation. We must be able to rapidly adjust our units and capabilities to meet the unique requirements of any situation, delivering precision results through the most capable, discriminate weapon system ever fielded -- the American soldier. At the same time, we must make thoughtful and forward-looking investments in our leaders and institutions to grow the Army from the operational force of today to a force of unparalleled tactical, operational, and strategic excellence -- the nation's premier strategic force of tomorrow.

Changes in the Strategic Environment

Since the early 1990s, there has been no global threat that compares to the former Soviet Union, no peer competitor that threatens our nation or our way of life. We no longer live under the specter of an imminent nuclear war. None of us seeks to return to those days, and our nation's strategic decisions will be strongly shaped in ways to help prevent the return of such a dangerous world.

Despite today's lack of superpower conflict, the world of the 21st century remains a dangerous place. The challenge of preserving a delicate balance between two superpowers has been replaced by the need to protect the nation from a myriad of less conventional, disparate global threats. Regional powers exert influence locally, relatively unconstrained by the actions of global powers. Loosely affiliated groups and movements, united often only by ideology, operate in ungoverned spaces, taking refuge in failed and failing states.

Technological advances have revolutionized the way people and governments interact. Access to global communications and the rise of social media connect more people in more ways across greater distances than ever before. Events that once went largely unnoticed are now viewed internationally, empowering local actors with potentially strategic effect. Simultaneously, the proliferation of advanced weaponry has resulted in the rise of a different sort of enemy. Combining unconventional tactics with advanced weapons, these emerging threats present a new and dangerous challenge. They do not diminish the more conventional threats posed by dangerous or unstable states such as North Korea or Iran, but they require our military to maintain a much broader range of capabilities to respond.

On the modern battlefield, enemies will intentionally mix with the civilian population, making discrimination between friend and foe extremely difficult. The moral expectations of our citizens and allies require that civilian casualties and collateral damage be limited to the greatest possible extent. Taken together, they impose a standard for discriminate lethality in the conduct of military operations that often cannot be achieved with precision strikes or purely technical solutions. Battlefields of today and tomorrow will be populated with a wide array of actors who are not directly involved in military operations. Non-governmental organizations, criminal groups, local citizens, and other regional powers may all exist and co-mingle in the same space as combat is unfolding. Each has their own goals, which may or may not align with our own. In either case, these actors frequently exploit opportunities presented to advance their respective causes. This diversity of actors must also be accounted for as we plan for and conduct operations of all types around the world.

The Changing Character of Conflict

Together, these factors change the character of conflict. A few advanced weapons and some cell phones in the hands of a dozen determined men can achieve effects that used to require months of preparation and a well-trained force. Local clashes can escalate rapidly, unconstrained by borders, treaties, or government policy. Once conflict erupts, the battlefield is increasingly lethal. Access to precision weapons and sophisticated countermeasures impose increasing threats to our own forces for which we must be prepared. Finally, all these actions occur in an atmosphere of opportunism, where any issue or opening will be turned to the advantage of the groups that perceive it.

Despite these changes in how modern wars are waged, the fundamental nature of warfare remains the same. Conflict by its very nature involves people, whether over resources, territory, or ideology. Technological advances may increase our reach, but the last 12 years of war have reinforced that lasting results hinge on understanding and effectively influencing populations. As it always has, conflict also imposes high costs on all involved, in both lives and national treasure. There is no such thing as a clean or simple war.

For all these reasons, preventing conflict is better than reacting to it, and to prevent it we must understand its causes. That understanding is only gained through human contact. Contact requires some form of presence. That presence can be small, and it need not be physical, but it must be within and among those societies where we aim to preserve stability and avoid conflict. Finally, it must always be backed by force. That force must be sufficient to deter our enemies, and overwhelming should they choose to act.

What the Army provides

Any discussion of where the Army is going must begin with a full accounting of what we provide the nation today. For good reason, our tendency is to focus on the higher end of the spectrum of military operations. Our first priority remains being ready to deploy rapidly and defeat any adversary on land in any corner of the globe. In the complex world of the next several decades, however, our national security increasingly depends on the broader range of missions and capabilities the Army also provides, often with much less fanfare.

