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CHIPS Articles: Italian Navy Adm. Luciano Zappata

Italian Navy Adm. Luciano Zappata
NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation
By CHIPS Magazine - April-June 2009
Adm. Luciano Zappata graduated from Italy's Naval Academy in Livorno, Italy, and was commissioned an ensign in May 1970. The admiral's naval experience is extensive, having served on submarines, destroyers, frigates, and in weapons, combat systems, staff and operational positions.

From 1987 to 1988, he served as commanding officer of the frigate Espero, participating in escort operations to Italian merchant shipping in the Persian Gulf.

From 1992 to 1993, he served as commanding officer of the cruiser Vittorio Veneto, participating in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and NATO and Western European Union operations in the former Yugoslavia as flagship of the NATO Commander, Standing Naval Force Mediterranean.

Promoted to rear admiral in December 1996, he held the position of Commander of the Second (Blue Water) and Third (Amphibious) Naval Divisions, and CTG 621.01 (Italian Carrier Battlegroup) during Operation Allied Force - Kosovo. He subsequently held various positions, including assistant head of the Navy Development Department, Chief of Staff of Commander in Chief Naval Fleet and Vice Inspector for Naval Logistics Support.

In January 2005, he was promoted to vice admiral and served first as Navy Chief of Staff Advisor and then as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy. His most recent tour was Advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Italian Defence.

He was promoted to admiral in June 2007 and assumed the position of Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation July 2, 2007.

ACT is NATO's leading agent for change; enabling, facilitating and advocating continuous improvement of military capabilities to enhance the military interoperability, relevance and effectiveness of the NATO alliance. CHIPS met with Adm. Zappata in February at ACT headquarters in Norfolk, Va., to discuss some of ACT's initiatives and challenges.

CHIPS: What key projects has Allied Command Transformation undertaken recently that may impact maritime security?

Adm. Zappata: In NATO, we have launched in the last year a project called Multiple Futures. We expect this project will support NATO as it begins discussions on what could be the Alliance's next future strategic concept. The existing future concept we have from NATO is a bit old — from 1999. The world has changed and will continue to change. NATO is now involved in operations in Afghanistan. There are many new situations that must be considered.

We were excited at the idea of starting this Multiple Futures Project to understand and to raise the caliber of discussion about the possible future security environment inside NATO and to provide a sound basis for more such discussions at the political and military levels.

This project will influence security discussions and further work within the Alliance and possibly those nations outside of the Alliance. Our aim is to try to influence the definition of the future military challenges — this is how we will be shaping new ideas in NATO. In the Multiple Futures Project, we have identified many drivers of change, from the growth of populations to scarcity of resources and climate change.

For example, if you look at the existing work from the High North (Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North) discussions going on in Iceland, northern countries, like Russia, Denmark, Canada, the United States and all the surrounding countries, we are discovering new innovations because new opportunities, like new sea routes and the possibility of exploiting the bottom of the seas' resources, are opening up.

One of the results we see from this Multiple Futures Project is the importance of the maritime dimension to NATO. Both of NATO's strategic commanders, General James Mattis and General John Craddock, have underscored the importance of the maritime dimension and are working with the nations at the NATO headquarters to agree on a sound way ahead to define a Maritime Strategy and a Maritime Security Operations concept. So far the reactions from the nations are very positive.

CHIPS: What is the focus of NATO's new maritime strategy?

Adm. Zappata: We cannot understand with perfect clarity what the future will hold, but two ideas are important. The first is flexibility. Freedom of the seas when operating in international waters allows you to position your fleets wherever you want at relatively short notice.

You can be present in areas of the world far from your homeports with significant military, political, diplomatic effects. You can cause other nations to be aware of your presence — or not — if you don't want to. You can also establish a limited footprint ashore when needed. That's flexibility. As an example, let's talk about missile defense. You have states with the potential to threaten our countries with missiles. Seas provide freedom of movement for ships and naval platforms, which can operate over the horizon. No one knows that you are there, and you can sail a task force ready to react and be well-prepared.

The second idea is inclusiveness. NATO has discovered the importance of taking a comprehensive approach toward all the other actors at sea. We cannot ignore shipping companies; the International Maritime Organization; nongovernment organizations; and the United Nations.

