NATO’s New Strategic Mission to Shore up Cybersecurity, DoD’s Flournoy says

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Michele Flournoy, DoD; Photo: dod.gov, Chris Harvey

To adapt NATO’s mission to “new threats,” the organization added missile defense and  cybersecurity provisions to the organization’s strategic concept at its annual summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 19 and 20.

In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, top Defense Department policy official Michele Flournoy said the organization’s new mission statement allowed the organization to deal with “the real threats” facing the world today.

The revamped strategic concept, which hasn’t been updated since 1999, now “clearly articulates the real threats” to NATO’s collective security, she said. They include: terrorism, nuclear proliferation and cyber warfare, among other pressing concerns.

NATO’s central premise is its guarantee of mutual security, and leading up to the conference, some had speculated about how NATO would view cyber attacks against member nations going forward.

Flournoy said the cyber threat is unlike any other because it stands established security concepts, such as escalation control and traditional military ideas of offense and defense, on their head.

And, even NATO is playing catch-up, she added.

“Unfortunately, NATO’s ability to defend its own cyber networks is not what it needs to be. This is why we agreed to undertake a cyber policy review … [that] should result in a plan of action to improve the protection of our systems,” she explained.

Flournoy also mentioned how the global economic downturn, which has defense budgets in the United States facing possible squeezes, has also caused NATO to do some soul searching.

“In Lisbon, the allies took meaningful steps . . . to strip out some of the bureaucratic layers in order to make more funds available for vital operations and capability investments,” she said.

“Specifically, the allies agreed to . . . the elimination of some seven headquarters and the reduction of headquarters personnel by about 4,000 people,” she added.

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