NATO and Reserve Forces: A Czech View (by Ambassador Jiří Šedivý)
Three Arguments Support a Stronger, More Expansive Use of Reservists It goes without saying that the significance of Reserve forces and their added value to security and defense are growing. I believe there are at least three strong arguments that support that position.
The first can be classified as the economy of force argument. In the current state of austerity, demand has been growing for Reservists to support, augment, or even substitute for incomplete, declining, or deployed capabilities. At the same time, most of our nations are on the trajectory of a long-term demographic decline. The pool of willing and able citizens ready to be recruited to serve in uniform has been shrinking. Commensurately to that, i.e., less money and fewer people, Reservists are becoming indispensable for maintaining defense capabilities.
The second argument is technological. As the sophistication of defense systems and progressive employment of dual-use technologies in military affairs require ever closer cooperation between the civilian and military worlds, Reservists should serve as a vehicle for this kind of exchange, i.e., shuttling innovation and expertise between the two worlds. Cyberdefense and information and communication technology currently represent the most obvious cases in point
The third argument is societal. After the professionalism of militaries, and this has also been experienced in my country, it is crucial to maintain a bridge between the armed forces and the civilian population. At the same time, our societies have been changing. Aside from getting older, they have become more diverse—perhaps even fragmented—more urban-based and less “defense-minded.” T us, as one of the civil society networks, Reservists play an important role in holding up the societal cohesion and spirit of citizenship, as well as defense awareness in our nations. They are “twice citizens,” as Winston Churchill put it.
Now the challenge is how to operationalize this growing demand. The first step should be mere understanding, recognition, and acknowledgment. The current context requires a shift from the traditional concept of Reserves based On mobilization and draft toward a more flexible and enduring employment of Reservists to support, augment, or even substitute for regular national armed forces. And I understand that the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) has a significant function in building such understanding, not only vis-à-vis national establishments but, and perhaps more importantly, toward NATO.
In July 2012, the NATO Military Committee decided to launch a formal relationship between NATO and CIOR, thus creating a framework for a better and more coordinated development and use of Reserves in the allied context. At the same time, the committee approved new terms of reference for the National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC). The latter was founded in 1981 and recognized as a NATO committee in 1996.
The NRFC’s terms of reference provide for a wide array of activities, namely exchange of information and sharing of best practices among participating nations that may include: structure, organization, and administration of Reserve forces; their education, training, and exercising; force generation, force employment, and supporting policies of Reserve forces; capability development, interoperability, and transformation of Reserves in the NATO context; employer, family, and community support for Reservists, including legal conditions; welfare, including post-operational reintegration of Reservists. The NRFC is expected to provide policy advice in these areas to the Military Committee.
This does not mean that NATO has set out on the path of a Reserve forces standardization across its membership and activities. Nations will retain different approaches to the structuring of their Reserve forces, their quantity, type, funding, training, availability, call-up, and utilization. The national variations are path-dependent, rooted in differences in history, social conditions, and military culture of individualallies. On the other hand, we should begin with the assumption that the Washington Treaty and Strategic Concept—the latter specifying the present core NATO tasks—should orient the work of the committee and practical development and employment of national Reserves.
But above all, as NATO reforms itself permanently, the Reserves cannot stand aside from that process, thus missing the transformation train. In that respect, CIOR’s initiative to work with Allied Commander Transformation on how to integrate a Reserve component in the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) is exactly the right approach. As NATO is expected to shift its emphasis from operational engagement to operational preparedness afer International Security Assistance Force close-down at the end of 2014, the Alliance will need to make a new effort to remain capable and maintain its forces at a high level of readiness and usability. Interoperability and connectivity of forces is a crucial prerequisite for that, and CFI is the main driver. And I believe that the Reserve Component should be considered across all CFI activities, i.e., training, education, and exercise as well as technological aspects of interoperability among NATO’s armed forces.
In addition to their military experience, Reservists can contribute by virtue of their civilian expertise, especially with highly valued skills and enabling capabilities such as medicine, engineering, logistics, law, foreign languages, cultural awareness, and information management and technologies.Most of these skills are especially relevant in the current and most likely also future crisis management context. The hybrid character of operations requires a balanced mix of military and nonmilitary approaches, namely in the area of local capacity building and post-conflict stabilization.
The new Czech concept of active Reserves puts a special emphasis on motivation. To realize its midterm quantitative target of roughly 25 percent of armed forces consisting of Reserve (which would be about two times more than the current active Reserve establishment) and, indeed, the projected qualitative parameters of the desired Reserve capability, a set of incentives needs to be put in place. The key lesson learned from the more experienced countries is clear: It is much easier to motivate people to become Reservists than to convince their employers to enable and support that.
The Czech Republic’s current practice of having Reservists conduct their military service activities during weekends and annual leaves is not tenable. The first step toward changing the perception of employers—and the overall culture of how Reserve duty is viewed by the population— is to start communicating about the issue. One should convince employers that having Reservists (who by definition are expected to possess an above-average moral profile and ethics of discipline as well) on their staffs is a good thing for the company, and they should be proud of it. The idea of establishing a platform for discussions with employers should not be missed either.
In a similar vein, a form of a public appreciation and recognition of the support for Reservists should also be considered,e. g., by means of awarding such a socially responsible and defense-minded company a prestigious title such as “national defense partner.”
Financial compensation is indispensable, especially in the private sector, which is naturally profit-oriented. There has been a debate about some form of tax relief for the private companies’ support, but this was rejected because of the cost and the administrative complexity. It is much easier and transparent to pay direct compensation for the working hours spent on Reserve activities.
Last but not least, in view of the technology argument, especially for high-tech companies, having a Reservist expert well placed in the defense establishment could bring not only mutual benefit in stimulating innovation, but also a comparative advantage for the company vis-à-vis procurement and acquisition by/in the defense sector.
In conclusion, one must be absolutely clear about the following: Te increased reliance on Reserve forces is by no means a miraculous remedy in times of economic austerity and demographic decline. It can be only a complementary measure. Yet it does not absolve any allied government—the Czech Republic included—from the fundamental responsibility to adequately resource and maintain top-notch military capacities in line with Article 3 of the Washington Treaty to ensure that NATO has the full range of capabilities necessary to deter and defend against any threat to the safety and security of our nations.
Jirí Šedivý is the permanent representative of the Czech Republic to NATO. Before appointment to his current position, Mr. Šedivý served as first deputy minister of defense. He also has served as NATO assistant secretary general for defense policy and planning, deputy minister for European affairs, and minister of defense in 2006.
He has been a member of a number of international expert teams and task forces preparing policy recommendations and security analyses, including for the European Union, NATO, and the U.S. government. He also served as external adviser to former Czech President Václav Havel.
1 In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this treaty, the parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.
Published in journal of the US Reserve Officers Association The Officer, November-December 2013