Our national security requires an Army, as a member of the Joint Force, which can deploy, fight, and win our nation's wars. The Army contributes to global stability abroad and economic prosperity at home by deterring aggression, responding to crises as they occur, and influencing the actions of others in ways that reduce the inevitable tensions in the international system. It is a force invaluable for conflict prevention in peacetime and irreplaceable for decisive outcomes in times of war. America's economic strength requires a functioning global market and unhindered transit of the global commons. Its safety demands preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Its security requires dismantling terrorist networks with the intent and capability to do us harm, deterring the ambitions of potential enemies, and decisively defeating them in wartime.

The Army represents one of America's most credible deterrents against future hostility, offering potential adversaries pause for restraint, while standing ready to defeat any adversary who chooses conflict. No other nation can match our ability to rapidly deploy large numbers of troops over extended distances, sustain them for as long as needed, and deliver precise, discriminate results. The successful conclusion of operations in Iraq and our pending transition in Afghanistan give us an opportunity to reorient the Army towards conflict prevention -- working through engagement with partners and allies across the globe. However, the ability to win wars on land remains our reason for being. Potential adversaries must never question whether this nation has the ability to spoil aggressive aims or ultimately reverse illicit gains. We do not seek war, but others must never doubt our ability to win decisively when it occurs.

The Army's contributions to shaping regional environments to promote peace and prevent the outbreak of conflicts are vitally important in an era where low-level conflicts can rapidly morph into global crises. As the only service designed to provide long-term and persistent presence, Army forces today partner with allies and demonstrate American commitment in key regions around the globe. From the 66,000 plus soldiers stationed around the Pacific rim, to training missions in South America, to the delivery of medical supplies and expertise in Africa, our soldiers are uniformed ambassadors of the nation. Their efforts strengthen the capabilities of our partners, increase our understanding of local dynamics, and build lines of communication between militaries and nations increasingly necessary in a complex interconnected world. Soldiers standing side-by-side with foreign militaries provide the nation strategic access to places and societies that might be otherwise inaccessible.

In the modern era, it is difficult to envision a scenario where the United States would engage in military operations without allies. Forward-stationed Army units from Europe to the Pacific demonstrate our longstanding commitment to maintaining close ties with our partners. Beyond combat formations, Army units also provide enabling capabilities to our allies -- from command and control, to intelligence support, to logistics -- bolstering their effectiveness as well as our own. The efficiencies gained through these partnerships lead to greater stability in peacetime and greater effectiveness in war, all at costs far below what would be required for any one nation to attempt to operate alone. In an era where regional instability more and more carries global consequences, these activities and others like them are increasingly crucial contributions to the nation's security.

There is a final set of capabilities the Army provides to the nation that, though no less critical, is often overlooked. It is embodied in the support we provide to our sister services and across the entire range of government, enabling these other organizations to perform their core missions. Army units build and operate the communications networks connecting our own units, the joint community, governmental partners, and the entire range of actors with one another on the modern battlefield. Soldiers deliver the food, fuel, ammunition, and medical support necessary to conduct nearly any operation by any service, from combat to humanitarian relief. They collect and analyze the intelligence that informs our actions and measures our progress. They deliver vital supplies to communities at home and abroad impacted by natural disasters. The Army provides more than half the Special Operations forces of our nation's military, an integral contribution to national counterterrorism and security assistance efforts. In these and many other ways, the Army is the indispensible foundation of the joint force.

Put very simply, the Army exists to prevent conflict, shape the environment in the pursuit of peace and stability, and win the nation's wars when called upon. However, an objective assessment of what is required to fulfill our mission in a complex future environment against a constantly evolving range of threats demands that we continue to invest in the specific skills, equipment, and forces needed to do so effectively. This demands foresight and innovation, as well as a bottom-up engagement by our most valuable asset -- our soldiers and leaders. It also requires recognition that the Army, like our nation, must be good stewards of our resources in an era of increasing fiscal austerity.

