NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - WAVY.com spoke exclusively with the outgoing commander of NATO's Allied Command Transformation Headquarters, General Stephane Abrial.
The mission of the Allied Command Transformation is to enhance the NATO Alliance and shape the future of joint military security. As Supreme Allied Commander, General Abrial has been a leader in developing innovative programs like the SMART Defense Initiative and helping member nations maintain a strong alliance in the face of a struggling world economy.
NATO's Allied Command Transformation (ACT) functions as a "think-tank" for developing global joint defense strategies. Gen. Abrial has served as the commander of that mission since July 2009.
"I'm proud to say that everything we do in ACT is important to the nations," Abrial said. "The 28 nations of NATO want us to be here."
When the Joint Forces Command in Suffolk was disestablished last year, there was concern that the move might cause NATO to move the ACT out of Norfolk.
"The change from JF COM to a new structure came as a surprise to us," Abrial said.
Abrial says the way the US has managed the transition of that facility into what has become the Joint Warfighting Center has insured a continued presence for NATO in Norfolk.
"The part of it which has gone to the Pentagon has enabled us to have direct contact with the highest authorities in this country," Abrial said.
Cuts to defense spending have produced challenges not just for the United States but all NATO nations. That issue is further complicated by the fact that nations outside of the US are going in a much different direction with defense spending.
"All other areas of the globe, defense budgets are more increasing than decreasing," Abrial said. "So we need to make sure that in the future we maintain the level of security our alliance has brought to us."
The US is preparing to move additional defense assets to the Pacific, but Abrial says his nation and other NATO members also have interest in that area of the world and he is confident in the US's commitment to European defense.
"It is something which is in our mutual interest and also in our hearts," Abrial said. "It will not vanish. It will not diminish."
During his leadership, NATO and the US have developed and committed to the European Ballistic Missile Defense Initiative to counter growing threats. Abrial will be succeeded by another French General, Jean-Paul Palomeros, who was also a former commander of the French Air Force.
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