There are many different non-NATO nations to take into account that are sending their ships to protect their own vessels from piracy. NATO should be more inclusive. We should be able to work with the other actors to find solutions for the future, especially when we share the same challenges and consider the complex international legal framework.

For me, flexibility and inclusiveness are key ideas behind a new maritime strategy.

CHIPS: How does this play into NATO's role with other world organizations such as the UN and European Union?

Adm. Zappata: The United Nations and the European Union are two different organizations. Given the financial problems we are facing and given the globalized world, it is my professional view that if European Union nations want to remain relevant in the future, they must work together. The contributions by individual European Union nations to NATO are significant.

My idea, however, is that the European Union could increase its role and influence within NATO if there were more unity and cooperation among nations. There are many ongoing initiatives in this respect, but there is a long way to go.

The United Nations is a very inclusive organization. That is why it is important for NATO to increase the relationships with the United Nations. I believe we can provide the United Nations with great support.

One of the characteristics of NATO is that NATO is the only existing alliance with a military structure that includes a standing command and control organization. This could be valuable to the United Nations for many reasons, starting for example, with situations where we might provide aid to a disaster or other humanitarian crisis.

This builds trust and confidence in the UN and NATO, while at the same time providing, in some situations, the command and control tools that the UN needs to be effective. It is difficult to do this because there are usually many sensitive political points that may be hard to overcome, but it is a field of opportunity that we have to exploit in the operational community.

CHIPS: How has cyber operations challenged NATO's approach to maritime strategy? Is it something you recognize within NATO?

Adm. Zappata: The answer, of course, is yes. Cyber needs to be defined because it is a completely new dimension. Because I am a sailor, I think the characteristics of this dimension are like an ocean. The waves are electromagnetic waves in electromagnetic space. Information technology has given us 'cyber' ships and vessels — a way to use this electromagnetic space — media, radio and TV.

Cyberspace has some very important characteristics. First of all, you move at the speed of light. There is no relevance of space or physical dimensions. You can talk to whoever you want with a simple click or using a cell phone. Distance as a dimension is irrelevant.

The flow of data or amount of data depends only on bandwidth or the dimension of the cyber ship. Cyberspace provides both opportunity and risk for both bad and good guys.

Whenever you sail in this cyber ocean, you can find criminals, pirates and opponents. In cyberspace, the power of nations doesn't matter. You can be the most powerful nation in the world, and you can be threatened by a few well-prepared hackers. Our enemies are able to exploit weaknesses in this critical field. This is particularly important for the Western countries and for NATO because we rely heavily on information technology. What if our adversaries were able to disrupt this flow of information or break into classified systems?

Of course, we have specific ways of protecting our networks and communications, but it is a continuous challenge. The more we want to use cyberspace to exploit all these opportunities, the more we are at risk of being attacked by others.

Cyberspace is another dimension that the Multiple Futures Project addresses as critically important for its security and military implications. NATO will have to take into account this view.

CHIPS: Can you talk about some other top initiatives for NATO?

Adm. Zappata: Setting aside NATO's operations, such as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan for a moment, I find one of NATO's most future looking actions to be the NATO Training Cooperation Initiative. It was established as a way of sharing allied training expertise with Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) partners from the broader Middle East.

To this end, NATO intends to build an expanding network of NATO training activities that will modernize defense structures and train security forces. This initiative is part of the Alliance's continuing transformation of its capabilities and relationships in response to an evermore complex security environment.

I have made many trips to MD/ICI countries, in order to describe to them who we are, what we do, and to exchange our views with them. I have always found these countries very open to improve the reciprocal understanding of culture.

These nations are willing to increase the dialogue and the relationship with NATO, which is essential to build trust and contribute effectively to improve the stability of the area. This initiative from NATO is very important and should be taken up further by the Alliance.

In many situations, like piracy and other maritime issues, we can be inclusive and ask other nations to join us and defend the freedom of the seas, which is in the interest of everybody. The contribution of these countries is vital to be successful.

CHIPS: How is technology used to share information between countries during operations or training exercises?

Adm. Zappata: The exchange of information is the basis of interoperability. Interoperability is a key word because NATO is an organization composed of nations that have different tools and different systems.

Nations want to be free to make the choices they want, and autonomous in deciding what systems or equipment to buy. Interoperability is based on defining and agreeing on a common set of standards or rules and ways of delivering these common services.