Adapting for the Future

This vision of the future describes a strategic landscape that is complex, technologically interconnected, and politically fragmented. It presumes that maintaining stability will require a concerted, sustained effort. Our long-term strategic focus has shifted to the Pacific, but tensions in the Middle East require constant attention in the present. The temptation is to attempt to be prepared for everything, but fiscal realities demand greater strategic clarity. All our initiatives must contribute to maintaining a force that is prepared to deploy, fight, and win despite uncertainty about where, when, and against whom it may be deployed.

As our current commitments in Afghanistan are reduced, we must take the opportunity to refocus. This requires first reestablishing our core warfighting competencies in combined arms maneuver and wide area security. These skills serve as the foundation upon which our Army is built, underpinning our credibility as a deterrent and ensuring defeat of any enemy once engaged. We were right to focus on building counterinsurgency expertise given our mission over the past 12 years, and we will not walk away from that experience. However, irregular warfare represents one subset of the range of missions that the Army must be ready to perform. We must reinvest in those fundamental warfighting skills that underpin the majority of our directed strategic missions, from deterring and defeating aggression to power projection.

To posture the force for the complexities of the strategic environment, we must simultaneously reform our processes and training to generate forces scalable from squad to corps. We cannot afford to limit our planning to brigade combat teams. Our success going forward will be built on deploying the right soldiers, with the right training, in the right size units, at the right time. Small unit leadership will be at a premium in this potential environment of dispersed, decentralized operations. In some circumstances that may require small teams of soldiers engaged in partnership activities. Others may require the combined mass of brigades, divisions, or corps. This does not necessarily suggest a smaller force, but an Army capable of deploying tailored packages to the point of need, while retaining the ability to rapidly reassemble into larger combat formations as requirements change or small conflicts expand.

The complexity of this environment requires a deliberate investment in our leaders. The need to adapt to rapidly changing situations and identify underlying causes of conflict calls for mental agility and strategic vision. History has shown that no amount of planning or analysis can accurately predict where conflict may arise. However, our ability to respond effectively when it does hinges in large part on the quality of our soldiers and leaders.

Our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly reinforce that lasting strategic results are achieved only by effectively influencing people. Conflict, in all its forms, remains a fundamentally human endeavor. Destroying infrastructure and weaponry can shape an adversary's decisions, but rarely delivers a decisive outcome. Success depends as much on understanding the social and political fabric of the surroundings as it does on the ability to physically dominate them. In an environment defined by the intermingling of friends, enemies, and neutral parties, understanding social and cultural networks becomes just as important as the weapons we employ. Only then can we isolate enemies, identify centers of gravity, and achieve lasting results.

We must also keep pace with technology. The cyber revolution has created new ways for people to connect. Information passes instantly over great distances, and entire virtual communities have been created through social media. Many of our adversaries lack the ability to confront our forces physically, choosing instead to employ virtual weapons with potentially devastating effect. We must take full advantage of these technologies, building our own capabilities to operate in cyberspace with the same level of skill and confidence we enjoy on the land. We will either adapt to this reality or risk ceding the advantage to future enemies.

The Strength of the Nation: Today and Tomorrow

A fast-moving combination of trends are shaping the world of today, and will continue to evolve in often unexpected ways to shape the world we will live in tomorrow. The role of the Army and decisions about its future must be made within the context of this reality. We remain the only nation with global reach, but our resources are not unlimited - and, in fact, are decreasing. In such a setting, the Army cannot fully prepare for every conceivable mission. Yet the Army must support national efforts aimed at preserving stability and promoting peace in an unstable and chaotic world, judiciously investing in those capabilities best suited to the task.

To be efficient, our forces must be responsive. As more of the force is based within the United States, we must preserve and invest in the ability to rapidly deliver units anywhere in the world. Army forces must be tailored to local requirements and rapidly deployable from the lowest to the highest levels. To be effective once deployed, they must be familiar with local cultures, personalities, and conditions where they are operating. We cannot afford to gain this knowledge under fire. Through the regional alignment of forces, we will meet these imperatives, ensuring that our Army remains globally responsive and regionally engaged.

