Rome '08 Workshop

Dealing with the Future Security Environment 

Admiral Luciano Zappata

Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation 

Admiral Luciano Zappata


I am the last obstacle between you and the end of the workshop! This gives me power over your personal freedom that I shall restrain from using provided you show your gratitude at the end of the evening and toast my national football team’s victory over Spain (this is my level of ambition for tonight)! 

I will start by thanking Roger for inviting me. This workshop had great speakers, great speeches, and great discussions, and I received a lot of important takeaways. Thank you, Roger! And many thanks to your very professional staff, to the great work, and to your hospitality. 

Since tonight I represent the Italian CHOD, I am also very pleased to extend to Roger, his staff, and all the participants at the workshop the warmest appreciation of the Italian Minister of Defense and my CHOD, General Vincenzo Camporini. When you introduced him, Roger, you presented him as an admiral; actually, he is a true joint leader, so I am very happy for this special award. 

Allied Command Transformation

 As the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, I work with this NATO organization to lead the military transformation of the Alliance. To do this, my organization works with Allied Command Operations (ACO) to support them in their mission, and with the individual nations that deliver most of the capabilities. We do not want to duplicate any of their efforts; rather, we provide a forum for bringing national processes together in a coherent way to develop interoperable capabilities. And we do not just work within NATO; often we work with partner countries, the countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD), the participants in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), and with contact countries. NATO, however, is a reference point for interoperability, and has a well-proven standing command-and-control structure, which is well represented here by Allied Command Operations. 

Military transformation is a cycle in which concept development and experimentation, innovation, analysis of lessons learned, and training combine to facilitate change and adaptation to new challenges. It does this maintaining a delicate balance between short-term requirements and a longer-term assessment of threats and risks. It is not just hardware; rather, it is more mindset and training. 

We know that life is change; life is transformation. Last night, on the top of Castel Sant’ Angelo, this was very clear as I looked at this city that is so often called “eternal.” But, what is new in our day? Are we at peace? Are new military threats coming? What capabilities do we need? How long will we be allowed to think, discuss, and prepare ourselves for what is ahead? I am going to try to set the scene for your thoughts and perhaps comments or questions. 


Admiral Di Paola said that the new factors of change are the “speed and span “of change, and I fully agree. However, I would add to these factors the worldwide reach of change and its extension to the space surrounding our planet. This includes the discovery of a new parallel “ocean” whose waves are electromagnetic (is its name Cyber?) but have the same characteristics of all seas: positive and negative opportunities, trades and threats, treasures and pirates, and so on. From the virtual beaches of this ocean we can sail (or surf, using the slang of the new sailors, the Net people), without space and time constraints, with new vessels provided to us by the IT era. This beautiful opportunity is available to everybody in a transversal, transnational, globalized way: One person is as powerful as an army. The new cyber-ocean is making possible the new shipping routes—the Net—to a new world. 

One other factor in the new change is that we all live in a glass house, with the eyes and ears of the media ever present everywhere. 


During the course of this workshop we looked at various scenarios and discussed them. We all saw how difficult it is to deal with them: In this global world, local and global issues are closely linked, and each affects the others, often unpredictably.I don’t want to make any attempts to predict the future. Our wise Secretary General, in a recent speech, recalled that the old criminal code of New York considered prediction to be a criminal offense. I don’t like Castel Sant’ Angelo jails—they’re cold in winter, hot in summer, with no air conditioning at all! 

 But what can we expect in the future? How can we describe the future security environment and the challenges we have ahead? To what extent does resolving a problem create new ones? 

Recently we started a project called Multiple Futures. Rather than predict the future—if we could do so, we would dedicate ourselves entirely to our finances—we are trying to help illustrate the challenges and their implications that decision-makers may face, and better understand and analyze how we may best organize and equip our forces and define our future capability requirements. We will be analyzing the global trends and key drivers in the future security environment. This work will help us to understand the resultant implications in terms of potential threats and risks to our populations and values and then help frame the discussion on future challenges and military implications in terms of roles and missions. For example, which capabilities must we develop, and within what timeframe? Nations are now fully involved in this process through their institutions and academia. Our aim is to bring them together, without duplicating their efforts, and so far we have had an enthusiastic response. 

Admiral Di Paola provided us with a few of the key drivers. The Secretary General also talked about them in a recent speech. We have found through discussions in different forums, that, although there is quite a uniform view, there are some distinctions, which is good because it ensures that we take into account most views. We want to be as inclusive as possible: The future belongs to all. 


