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“More interaction needed between NATO and geo-community”

Bert Tiems
Chief C2 & Operation Services
C3 Agency, NATO

<< Right from detailing requirements to acquisition and then implementation of solution in the organisation, NATO C3 Agency is responsible for carrying out all the processes related to building C4ISR capabilities in the organisation. In a tete`-a-tete ´ with GeoIntelligence, Bert Tiems, Chief C2 & Operation Services, C3 Agency, NATO, tells us about the challenges facing the agency and the road ahead >>

Can you tell us about the role of C3 Agency of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)?

NATO C3 Agency acts as an intermediate between the military and industry in the area of C4ISR (Computers, Command, Control, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) capability development. We translate military operational requirements into clear system, service and information requirements that industry can create solutions for. We do the acquisitions and procurement of those capabilities as well. Once the industry delivers those capabilities to NATO, we are also responsible for implementing them into the military organisation. So we carry out all the processes – right from capturing requirements to tendering and then do actual procurement and acquisition and implementation of solution.

How important is geospatial information in Command and Control (C2)?

I primarily look after the C2 systems of NATO. There are a lot of applications in that area. For example, in the military organisation, we consider geo as part of intelligence community (that is, a part of ISR) but we have grouped it in C2 as well. That’s because we think it’s very important that common geo-products are used by C2 staff in support of the command and control of the operation. When we talk about geospatial, I see it more as a production of geodata; and geo-intelligence is to use that data in its right form in the C2 processes.

When we talk of acquisition of geospatial products, how tough is the cooperation between the two divisions – ISR and C2, given the fact that this is an area which is very much a part of ISR?

That’s one of the main challenges that we have right now in NATO. We do not carry out acquisition in one go. Instead, we do it capability by capability, that is, acquisitionfor maritime C2, ISR, logistics, etc. We acquire capabilities for each of these divisions separately. We need to understand how to make all these capabilities work together in a way that the endusers and operational commanders are able to support the operations. What we are seeing right now is that the individual acquisitions and the capabilities acquired work quite well inside their own operational area. But we have some challenges like we need to ensure that there is smooth sharing of information between different systems – ISR, geospatial and C2 systems. Integration is a challenge. It is important to provide support to the mission. That’s where we lag behind. We are taking steps in the right direction but we have to catch up.

The agency has of late awarded several contracts in areas like cyber defence, ISR capabilities, etc. Can you tell us about them?

Yes, we have some very big ongoing projects at the moment. If we talk about cyber defence, we have signed a contract to provide the cyber defence solution for NATO. We expect the capabilities to be ready with NATO within this year. So this is going to be a deliverable requirement of 2012.

These contracts, I believe, are in keeping with your vision of providing modern defence which is able to counter complex security challenges. What kind of threats do you envisage?

Talking about cyber defence, well, the whole new paradigm is that we have to share information and be flexible as much as possible. The information should be available when you need it. These are very clear operational requirements. But the easier it is to get the information that you need, the more likely is the vulnerability of information falling into the wrong hands. We need to put in place the increased cyber defence measures to have the right protection so that we don’t create security threat based on the availability of data. It is a different paradigm. Earlier, we had no security problems because data was not exchanged but now we are sharing data, and different nations have agreed to put the data on one common network. So now, we have to put the right measures in place to ensure that the data does not fall into the wrong hands.

What do you think about the new technology that we are now talking about –maps as new apps, and cloud emerging as the next big thing?

It’s great. With this new mechanism, there will be additional challenges to information sharing, to put right security mechanism in place without hindering the overall improvement of a capability.

What is NATO’s vision of GIS?

It is very important that GIS grows out of its own very strong operational community – the geo people. They are a world by itself and are great experts, but I think there’s a room for improvement there. There should be more involvement and integration of people responsible for C2 from J3, J4, J5, etc., with the geo-world. This will help the two better understand each other’s roles, responsibilities and requirements. I think it is important to increase the interaction between people from geo community and their consumers.

What do you think is hindering this interaction? Do you think technology is a problem?

I don’t think technology is a problem. The problem lies with processes, procedures, policies and protocols. Technology is fine. We have great technology right now but this may not be always used in the right fashion. Geo-world doesn’t fully understand the requirements from the J3 to J4 or J5, so we need to have more interaction. If there is a better understanding among geo-world about the requirements of the end-users of NATO, the HQ, it would be possible to use NATO core GS in more innovative ways than what it is used today; so there’re some missed opportunities. It is not just industry, but there is also a need for better interaction between NATO geo-people and NATO J3, J4 and J5.

The interview was held before the merger of NATO C3 Agency into the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency. On July 1, 2012, NATO C3 Agency alongwith the NATO ACCS Management Agency (NACMA), the NATO Communications and Information System Services Agency (NCSA), the ALTBMD Programme and elements of NATO HQ were merged together to form the NCI Agency. The Agency is now NATO’s IT and C4ISR provider including cyber and missile defence, and Bert Tiems is Senior Representative to ISAF, NATO Communications and Information Agency (Chief C2 and Operations Services – CAT4-6)