This effort requires equipment that gives our squads, as the foundation of the force, capabilities that overwhelm any potential foe, enabled by vehicles that improve mobility and lethality while retaining survivability. It needs a network that connects all our assets across the joint force together in the most austere of environments to deliver decisive results in the shortest time possible. It demands leaders with the ability to think broadly and critically, aware of the cultural lenses through which their actions will be viewed and cognizant of the potential strategic ramifications of their decisions.

Finally, we must refocus on our core warfighting skills while improving our ability to distribute and reassemble our forces rapidly, building the mass necessary for our central mission: to fight and win the nation's wars. In pursuing these goals, we ensure that the Army delivers truly strategic landpower to the nation in a complex, uncertain world.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

National Security

Northern Alliance

Canada's defense minister talks about security in the Americas -- and Afghanistan.

Canada's defense minister, Peter MacKay, talked with The E-Ring last Friday following his Pentagon visit with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. MacKay said that Canada is playing a critical role in North American security by fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, providing high-level training to U.S. and Canadian partners, and urging European NATO members to do their fair share for collective security across the Atlantic.  

MacKay said all of that and more will be under discussion at the fourth annual Halifax Security Forum in November, North America's highest-level defense gathering. Coming less than two weeks after the U.S. presidential election, MacKay said it will provide an opportunity to "reset" some security challenges. Here is an edited transcript of his discussion with Kevin Baron.

FOREIGN POLICY: What did you and Secretary Panetta talk about today?

PETER MACKAY: Well, we always begin by delving into -- not doing too much navel gazing or reflecting on the Canada-U.S. defense relationship. But that's where it starts and finishes, and we're -- we closely monitor and cooperate with one another on so many of the vital defense relationships: operations, missions, training sets, and Afghanistan inevitably factors into that.

Our training mission, we've evolved from a combat mission into training missions. We're the second largest contributor, in fact, in that regard in Afghanistan. Secretary Panetta and his predecessor, Secretary [Robert] Gates, both were extremely magnanimous and quick to point out how much they valued Canada's contribution in that regard.

We talked a lot today about the [upcoming] Conference of Defense Ministers in the Americas, and the evolving challenges in our own backyard, in our own neighborhood throughout the Caribbean, and how Canada in niche areas can play a vital role. We're already quite engaged with island countries like Jamaica. We've been working closer with countries like Peru; we're going to be in Uruguay for the upcoming defense ministerial. And all of this is about demonstrating in a tangible way Canada's commitment to defense, our engagement right here in the Western hemisphere. We're lockstep through NORAD in the defense of North America, including the maritime approaches. But [we're also] going a little bit further afield and into the Americas writ large and our own hemisphere.

So, what we inevitably talk about and how the discussion evolves is into developing, reinforcing, how our regional relationship in the Americas can benefit and elevate the security quotum there. Because, as you're aware, it's a very complex part of the world when it comes to narcotrafficking, human trafficking, smuggling of all sorts of contraband. North America is not immune from these threats, and yet if we can work closer not only with one another but in partnership with these burgeoning nations and some of those that are trying to develop their own security forces, that's going to be key.

And so promoting the defense ministerial relationship there, the IADB [Inter-American Defense Board] which is the body in which Canada currently holds the chairmanship... they work closely with the OAS.  And what we're trying to do is find a more meaningful and tangible role for Canada to train, in some case equip and prepare, some of these nations to take on a greater security responsibility. Because we're direct beneficiaries when that security capacity improves.

Just as we are -- to go back to Afghanistan -- seeing the Afghan security forces improve their professionalism, their capabilities, enabling them to do for themselves what we've been doing for them in many cases, in protecting their people, their villages, their sovereignty. Everybody wins in that scenario. So we do inevitably spend a great deal of time talking about that coordinated effort. In addition to the big security picture and the hot spots, whether it be the South China Sea or, clearly the Middle East is on everybody's mind, parts of North Africa, and issues that relate directly on our joint efforts to improve the security in many of these parts of the world where we will find ourselves for the foreseeable future.

FP: Tell me more, if you can, what are Canada's niche capabilities. You mentioned training, is there anything else that's uniquely Canadian in the offering?