A few years ago I wrote a paper for the University of Pisa, located in another historic Italian city, about a possible “European Dream,” in the fashion of the “American Dream.” After the devastating Second World War, our European fathers had a dream for us, their children: Never again to have war in Europe. NATO has provided the stability and peace needed to develop such a dream, and Europe is now growing. Some clear examples: Our fathers succeeded in creating a common currency, the euro, and today we can drive across our borders without controls and with no need to show our EU citizen passports. The great changes in history have come from dreams. I don’t know if we Europeans have a dream, but I believe we strongly need one (and, I would add, we deserve one). This, I think, is the challenge for our European political masters and our military. 

One dream I have is the birth of a European armed force. This seems to me the best way that European nations can better contribute to NATO in times of dramatically decreasing resources. But I am part of the military, and the military can dream only at night. So let’s come back to reality. 

To close this event, I would like to involve all of you by having you ask questions, some of which I hope will be provocative, because those provide the best opportunities for open talks. 


Can we remain dominant in conventional wars while improving military-operational effectiveness in the new irregular wars? Must our nations invest and cooperate intensively to maintain technological supremacy in the traditional areas of warfare? 

General Camporini told us about technology fascination. Indeed, we have the same tension in our HQ, and our Commander, General Mattis, who is an experienced soldier, warned us about surrendering to this fascination and I agree very much. So, how much must we rely on technology? Is this an area on which we must work, or do we need to look more at other aspects? Where will C.A. lead us? 

Information technology, we were reminded, is a two-edged sword that enables terrorist groups to fight on the same level as we do in the cyber-ocean and to network in an unprecedented manner. Is this a new battlefield? How much of it is the domain of the military, how much of it is national space, and how much of it is international space, like the oceans? We have come to rely on mobile phones, we are in the process of abdicating our map reading in favor of the GPS, and we are surrendering more and more of our abilities to networks, which in turn are becoming more vulnerable. As citizens of the world, we feel personally under continuous surveillance by the Big Brother anticipated by Mr. Orwell: through our credit cards, video cameras, cell phones with or without GPS, e-mail, PDAs, networked games, Internet shopping, and on and on. 

If climate change opens new sea routes and opportunities in the northern seas, what capabilities will we need to ensure our security? Could the Artic Ocean be subject to international status? 

If we are to conduct future operations with partner nations, should interoperability, collaboration, and information sharing be our priorities if we want to be effective and successful? Are we to link and synchronize our action with other organizations? When implementing the comprehensive approach at the operational level, in order to act in a coordinated way and apply a wide spectrum of instruments, we need to network and develop synergies with major actors, such as the EU, the U.N., and the various NGOs. 

The military needs to plan with a horizon of 10 to 20 years. However, we heard concern that the political level is drawn to a nearer-term view by the need to respond to the short-term needs of electorates. What are the incentives to draw short-terms views toward the long term? 

In that respect, how do we combine the lessons learned from operations in Afghanistan with those gained from realistic training? To what extent must we lock on to the current battle and look at the long term? 

How much do we need to develop in support of the current operations, and how much do we need to dedicate to the next fight? 

The military needs to be given a mission and political directives. If we do not receive these, we might not be able to deliver what you want from us and there might be a disconnect. What military problems do you want us to solve? We might not be in agreement about what the future will be, simply because a degree of unpredictability will always exist, but we will share a vision. From my limited perspective, the more NATO and the EU have in common, the better it will be for all of us. There is only a limited pot of resources, and we are acutely aware of the need nations have to develop one set of capabilities that can fit all. Ultimately, interoperability remains the only guarantee that we have spent our money—however little—wisely. In Afghanistan, the failure to do so cost lives. 

While the future may be filled with risks, every risk is a hidden opportunity. A vision can help us walk to the future with eyes wide open. The scarcity of resources and the threats to our peoples must become factors of unity. We must remember that the world is so little that everybody can now rock the boat! 

Now, more than ever, it is wise to quote an American soldier who used to say, “Have a dream.” We need a vision of where we want to be in the next years. Afghanistan, arguably, is suggesting a direction, but the short and the long term must be combined, starting now, to ensure that global security remains an achievable objective in the decades to come. 

We now have three different network enablers: oceans, cyber-space, and space. Oceans interconnect nations through an interdependent network of relationships. Cyber-space allows the free flow of information, the most important commodity of the post-Industrial Age. Finally, space allows the exploitation of freedom of movement and provides a new frontier. Together these dimensions present tremendous opportunities and risks. But we must continue to drive the transformational process to be more adaptive and responsive to new challenges and changing conditions. 

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