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151209cotc04 400For three days starting on December 8, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Denis Mercier hosted the annual Chiefs of Transformation Conference (COTC15) in Norfolk, Virginia.

The COTC provides a valuable opportunity for Allies' and partners' transformation leaders, those who help prepare our nations to face future military challenges, an opportunity to connect, exchange views and collaborate, and to influence the work of the Alliance. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the COTC, as the first conference took place in 2006, drawing participants from all of the (then) 26 NATO Nations forming the Alliance. If the main focus then was "Moving Forward Together," the theme for COTC15 was "Strategic Innovation and Sustained Transformation." This year’s conference gathered more than 400 participants from 27 NATO Nations and 24 partner nations to discuss the future security challenges and how we integrate them in NATO Transformation.

A keynote address by Ambassador Vershbow, Deputy Secretary General of NATO kicked off the conference. "We are facing the most complex and dangerous security situation in decades, with simultaneous strategic challenges to the south and to the east. These are challenges that demand political unity, resolve and solidarity, as well as military readiness and responsiveness" said Ambassador Vershbow, who went on with a focus on the need to reinforce NATO’s path forward with our three pillars of military, political and institutional adaptation.

General Mercier moderated the first panel discussion titled "The Road to Warsaw: Strategic Perspectives." Supported by five engaging panellists, SACT introduced his six Focus Areas, which will drive ACT's work and outputs. They include Command and Control, Logistics and Sustainability, Collective Training and Exercises, Partnership, Human Capital and Capabilities.

The second panel focussing on "The Changing Face of Warfare" was moderated by Deputy Chief of Staff Capability Development, Lieutenant General Jeffrey Lofgren. The discussion provided an engaging debate on Hybrid threats and the challenges presented by the Cyber domain. It also highlighted the importance of building relationships with industry (not only for Cyber), to explore the Cyber challenges, and leverage the potential technological breakthroughs in this domain. This will include developing Response Capability, Defence Capability, Information Assurance & Sharing, and Training. These outputs clearly tie to SACT's focus on improving Command and Control. The discussion also identified the need to further address Cyber capabilities. Some of the clear outputs included the need to use Experiments to more quickly bring capabilities to the field and decrease the risk associated with this effort.

Day one of COTC15 also involved five breakout sessions focused on critical areas of our Capability Development, Collective Training, Partnerships, Gender perspectives and on building a shared understanding of resilience in view of contemporary and future threats. The development of a framework for enhancing Nations and Partners resilience was also explored. Working with NATO's partners, a very important area for ACT's work and in light of partners' diverse needs and abilities, NATO needs to continue to adapt and align interoperability efforts like the Individually Tailored Roadmaps and existing partnership tools.

The second day involved the NATO Chiefs of Transformation Round Table which ran in parallel with the Partner Chiefs of Transformation Round Table. Two of the main outputs from the partner roundtable was the acknowledgement that the NATO Partnership Strategy needs continuous adaptation in order to satisfy NATO and Partners' needs and the Centres of Excellences (COE’s) provide a suitable venue to increase interoperability.

In his final remarks, General Mercier highlighted some significant insights and actions to take away from this year’s conference. "Within our discussions on Hybrid threats, the analysis and sharing of information and intelligence in order to have the right indicators across the spectrum of threats is a critical aspect of the strategy against such threats. For NATO, the ability to conduct such analyses requires us to build flexible security networks with Allies, Partners and other non-NATO entities, particularly the EU; which is working on the creation of an intelligence fusion cell" said SACT. "This work on strategic awareness will be critical, as actions are underway to quickly develop the Hybrid implementation plan."

The COTC15 Conference has served to clearly identify many opportunities for continued improvement, looking beyond the Warsaw Summit. These improvements will push forward HQ SACT Transformation efforts and the necessary cultural change that was spoken about during the conference.

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