MACKAY: Generally speaking, Canada's reputation in the area of peace-building and peacekeeping and training, imparting the type of skills to nations like Afghanistan, and before that, in parts of the Balkans, where we've had a presence in previous missions, we've developed a certain approach that some countries do emulate. And that is working in the "whole of government" fashion. NATO refers to it often as the comprehensive approach, where you're working closely with your development agencies, your public security agencies, and to use the most recent example of Afghanistan, working with our agriculture department, where we were able to improve their irrigation system, improve their infrastructure. These are things not always associated with military operations, but having a place like Kandahar province in Afghanistan connect communities by building roads and bridges and water systems, giving them generators that will allow them to have an economy that will allow them to engage in commerce -- well, if they're picking up hoes and shovels, they're not picking up AK-47s -- and if we're able to connect some of these communities to trade goods, that's also going to focus their attention away from insurgency. If we're building schools and medical clinics, that is obviously going to give their kids a future and hope for a better life.

It sounds sometimes a bit grandiose, but the "books rather than bullets" is one of the first lessons that the soldiers learn. They want to build a security environment that is going to allow these things, these development projects and all that flows from development, to foster a better future. I'm very proud of Canada's reputation in that regard, but we can't do it without reliable, strong partners like the United States. We inevitably work in such a coordinated fashion in that regard. We saw it in Afghanistan. We saw it basically around the globe, where in military terms we're a force multiplier. We're actually able to bring a unique brand and a unique style of both military development, security building, and capacity that we think is value-added, unique to our country. And we can talk the same language; we're inevitably able to plug into various efforts that, in some cases, the Americans were leaving, as was the case with ISAF. But we have a commonality in our vision, in our institutions, and in our military history, and in our interoperability, which is something that we can't lose sight of.  Highly-technical equipment is being used now in the protection of many communities on these missions. Our ability to have the plug-and-play concept, which is another expression you're probably hearing more and more, we're able to do that. We are very often, again to take the analogy further, on the same frequency -- that shared history, the common values, common ethos of our military makes us a formidable partner with the United States. And I'm proud of that result.

Polio eradication in Afghanistan is one of the great results that happened under the umbrella of security. We were able to build a lot of schools and put in place a number of programs on the agriculture side that got some of the local farmers ... away from poppy crops and growing cash crops like beets and barley and wheat. Again, it may surprise you to hear a defense minister talking about this, but had I not seen it with my own eyes, and saw the pride and purpose that our military took in seeing these things literally, pardon the pun, growing right in front of their eyes while they're out on patrol, and clearing the path for these farmers to make these types of decisions -- really inspiring stuff.  Seven million more kids going to school now in that region where we were operating. That's the kind of thing that soldiers come home and really tell the story and talk about why we undertake these missions in faraway places.

FP: To stay with Afghanistan, two things on Canada's participation: One, the decision to get out of combat and stick with training, and then this year the decision to not suspend joint operations the way the Americans did. Do you think Canada made its choice to pull out of the combat mission too soon, given what's happened since then, this rise in green-on-blue attacks, the re-commitment to 2014, and statements by Secretary Panetta that some of the heaviest fighting is still to come for the East? That's one question. The second question: Explain why Canada did not suspend its joint operations, or did not feel they needed to.

MACKAY: Well, first of all, I say with some degree of pride that we held the fort in one of the most difficult, dangerous parts of that country, down in Kandahar province. This was the spiritual home of the Taliban, as you would know. And when we showed up in '06, that was some of the fiercest fighting that you would find anywhere in that country. And going back further than that, we were there from the very beginning. We were part of the initial decision to go, we went there, of course, with the Security Council backing and the NATO-backed mission. And so our heavy lifting in that region, when a lot of other NATO partners and non-NATO partners did not want to deploy into that part of the country, is something that we feel we have pretty strong credentials to refer to.

