Diversity: A double-edged sword for NATO

At the cradle of the Atlantic Alliance, a vast assortment of nationalities,

languages, ethnic groups and religions come together to make Brussels seem

a logical choice for the home of the world's foremost military alliance.

But for NATO's 19 member nations and the more than two dozen nations that

belong to NATO's Partnership for Peace, that same diversity often wreaks

havoc on a convoluted and sometimes irrational military information technology

procurement process.

The political hurdles that face NATO military commanders are evident in

the very name given to its command and control agency, according to a source,

who spoke with me at one of Brussels' street-side cafes on the condition

that he remain anonymous.

"In NATO, it's not command, control and communications, it's consultation,

command and control," the source said, adding that even the best-laid technical

plans for seamless communications can be laid to waste if NATO nations do

not consent politically to decisions in a timely manner.

The problem, according to the source, involves NATO's politically charged

committee system, where the political agendas of individual NATO nations

can and do get in the way of real progress on the e-business front. In fact,

large procurements often can take more than two years to complete, the source

said. Although a new e-procurement system is only about a year away, NATO

officials have little insight into where the alliance's IT money goes.

So although NATO's growing diversity benefits European stability, it presents

significant hurdles to the alliance's acquisition professionals who must

contend with the bickering among NATO's cliques before they can get down

to the business of delivering IT to soldiers in the field.

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