Article By: MCSN John R. Fischer
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held a conference in Monterey, Calif., to discuss best practices in building institutional integrity within the global defense sector, Feb. 25-27. The outcomes of the conference will contribute to NATO defense cooperation and collaboration and will be a subject at the annual NATO Summit meeting, some of the goals which are integrating defense planning systems and ensuring a high degree of transparency in national defense planning.
The gathering brought together the expertise of 170 senior officials from 30 NATO member and partner countries, as well as international organizations such as Transparency International, a non-governmental organization focused on anti-corruption and civil service, and the World Bank, a global source for the financial assistance of developing countries.
The alliance meeting focused on developing recommendations for more efficient and effective defense policy and training in the areas of building institutional integrity and reducing corrupt practices through improved transparency and accountability.
In opening remarks, Joseph Benkert, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Security Affairs under the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, discussed the capacities of allies and international partners. He focused on the importance of the processes established by the alliance and how to bolster progress in transforming and developing countries, including the need for the military to work in a more synchronous way with state departments and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Aurelia Bouchez, Deputy Assistant Secretary General of Political Affairs and Security Policy for NATO, reaffirmed the specifics of the actions Benkert had discussed, stating during her own establishing remarks, “Building integrity, increasing transparency, and improving accountability – those are the three pillars of our action.”
With the premise and key focal points for the conference established by Benkert and Bouchez, the stage was set and awaiting its keynote speaker.
U.S. Marine Corps General James N. Mattis, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, spoke boldly and to the point. “This [conference] is absolutely fundamental to our success in defending our values,” Mattis told the attending members.
“This effort in integrity building goes to the heart of our mission,” Mattis continued. He cautioned the audience that undertaking the just cause of clarifying actions and fighting corrupt practices would be “inconvenient, unprofitable and dangerous.” The rewards, however, would be reaped by the masses, Mattis assured. “Building integrity in the military results in improved political and economic conditions for the rest of the nation’s efforts,” he said.
The rest of the morning and afternoon was filled with short, topical lectures accompanied by panel sessions offering the attendees an opportunity to ask questions.
The lectures by subject matter experts and the question and answer sessions gave the conference participants a chance to develop their own talking points for the following day, during which small working groups were formed. The working groups’ topics included reducing corruption while strengthening economies; integrity and education; corruption risks in defense contracts; and building effective partnerships with civil society.
The working groups offered findings, notes, questions and arguments observed and discussed throughout the process at a final panel session before calling the conference to a close. The outcomes are to be consolidated into final recommendations to be presented at the upcoming Strasbourg-Kehl NATO Summit, which will also mark the 60th anniversary of the alliance.
The conference closed with remarks from His Excellency, Ambassador Stewart Eldon, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to NATO. He praised the significance of the event and hopes the results of the conference “will lead NATO to a comprehensive approach to state building.”
The conference was organized and hosted by the Defense Resources Management Institute (DRMI), which is located at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, Calif. NPS is the only Partnership for Peace Education and Training Center in North America.