On Thursday, October 8, 2009, Northrop Grumman President and Chief Operating Officer Wes Bush addressed NATO Allied Command Transformation Industry Day 09 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. Below are his delivered remarks.

Interoperability and Cooperation in Technology

It’s great to be able to participate in this important annual forum – and to discuss U.S. industry issues relating to our partnership with NATO.

Let me begin by congratulating General Abrial on his recent assumption of the command of Allied Command Transformation. His appointment highlights France's important place in NATO's integrated military structure. It also highlights the importance of ACT – the assignment of such a highly regarded leader to this role sends a strong signal about the transformation mission.

In this era defined by so many changes, NATO endures and transforms to keep pace with the times.  The Cold War is over, the Berlin Wall has been down for 20 years, but NATO is entering its 60th year with a youthful adaptability–taking on new missions and requirements in out-of-area operations like Afghanistan. Challenged by new tactical demands, as well as the tougher economic climate, the Alliance depends more than ever on cohesive action to achieve needed operational capability in a cost-effective manner.

The times are bringing changes in leadership as well.  In addition to the appointment of General Abrial, there is that of NATO’s new Secretary General, Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark.

In the United States, also, we have new leadership -- a new administration with policies beginning to take shape in a Quadrennial Defense Review and other studies.  And throughout our government in areas of defense, state, finance and elsewhere, we see a new emphasis on international partnerships. 

With many of our leaders considering changes in direction, we have a great opportunity to help determine how we will meet the challenges facing NATO and our nations.  How well we implement the Alliance’s core concept of multinational cooperation will strongly affect our mutual security.

Allied Command Transformation’s role in all that will be pivotal.  General Abrial, the challenges you face are significant, but I believe industry can help.  My primary message is that industry wants to be engaged – both because it is important to us collectively as participants in the alliance, and because it makes good business sense for us to be involved as closely as we can with our customers in shaping these strategic choices.

Interoperability is certainly at the core of where industry can engage in a meaningful way with NATO.  The case for enhanced interoperability was made very well by the speakers this morning.

Interoperability enables NATO to execute its mission more effectively, it adds to the security of the alliance itself, it enables more efficient uses of national resources by eliminating redundancies, and, quite frankly, it aligns with the way our emerging leaders from the “Facebook generation” will think about the world around them.

When we speak of interoperability, we commonly look to technical compatibility—and that is essential.  But we also benefit from thinking about interoperability in a broader perspective.  For example, systems like NATO’s new Alliance Ground Surveillance system (or AGS) will not only be technically compatible, they will make all of NATO’s deployed ground and air forces more effective.  In a real sense, they will make NATO units themselves, and not just their equipment, more interoperable.

I was asked to provide a perspective from industry, and I’ll state clearly that interoperability makes good sense for business as well. I’ll offer a few perspectives on why that is the case.

First, I will affirm from an industry perspective what was mentioned several times this morning.  Achieving effective interoperability does not require the invention of new technologies, with one important exception that I’ll return to in just a moment.

Interoperability is more about the way we use our technology base through the application of standards, open system architectures, and effective international technology partnering.  

All of these things are good for business.

A real standards-based environment enables the efficient use of capital and human resources to develop solutions.  Business likes that environment.

Open systems architectures enable ongoing competition to continually enhance system capability, and while businesses sometimes would like to “lock up” a particular system, we as an industry all do better in a competitive environment.

And international technology partnering is also good for business – it enhances the product space any one company can address, and it better leverages investments already made in an individual company’s technologies.

Achieving these business benefits, though, requires that real mechanisms exist that enable the outcomes, and not represent barriers to achieving the outcomes.

The discussion this morning about the creation of a real base of NATO standards and associated test and verification environments is a key first step.  I would strongly encourage NATO to embrace the use of the groups that have been established to drive to meaningful and mandatory standards definitions.  From an industry perspective, this would be seen as a real sign of commitment to interoperability by NATO, and industry would be ready to engage to help shape the standards.

To ensure NATO’s information superiority, we must continue developing the open systems that enable us to link together diverse capabilities of multiple member nations.  NATO is getting valuable support in this effort from the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium: this international group of leading experts is doing a tremendous job of integrating existing and emerging open standards into a common framework.  Industry is eager to see NATO embrace this effort.

So industry has a real role to play in helping to make interoperability effective.

But there are several key policy issues we must address as well.

First, let me return to the “one technology exception” that I referenced earlier.

Real interoperability means potential mutual vulnerability.

While open systems are vital for moving Alliance members onto shared networks, as we expand our interoperability in this way, we also increase our susceptibility to cyber attacks.  Cybersecurity is now a major issue for the U.S. security establishment – as it is for agencies and individuals throughout the world that are committed to harnessing the power of networks. 

NATO, too, is focused on this issue – in its 2006 Comprehensive Political Guidance, the Alliance stresses the importance of improving its ability to defend against cyber attacks.  Building this new defensive strength will require close collaboration among multiple Alliance members, supported by their industry partners.   And there are likely technology solutions that will need to be developed by NATO and industry working closely together to address the growing threat.

Second, to achieve genuine open-architecture interoperability, we must enable real cooperation in technology.  As you all well know, however, our nation’s export control system has had a reputation for inhibiting that type of cooperation.  While that characterization may have held some validity in prior years, we have seen tremendous improvements in recent months and the trend line looks like it will continue in the coming years.  I’ll just touch briefly on some of the efforts underway to address this issue. 

A few years ago, industry members of the Aerospace Industries Association joined together with numerous other associations to establish The Coalition for Security and Competitiveness.  This Coalition proposed a series of recommendations to the U.S. Government to promote a more efficient, predictable and transparent export control system.   

Working closely with the Government, this Coalition has helped contribute to some important policy changes.  Improved procedures and processes such as electronic license applications, for example, have led to significantly faster license processing times within the State and Defense Departments.  This has resulted in more timely delivery of defense equipment to our NATO allies and other partners around the world.    

In addition, U.S. aerospace companies are supporting President Obama’s newly announced review of export control reform.  This high-level, Government-wide initiative will be led by the National Security Council and National Economic Council, and will have strong participation from Secretary Gates and his counterparts from State and Commerce.  While these leaders have not yet outlined the scope of their agenda, they are looking to make some substantial changes to the overall system in the coming months. 

The Administration has clearly focused its national security efforts on working more closely with our allies.  Industry welcomes that approach, and we hope that the export reform agenda will enable greater technology sharing with our NATO allies.

And all of this must be accomplished in an environment of economic challenge.  That will not be easy.  It would be wonderful if the challenges could be met with continually increasing defense budgets -- but that’s unlikely.  We will have to find ways to meet the challenges despite budget pressures.  This also points out the need for open access to markets, and avoiding the protectionist environment that often arises in times of economic difficulties.  Commerce must be free to flow in all directions. 

Let me finish my discussion by summarizing some key points.

The benefits of Interoperability are numerous: As it drives real improvement in the conduct of operations, it has economic benefits for the Alliance Partners, and it makes good sense for business.

Industry is eager to participate in the development of the enabling standards and open system architectures that will provide the fabric of capability to enable real interoperability.  We need to see NATO take the actions needed to make these enablers real.

To achieve the full benefits, we must be willing to recognize and address the realities of increased mutual vulnerabilities and the corresponding need for enhanced technology sharing.

Many of these issues must be addressed in the policy arena.

We in industry want to make this future happen much sooner by working with NATO on it now.  General Abrial said this morning that “cost and speed matter,” and I think this is a key message as we together contemplate how we will move forward to create superior systems for NATO forces -- systems that give our Alliance the advantage whatever our mission.