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CHIPS Articles: Q&A with Supreme Allied Commander Transformation

Q&A with Supreme Allied Commander Transformation
French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros
By CHIPS Magazine - January-March 2015
General Jean-Paul Paloméros was confirmed by the North Atlantic Council as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation on Aug.6 2012 and assumed command in Norfolk, Virginia, on Sept. 28, 2012.

The general joined the French Air Force Academy in 1973 and qualified as a fighter pilot in 1976. Throughout his career he acquired extensive experience both as an operational Commander and as a fighter pilot, having flown 82 combat missions and more than 3,500 flying hours, mostly on Mirage F1C and Mirage 2000 aircraft. Gen. Paloméros was awarded the rank of Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour in 2009. He is also an Officer of the National Order of Merit and holds the Aeronautical Medal.

ACT is NATO’s leading agent for change, driving, facilitating, and advocating continuous improvement of Alliance capabilities to maintain and enhance the military relevance and effectiveness of the Alliance. ACT promotes and leads many initiatives designed to transform NATO's military structure, its forces, capabilities and doctrine. ACT's main responsibilities include education, training and exercises, as well as conducting experiments to assess new concepts, and promote interoperability throughout the Alliance.

Gen. Paloméros talked with CHIPS staff Dec. 17 during the Chiefs of Transformation Conference held in Norfolk, Virginia, Dec. 16-18, 2014. The purpose of the Chiefs of Transformation Conference is to leverage work across the Alliance by sharing best practices and expanding collaboration among the nations. The theme of the conference is: “Preparing for Tomorrow’s Challenges — Together.”

Gen. Paloméros: ACT’s role is to lead transformation for the Alliance. It is important that the U.S. services and people here understand what ACT is. We want to communicate to local people about how NATO is preparing for the future. It is wonderful to be located in the U.S. and to interact within the U.S. daily and with the U.S. Navy, and to acknowledge the U.S. commitment to NATO as its most important contributor. We are building on these strengths to improve cooperative security and are engaged in these day-to-day efforts.

ACT is a great asset to the Alliance and to the U.S. It is a wonderful organization with 600 integrated U.S. and multinational military personnel. It is good news for Virginia and the U.S. that we (ACT) are doing this important job for the Alliance, here in Norfolk.

Q: In your address this morning you talked about hybrid warfare which also includes information operations. For example, Russia continues to deny it is arming rebels in Ukraine and has a build-up of forces on the Ukraine border. How can NATO counter the effects of this misinformation?

Gen. Paloméros: Consider the fact that the Alliance goal is to preserve its core values, peace, freedom. We cannot counter information with disinformation. We must respond with our democratic values of transparency and democracy. But it is difficult to put across the good news, mainly the fact that NATO is promoting peace and security, that NATO, in particular, is by nature a defense Alliance.

So, we must have a good communications strategy — this is where our Centres of Excellence can be adaptive and innovative — to answer and engage more with the media and through seminars so there will be an understanding of what we are trying to do. Engaging military to military is not enough.

Open communication is one of the democratic tools. There is a great role in the relationship with the media. We want to answer with our own tools. So, the big question is: ‘What information are we ready to release?’ and ‘If we aren’t able to do that, do we run the risk of losing the battle of information?’

We must demonstrate the value of the Alliance, for example, in what we have accomplished in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, it is not easy but we are able to mount a very positive communications campaign. It is crucial to show how we can really influence things. For instance, do you know that since 2002, the average [life span] of Afghan people in Afghanistan went from 43 to 64. NATO has enabled that to happen.

Ukraine is a partner but not a member of NATO. This makes a response more complex. So now, we have to transcend the partnership with Ukraine. In more general terms we must cooperate more with other organizations, in this case, the EU, with 22 of the 28 nations that are in NATO because we share a common perspective.

Q: ISIL has successfully recruited members across European countries and the U.S. to its cause. Does NATO have a plan to counter ISIL’s information campaign?

Gen. Paloméros: This is not a NATO question. We must address ISIL through a national perspective first and I see the need for nations in Europe to come up with a comprehensive, wide approach. We need to change the perception of people to address the roots of the problem.

This is not new. Some [young people] are lost. In my perspective, this is not about religion. So the main question is how we can as citizens reach out to the young people looking for fulfilment and integrate them into society through education. Victor Hugo said in the 18th century, if you open a school [door], you close a jail. It is still true today.

ISIL is not an Islamic movement. It’s a radical movement. It’s not a state. It’s a terrorist group. But they pretend that they are a state. They have put together a very attractive social media campaign. We must stop that with education and communication.

