NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

The 2023 edition of the NATO-Industry Forum took place in Stockholm on 24th and 25th of October. Co-organized, on behalf of NATO Secretary General, by Allied Command Transformation and the Defence Investment Division of the NATO HQ International Staff the NATO-Industry Forum is the strategic-level event supporting NATO and industry engagements.

The theme for 2023 was Addressing the New Strategic Reality Together. The Forum built upon the decisions taken by Heads of State and Government, in particular those related to the Defence Production Action Plan, at the NATO Vilnius Summit on 11th and 12th of July 2023 and was an opportunity to explore NATO’s vision for its future defence capabilities.

The report from the conference can be read here.

The NATO-Industry Forum 2021 took place in Rome, Italy, on November 17-18. The event attracted almost 600 participants, including National Armaments Directors, the Chair of the Military Committee, the Military Committee, Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and senior representatives from leading non-defence companies. The industry participation was not only limited to the traditional defence industry but included also the big tech industry. Both are indispensable for further development of NATO and nations capabilities.

Sponsored by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Forum welcomed strategic leaders and thinkers from across the NATO Alliance, Nations and Industry and provided an important opportunity to contribute to the debate on the development of the new NATO Strategic Concept, which will be approved at the 2022 Summit in Madrid.

The first day of the Forum started by exploring practical solutions to improve the agility of NATO’s acquisition of novel systems. A key note speech on the impact of Emerging Disruptive Technologies on the Alliance preceded plenary sessions on the challenges and opportunities of cloud networking, artificial intelligence and systems with autonomous functions.

The plenary sessions on the second day made strategic evaluations of the defence and security landscape, anticipated the capabilities that will be needed by our defence forces in the next decade and concluded with recommendations on how to improve NATO’s resilience in the current geopolitical security environment.

The level of attendance and interaction clearly demonstrated the attractiveness of the NATO-Industry Forum as a key venue for open and frank debate on engagement and cooperation between NATO and Industry in the development of future capabilities. We express our profound appreciation to all participants, as well as to the Italian authorities for their superb support in making this Forum a success.

A full report of the NIF21 can be found here (reduced quality, approx. 3 MB) or here (high resolution, approx. 54 MB).

In preparation for NATO-Industry Forum 21, Allied Command Transformation and the International Staff, Defence Investment Division hosted two NIF Linked webinars.

NIF Linked 1 (20 May 2021) covered:

  • The NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept; the Alliance’s ‘North Star’ and organising principle for warfare development for the next 20 years as well as a future vision and operating state for innovation and engagement between industry and NATO.
  • Best practices for delivering mission-driven capabilities and the associated challenges in a NATO context.
  • Agile and innovative acquisition practices and their applicability to NATO whilst explaining the acquisition constraints that NATO faces.

  • NATO should establish long-term, multi-stakeholder, cohesive and empowered teams including both industry and the warfighter focused on meeting mission needs and delivering timely outcomes.
  • The importance of agility as a long-term risk mitigation strategy. NATO should use system-of-systems design approaches and emphasize the need for modular and interoperable capabilities in order to reduce risk by ensuring that capabilities can be replaced and maintained efficiently.
  • NATO should focus on the importance of representing different stakeholder interests and could help set the conditions for success by encouraging industry participation during exercises in precompetitive periods through cost sharing agreements.

NIF Linked 2 (9 September 2021) explored:

  • The exploitation of Emerging Disruptive Technologies by Allies in support of data driven decision-making.
  • Flexibility, Adaptability and Agility of Data Mobility and the immediate, and long-term, impacts of data mobility on warfighting.
  • Innovating for Multi-Domain Operations and potential solutions that could lead to Multi-Domain Operations superiority.

  • There needs to be a common understanding on the significant implications EDTs have and will have on the way the Alliance operates.
  • NATO needs the ability to understand, adopt and leverage these technologies in order to maintain a technological edge and undertake its core mission of deterrence and defence.
  • Challenges such as the questions of prioritization, of the best path to adoption and what role can NATO play to help drive adoption with the help of industry.
  • Whilst NATO recognises the importance of Big Data it needs to address regulatory and security issues as a priority for Big Data to be a real asset in decision making for the Alliance.
  • NATO should be aware of what technology developments are out there and broaden its horizon by not only focusing on its own internal processes and assets in order to tackle uncertainties.
  • Cross-cultural information sharing and learning between NATO, Academia and the Industry is of foremost importance.

NATO-Industry Forum 2019Hosted by the United States of America, the NATO-Industry Forum 2019 took place in Washington D.C. on 13 and 14 November and was one of the events celebrating NATO’s 70th anniversary.

Less than a month before the Leader’s Summit in London, this edition of the NATO-Industry Forum focused on Enhancing Decision Making. NATO, partner nations, international organizations and industry reflected on their decision-making mechanisms to leverage innovative solutions. Participants strategized on how to harness emerging and disruptive technologies to adapt their decision-making mechanisms, processes and procedures, allowing NATO to draw its own conclusions on solutions to further strengthen its deterrence and defense posture. The discussions focused on interoperability, innovation and technology, NATO’s engagement with industry, and aimed to identify changes required to adapt and project the Alliance into the future.

On Day 1, participants engaged in round-table discussions centered on the following topics:

  1. Tasking, Collection, Processing, Exploitation, Dissemination of information
  2. Leveraging Big Data and analytics
  3. Operational Awareness and Anticipation
  4. Support to Human Decision Making

A short summary of the main discussion points can be found here.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg opened day two with a keynote speech.

Day two included three plenary sessions, in which leaders from defense as well as non-traditional defense companies engaged in the debate, analyzing the emerging technologies and trends, their adoption in the context of the current information landscape, sometimes saturated with unreliable data, and their impact for NATO decision making (the agenda can be found here).

The discussions provided insight that accelerating decision-making shall be a NATO strategic priority, and is core to NATO’s deterrence, as well as to acquisition reform, capability development, countering disinformation, public narrative and diplomacy.

NIF19 was preceded by a novel event involving young and innovative companies and entrepreneurs, organized by ACT – the Young Disruptors Day (YDD). Top-level young professionals from NATO and partner Nations gathered to challenge traditional strategic thinking, provide alternative solutions on innovation and technological advancement, ad suggest how NATO can strengthen its partnerships with industry. Selected companies provided a demo of how their tools support Data Preparation, Business Analytics Tools, Data Communication and Integrity, and Visualization.

The discussions focused on how AI, Big Data, Quantum Computing and other Disruptive Technologies can be used by NATO to incorporate Modelling and Simulation (M&S), use synthetic language processing, and develop a common framework for effective data preparation and advanced analytics. This is essential to enable a common operational picture and provide leaders with an accurate and tailored depiction of today’s complex environment.
More details of the main discussion points can be found here.