It is a continuous circle, in technology and in the real world, things develop day-by-day in communication systems. Interoperability is not something you can buy on the market; it is a process — a continuous effort.

The foundation of interoperability is the will of the nations to be interoperable. There is an organizational aspect of how to achieve and maintain this interoperability. We agree as NATO nations to exchange and share information. That is one of the basic goals. This is where we still have a lot to improve.

While the command and control organization may be a NATO task force, and the commanding officer may be from NATO, it is the NATO nations which provide the forces on the field. Transformation happens in the nations. The nations buy the systems, and they educate and train their soldiers. This is one of the important goals of ACT: to be able to address the nations and give them proper advice.

When I came here, I heard that ACT was the forcing agent for transformation. I did not like the term 'forcing agent' from the beginning because to force you must have authority, you must have tools and a way of enforcing. This cannot work in NATO.

At ACT, we now consider ourselves to be the leading agent for transformation. Leading means having ability [and] good ideas, indicating to nations the way they should move ahead. We can help nations prepare their armed forces for the future while keeping this great value of interoperability.

We have achieved good results with interoperability — especially in our navies. I say that from a personal point of view because of my experiences at sea. We still have to work to improve, especially with the armies, because in the Cold War armies were not expeditionary in nature. This is new for NATO.

In this relationship between the United States and NATO, you are a country well ahead of some European nations in many technological fields, sometimes far more than we conceive.

We need to avoid the risk of the United States going very strongly in some direction with European nations struggling behind. The link here in Norfolk, Va., between U.S. Joint Forces Command and ACT, is valuable for both NATO and the United States. That is why I think that the presence of a NATO command on U.S. soil is important. It says that NATO is more than Europe; it is also the United States and Canada, and we are all together.

It is important to be aware of this because in today's security environment challenges are more globalized, coming from everywhere and affecting all our citizens wherever they are.

For more information about NATO Allied Command Transformation, go to

The Multiple Futures Project team has built an Intellectual Framework that identifies relevant Drivers of change that includes several plausible Futures. The team has been successful using the framework to focus thinking and improve understanding of how the world may change. From this understanding, we are better able to deduce the strategic-military implications. These implications will be used to develop the best possible military advice for the Alliance and better inform the defense planning processes.

The title of the MFP refers to the future in general, not in military or security terms in particular. The MFP is committed to providing the best possible military advice. But providing advice on military and security matters in the long-term perspective necessitates analyzing the future in broad terms, including the natural, political and social dimensions.

These dimensions combine to shape the various multiple futures the Alliance might face. Each of these futures contains a varied set of security and military challenges from which the team will analyze future security challenges within a broad perspective, using well-known and well-established academic, private sector and military methodologies.

The MFP aims to create the basis for a strategic dialogue within the Alliance – about future challenges, their relative nature and gravity, and how the Alliance should respond to these challenges. The intent with the MFP is not to predict the future of the Alliance; rather the intent is to create a basis for strategic dialogue.

NATO Training Cooperation Initiative

NATO Training Cooperation Initiative is a way of sharing allied training expertise with Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) partners from the broader Middle East. To this end, NATO intends to build an expanding network of NATO training activities that will modernize defense structures and train security forces through an evolutionary and phased approach.

This initiative is part of the Alliance's continuing transformation of its capabilities and relationships in response to an evermore complex security environment. Today, NATO is engaged in operations and missions across three continents ranging from crisis response operations to training missions and disaster and humanitarian relief operations.

In addition, the alliance maintains partnerships, dialogue and cooperation at varying levels of intensity with close to 40 countries, making the family of allies and partners a group that comprises one-third of United Nations member states. NATO is pursuing ever-closer cooperation with other international and nongovernmental organizations, both at the strategic level and in theater.

Adm. Luciano Zappata
Adm. Luciano Zappata

Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Italian Navy Adm. Luciano Zappata with Executive Assistant Italian Navy Capt. Paolo Pezzutti at ACT headquarters in Norfolk, Va. Feb. 18, 2009.
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Italian Navy Adm. Luciano Zappata with Executive Assistant Italian Navy Capt. Paolo Pezzutti at ACT headquarters in Norfolk, Va. Feb. 18, 2009.
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