Q: What role does information technology and use of cyber operations play in NATO transformation?

Gen. Paloméros: This is the blood of organizations. We have to master information, use information for connecting forces at a distance with good intelligence, reliable and available cyber defense capabilities. IT is everywhere. Cyber is so crucial. We are making a lot of effort to make sure that the 28 nations of NATO are addressing this question together.

Investment in IT is important to transformation. The good news is that countries have accepted that. We are taking the benefits of capacity in Estonia as a Center of Excellence (NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence). We are also moving in the right direction with industry and private partners.

The question of cyber has immense consequences; it’s not only a military problem but it will affect operations if we are unable to secure our networks…

We are conscious of the risks of cyber but with education, training and the right skills from experts and operators, we can define the proper doctrine, and means and, together we can master the cyber problem.

We used to stamp [paper] documents with a security warning. But now everything is easily disseminated. Not everything is about technology. Today’s generation is so used to the technology, in the past we were more cautious about it. Really cyber must be part of the education. Education should go well outside the military; every individual should be aware of the risks to their bank accounts security, personal data.

In NATO, we have cybersecurity exercises and education and training... We must put more emphasis on and invest in people.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish by the end of your tour as SACT?

Gen. Paloméros: Since 2003, ACT has stepped forward to adapt the Alliance and my own perspectives; my philosophy is that I am part of this process bringing my own skills.

There have been great commanders before me, and there will be after me to leverage and train through training and exercises to make sure we have suitable capabilities, to make sure military forces are relevant. These accomplishments are not mine alone.

My objective is really to use transformation to procure capabilities and the best training. Seeing what happens to training exercises in NATO is really a great accomplishment for me. How much we have been able to invest in our people, their education and training. Let’s focus more on people, education and motivation. I not only hope, but I think we are now more focusing on people. They are willing to commit themselves under harsh conditions... They must be our priority.

Q: In view of the budget constraints affecting all the nations in NATO, do you think there is a greater chance for developing new capabilities collectively?

Gen. Paloméros: Nations understand that there is no alternative but multinational cooperation so nations do come together collectively. We are on this path to modernize and upgrade. We have Smart Defense projects. There are 151 or 152 since today; it is an evolving process with all bringing something from our collective imagination. It is multinational and not just for new capabilities; it is also about organizing forces, command and control, logistics and training.

An extension of this is the Framework Nations Concept (FNC) where biggest nations can help small nations reach their capability. We encourage nations to initiate projects together.

Q: Is there a single most important technology currently under development that NATO will use in its transformation initiatives?

Gen. Paloméros: Automation and robotics are great game-changers. We are working to get a holistic view to understand the full scope [of their potential]. They are fascinating — and scary in the same time. We have to master and control that. We are only at the beginning. We need to control the technology if we want the most out of it. They are promising technologies, but we need to ask ourselves the good questions about their employment.

Q: In today’s rapidly changing security environment, what steps is NATO taking to keep ahead of adversaries?

Gen. Paloméros: The will of NATO nations is to carry on building; using our expertise, our skills and integrating with industry and private partners. We have a strong S&T effort with an innovative, creative, science and technology organization. Breakthrough technology will be a game-changer. We have the most creative nations in the world in NATO, but we cannot take for granted that we will always have the cutting-edge. All depends on an ability to keep the skills, through education and training. If we want to keep the technology edge, and we must encourage initiatives with the U.S., EU and in NATO to move the art and skills of innovation forward. We have good people doing a good job — and we are investing in our young generation.

Supreme Allied Commander Transformation French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros

Supreme Allied Commander Transformation French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros delivers opening remarks during the 2014 Chiefs of Transformation Conference. Photo by ACT PAO.
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros delivers opening remarks during the 2014 Chiefs of Transformation Conference. Photo by ACT PAO.

Supreme Allied Commander Transformation French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros answers questions from a reporter during an interview at the 2014 Chiefs of Transformation Conference. Photo by ACT PAO.
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros answers questions from a reporter during an interview at the 2014 Chiefs of Transformation Conference. Photo by ACT PAO.

More than to 300 attendees at the 2014 COTC watch Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow’s opening address. Photo by Petty Officer Stephen Oleksiak.
More than to 300 attendees at the 2014 COTC watch Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow’s opening address. Photo by Petty Officer Stephen Oleksiak.

Colonel Fernando Duarte discusses the Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre exhibit during the 2014 COTC. Photo by ACT PAO.
Colonel Fernando Duarte discusses the Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre exhibit during the 2014 COTC. Photo by ACT PAO.
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