Allies, Partners More Important Than Ever

By James C. Boozer

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Now, more than ever, engagement and interoperability help us maintain and extend competitive advantage. As much of the world turns inward to deal with the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. competitors and adversaries seek advantage. National security professionals must continue to look outward, to deter, deny and, when necessary, defeat potential adversaries.

Deterrence, denial and defeat are always made easier with friends. Burden sharing at any level lessens the load the United States might otherwise bear alone. Demonstrating resolve across national boundaries also pays dividends, since potential adversaries may reconsider bad actions if they believe many countries will act together to oppose those actions.

Additionally, cognitive diversity — exploring strategies and courses of action that draw from multiple cultures and experiences — can help us outthink, rather than outfight, potential adversaries.

Finally, interoperability across the spectrum of conflict ensures the combined efforts of the United States and its allies and partners can deter, deny and defeat effectively.

Many U.S. politicians decry what they see as European allies failing to shoulder an equitable resource burden to maintain NATO’s relevance and strength. While there is always room for friends to talk about how best to split the bill, all allied contributions ultimately eliminate some national security burdens that might otherwise fall solely on the United States. Since the nation’s founding, American economic success has in many ways depended on free and open trade with allies and partners across the globe.

When Europe faced ruin from an incredibly destructive world war, U.S. forces helped catalyze an ending. And when a world war came to Europe a second time, America provided equipment and eventually forces to ensure a democratic, free market future for the western world.

The United States also played a lead role in winning the war in the Pacific, establishing the conditions for significant trade and national security relationships that continue to define international engagements.

Since that Second World War, U.S. economic and military strength has been inextricably tied to the maintenance of peace in Europe and the Pacific. These security relationships enabled economic growth with no known historical counterpart. U.S. presence and engagement through military and economic partnerships serve as the best guarantor of future peace and economic prosperity across the world.

American presence and engagement help guarantee peace and prosperity because of the inherent strength in numbers. While the United States may, in good faith, argue and disagree with its allies and partners, ultimately its interests align; we all want free and open societies based on democratic values where everyone has the opportunity to work to make a good life for their families. These shared bedrock ideals buttress alliances and partnerships as we work to deter, deny and defeat state and non-state actors who would attack those ideals. Collective resolve — backed by collective action — forms the foundation of a world order that has benefited nations across the globe with economic growth and prosperity.

But allies and partners bring more than simply burden sharing and numbers; most importantly they bring cognitive diversity to U.S. strategy, operations and tactics. Academic studies, as well as practical experience, clearly demonstrate that diverse, inclusive teams make better decisions. American warriors don’t own a monopoly on insights that can provide advantage across the spectrum of conflict.

Different experiences — cultural, educational and professional — frame approaches to tough challenges. We operate more effectively when we consider a broad array of alternatives, and we benefit from partners’ insights when we include them in all facets of operations, from determining strategy, to planning operations, through execution and finally evaluating effectiveness.

My experiences in my last assignment in Japan confirmed for me that our unique network of allies and partners is a force multiplier to achieve peace, deterrence and interoperable warfighting capability. The Defense Department is reinforcing its commitment to established alliances, while also expanding and deepening relationships with new partners who share our respect for self-determination, fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law.

Building partnership capacity in our long-standing security alliances is the bedrock on which U.S. strategy rests. It provides a durable, asymmetric strategic advantage that no competitor or rival can match. Expanding interoperability will ensure respective defense enterprises can work together effectively during day-to-day competition, crisis and conflict.

Through focused security cooperation, information sharing agreements and regular exercises, we connect intent, resources and outcomes and build closer relationships between militaries and economies. Increasing interoperability also involves ensuring military hardware and software can integrate more easily with those of our allies, to include offering financing and sales of cutting edge U.S. defense equipment to security partners.

The National Security Strategy calls on the United States to pursue cooperation and reciprocity with allies, partners and aspiring partners; cooperation means sharing responsibilities and burdens. The United States expects its allies and partners to shoulder a fair share of the burden to protect against common threats. When we pool resources and share responsibility for our common defense, the security burden becomes lighter and more cost-effective.

The globalized pandemic reminds Americans of their inextricable ties to the rest of the world. We do not live or operate in isolation. Strength in numbers, based on common values and amplified by shared decision-making and interoperability, ensures effective deterrence, denial and, when required, defeat of those who would oppose our way of life. 

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Jim Boozer is executive vice president of NDIA.

Topics: Global Defense Market, International

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