When we decided to end the combat mission and transition into training, we were doing essentially what others had already undertaken. And some, of course, were quite heavily caveated and hadn't been doing combat, had been doing strictly training, so this was all part of the transition. It was part of the overall NATO plan led by people like David Petraeus and now General [John] Allen to turn over security responsibility to the Afghan security forces, to have the Afghan government itself play a larger role. And you know, part of that decision of where we deployed and what work needed to be done was very much in concert with the NATO leadership itself, the secretary-general, the organization, and the alliance's need -- what were the holes that had to be filled? And one of those big challenges was training, was to accelerate the pace and the quality of training for Afghan soldiers, in particular.

I do want to come back to your reference to green-on-blue because this is a very serious issue for everyone. Sadly, the United States, Great Britain, most NATO countries have experienced that pain. And you know we've been part of the planning at NATO in all of the efforts to try and filter out those who pose a risk to the trainers, those who infiltrate. It seems to be less the latter where it's planned insurgent attacks as opposed to sometimes a cultural breakdown or an individual frustration or a mental health issue. It's a big, big challenge and we want to do everything that we can to protect all our allied forces there who are engaged in this Herculean effort to turn over those responsibilities ultimately to the Afghan security forces.

You can't talk about Afghanistan without mentioning Pakistan, and therein lies perhaps the biggest challenge of all. And that is, how do we stop the flow of insurgents into Afghanistan and the constant interference that that causes in reaching our eventual goal of a stable, secure country? That would take a lot longer to delve into that discussion, but I can assure you we work very, very closely with the United States and with the entire NATO contingent that's inside Afghanistan still. Our commitment is until 2014; that was a basically result of a parliamentary motion in our country. It's the way our system works, and the way that our government has committed to Parliament is that we will go back and consult. That was how we arrived at the original date, and we have, in fact, extended on previous occasions. 

So, to come to your last question, why did we take the choice of continuing to train as opposed to the combat mission? You'll know that the NATO mandate itself reaches out to that date, there's kind of a culmination, a number of countries that fixed on that date in consultation with President Karzai's government, that that was the turnover of the entire territory, that all of the regions of the country will be under Afghan security at that point.  And then we assess what more needs to be done. The development I talked a lot about, that's part and parcel and key to Afghanistan's future. Not just the security, but everything that flows underneath it.  Not the least of which is governance. There'll be an election in Afghanistan's future. They've had two previous elections. While you can question the process itself, it did work, and considering their democratic history, they had to be deemed a success. And so it's an extremely complex investment in nation-building. It has paid dividends already, continues to pay security dividends. North America is no longer under attack from a terrorist inside Afghanistan. And that goes back to the very root cause of how we wound up in the country and it can inevitably be traced right back to 9/11.

FP: You said you're working closely with the Americans on the flow of terrorists from Pakistan. Exactly how? If you're not involved in combat, what's the Canadian role there?

MACKAY: Well, we're not involved in a combat role, so the Americans have the lead in that regard. There's intelligence sharing, there are efforts, of course, in proving the Afghan security forces' ability to deal with that very serious problem and very serious flow of insurgents. But that is an area we can certainly share some of our experience that was brought to bear down in Kandahar that has similar border regions to what we're seeing more up around Kabul.

But training more Afghans equals more security equals more sovereignty -- that's our primary focus at this point. And I say again for emphasis, we've played a major role: the second-largest training contingent, we have people within the chain of command, we have a great deal of experience, high-ranking Canadian officers have filled key billets in that capacity and there's a great deal of respect and gratitude that flows both ways between Canada and the United States.

FP: Explain a little about Canada's role in "smart defense" and European defense. If NATO's looking for a more collective kind of defense and sharing capabilities, where does Canada come into that equation?

MACKAY: NATO just hosted, well your country just hosted, the big NATO meeting, the summit in Chicago. While Afghanistan was a big subject of discussion there, there are ongoing efforts to improve the institution itself. We had, I would point to, considerable success in the Libya mission, which also demonstrated the importance of partnerships between NATO and other countries, including some of the, what you wouldn't consider traditional allies of NATO, but have proven to be very important, like the UAE, like Jordan -- Arab League countries that really stepped up. But in terms of the apparatus and the inner working of NATO, we've always been closely aligned with the United States, looking for ways in which we can, in this time of fiscal restraint, when all defense budgets are under pressure including our own, we're looking at ways that we can align our equipment. So, interoperability, things like re-fuelers, things like the type of equipment we used in Afghanistan to great effect.

