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Remarks as delivered for Adm. Michelle Howard at Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Award

June 12, 2017 at 10:54 AM UTC

05 June 2017 | Washington, D.C.

Thank you Atlantic Council for this recognition.  I appreciate the work you do to promote education and engagement on the complex security challenges the trans-Atlantic community faces today. The platform that you provide allows for a free flow of ideas.  I am truly honored to receive your Military Leadership Award. 

I would also like to congratulate the other awardees.  I have to especially congratulate Secretary General Stoltenberg.  As he is my boss!

Thank you Lt. Gen. Parent for the kind introduction.  I know that you are very busy with your new position in Ottawa as Canada’s vice chief of defense. I appreciate you making the effort to be here this evening, it means a lot to me.  The enduring relationship that we have forged over the years is indicative of the cooperation that the United States and Canada share as neighbors and as members of the NATO Alliance. 

It is very fitting to be here with this distinguished group of individuals tonight, hosted by the Atlantic Council.  On this night 73 years ago that the armed forces of Canada and America along with those of nine European countries and Australia prepared to assault the beaches of Normandy.

June 6, 1944 would be the beginning of the end of World War II.  The terrible destruction of the war led political leaders to search for ways ensure the peace and security and to prevent future conflict.  Seeking to formalize the alliances that had endured through the war, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was born.  The United States along with 11 other nations signed the Washington treaty to “safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples.”

Articles 4 and 5 of the Washington Treaty have been considered the bedrock of the Alliance.  They provide for the common defense of the members.   The territorial integrity and the security of Alliance members has been maintained since the signing in 1949.  In the 68 year history of the alliance, Article 5 has only invoked once.  The Allies decided to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the first time in NATO’s history the day after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Allies resoundingly answered the call to arms.    NATO formally took over Afghanistan operations in 2003 and continues to train and advise Afghan security forces with Operation Resolute Support today. 

The attacks of September 11th have brought to the fore, the new security challenges that confront NATO and the rest of the world.  Nearly seven decades after its inception, the cohesion of a 29 member alliance has been maintained.  The security challenges since1949 have evolved, but the Alliance’s willingness to confront those challenges has been steadfast.

And the challenges still continue to evolve.  During the Warsaw summit, NATO leaders realized that many of the challenges that confront the Alliance today are emanating from the Mediterranean.  Violent extremists, failed governments and mass migration have the potential to destabilize the trans-Atlantic community.  The treaty founders had the wisdom to understand that the world would change, and the Alliance had to be able to change with it.  The response for the current challenges from the south may not require Article 4 or 5, but may be better suited to Article 2 that requires the parties to ”contribute toward the further development of peaceful and international relations…”  by “promoting conditions of stability and well-being.”

NATO many years ago realized that partnership activity was important to the stability of the trans-Atlantic community.  Recognizing that partners in the Middle East and North Africa play a critical role in this stability, the Alliance’s Mediterranean dialogue was created to provide a venue for NATO to work with partners in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Partnership activity alone does not provide insight to problems. Fragile governments coupled with the actions of illicit actors are allowing these challenges to grow in scope.  In order to find solutions, we must better understand the environment.

At Joint Force Command Naples we have been tasked to get to an understanding of the political, economic, social and military issues that flank NATO to the south.  We are standing up a hub, a center, at my headquarters that will focus on gathering and sharing information across a broad spectrum of partners to include private organizations, national institutions, and non-governmental organizations.  The more data we collect, collate and analyze, we can start the journey to predict and prepare rather than react and rebuild.  The hub is an important step to increase our knowledge of the region.

When it stands up in September, our goal will be for the Hub to add value to work already being done by NATO and our partners such as the European Union, and African Union.  Ideally, partners in law enforcement and other agencies will also feed into the hub and benefit from the analysis of information.  The hub will complement ongoing efforts in the South and enable the Alliance to better project stability along the southern flank.

Thank you again to the Atlantic Council for your role in informing the public of the challenges that face our trans-Atlantic community and for your dedication to global leadership. Thank you for the opportunity to talk for a few minutes about the important work being done at NATO.   

I accept this award on behalf of the Sailors and Marines at my U.S. commands, but tonight, particularly on behalf my troops under NATO.

Thank you.

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