And making NATO itself, I guess as a general comment, a more lean and effective organization, including the command structure; making it more fit for the type of expeditionary mission that we saw in Afghanistan. Keep in mind that was the first out-of-area mission that NATO's undertaken, and ironically, the first time that Article 5 was invoked was an attack on North America.  Because I can tell you as one of the two transatlantic partners from North America, it's not always atop the minds of European allies to think of things in terms of North American security. So we, the United States and Canada, very often find ourselves making the point and putting down markers that the goal, the aim of NATO, is security well beyond the confines of Europe -- although that was certainly the concern at the time of NATO's standup over 60 years ago.

But we need to forge closer working relationships with some of these European Union countries where their security interests are aligned with ours. I think of counter-piracy as an example, where there's a growing recognition that we need to keep these maritime superhighways open and goods flowing. I think of some of the hotspots where we had hoped that we could perhaps disengage more than we have to date. But we still have NATO missions that are ongoing, including in the Balkans. We know that there are regions of the world where we're going to have to sharpen our attention and our focus. I mentioned regions around the South China Sea. I just came back in the spring from the meeting in Singapore, where at that security conference, it was evident to me from both Secretary Panetta's comments about what they're calling the Pacific shift, or "pivot," to talking directly to some of our non-NATO partners there, that there's a great deal of activity -- I would say volatility -- in the region that we need to be cognizant of. And while Australia and New Zealand are not NATO partners, they certainly share a perspective and a security vision and outlook very much in line with the Canada and United States and are members of the "five eye" security community, so sharing intelligence is also a big, big part of our security apparatus. And so, you know, NATO still remains the quintessential security organization and the cornerstone of our international contributions.

FP: Given all the responsibilities you've just laid out for NATO, do you have confidence though that the other NATO members, the European members, will be able to fund those requirements? They were hit pretty hard by Secretary Gates on his way out, and like you said, do you have any confidence in that?

MACKAY: Yeah, I very often read from the same song sheet as Secretary Gates in encouraging our NATO partners to not abandon the fight and to continue to fight internally to keep their budgets and to keep their militaries strong. NATO, of course, allows us collectively to be certainly much stronger and more secure than anyone could be alone. That's the, that's the tie that binds. We have to, in those forums, in Brussels, time and time again stress the importance of keeping a stronger, more capable European defense network. That's why we want to keep the doors open as well. Just as one small example, look at Croatia now: a contribution partner in Afghanistan that was a recipient nation just over a decade ago of NATO forces. I'm not suggesting for a minute that we're going to see Afghan forces deploying anytime soon to build security somewhere else, but there are tangible examples of where we have succeeded.

Didn't talk a lot about Libya, but there's an example of NATO partnering with other nations in a successful security building exercise that helped that region and end a regime that was brutal and was attacking its own people.

And so I think NATO is again going to be a major player in the future, and it's something that we'll be talking about, quite frankly, at the Halifax Security Forum. We've had a lot of participant nations, a lot of defense ministers, a lot of foreign ministers, in fact, that came from NATO countries show up at Halifax and in a relatively informal setting put down their notes, put down their prescribed positions and really talk openly about how we build the trust, build the capacity, figure out what we can do in our collective best interest for security. And this is in keeping with how we designed the Halifax Security Forum. I hope you might attend. It's proving to be a really interesting line-up this year, and we're hoping it coming right on the heels of the presidential election gives a chance to hit a bit of a reset on how we improve our collective efforts going into the New Year. And it's a very, very interesting place where we can put a whole mix of different perspectives forward and hashed out in a way that allows for people to really be heard, and sometimes some of the countries that don't often get the floor have a great deal to contribute to the discussion.

So I'm excited about Halifax this year. It's the fourth annual event. It's the only event -- I would describe it as the pre-eminent security forum in North America -- and a lot of very interesting participants coming that I think will have a lot to contribute to the discussion.