Due to an impressive turnaround effort, the Norwegian Armed Forces are now able to contribute actively to Norwegian, European and international security. A mere four years ago, however, the situation was quite different.
As pointed out by former Minister of Defence Bjørn Tore Godal in 2001, the Norwegian Armed Forces were "in a profound and lasting structural crisis." He also declared that the Armed Forces lacked both operational capability and the ability to deploy rapidly. Transforming this legacy from the past - rebuilding a force structure adapted to the Cold War to meet today's rapidly changing security environment - became the main challenge for Minister of Defence Kristin Krohn Devold.
Back in 1999, though considerable in numbers, the Norwegian Armed Forces barely possessed the resources and ability to perform: they required four months to deploy to Kosovo. The Telemark Battalion lacked armour and had limited firepower. The F-16 fighter aircraft's ability to attack ground targets was limited, as was its night flight capability.
A continuation of the Cold War force structure would in effect have tied up all financial resources by the year 2007, leaving no funds for investments. Through restructuring and comprehensive efficiency measures, operating costs have now been curbed, thereby freeing funds for investment. As a result, Norway now devotes about one-third of its defence budget to investment, and many operational deficiencies have been eliminated.
An integral part of the ongoing restructuring process towards more relevant armed forces is the active development of multilateral cooperation. This entails continuing close cooperation with the United States in order to maintain the transatlantic dimension, while at same time pursuing more cooperation with larger European allies and allies of a size more comparable to Norway.
The Ministry of Defence particularly aims at establishing comprehensive multinational military cooperation with the countries around the North Sea - a North Sea Strategy. The aim is to develop close and broad operational cooperation with a limited number of strategic partners, sustained by cooperation on materiel, logistics, training, exercises and education and operational concepts.
The philosophy of this multilateral military cooperation is to exploit and develop individual nations' niche capabilities in NATO's combined force structure. That entails pursuing existing capability and competency areas where individual participants for climatic, topographic, technological or other particular national reasons have developed a comparative advantage.
A prerequisite for successful cooperation is the participating forces' willingness to accept the division of labour and avoid the duplication of efforts. This rests on a mutual reliance on the partners' capabilities as well as their military equipment. In theory, this ought to strengthen reciprocal willingness to procure defence materiel from the partners' industries. Due to the nature of defence markets, however, there is a continuing tendency to prefer domestic suppliers.
Despite active efforts through bilateral and multilateral arrangements within NATO to foster an open market, this tendency especially inhibits international opportunities for defence companies from smaller nations. Therefore, industrial cooperation agreements are necessary to ensure that Norwegian defence contracts awarded to foreign suppliers also benefit Norwegian industry. They are a tool to facilitate opportunities to participate in international cooperation through joint ventures or international programmes to secure market access.
The Norwegian defence industry has always proved very adaptable and highly capable of engineering solutions that meet specific technology requirements imposed by extreme climates, challenging topography or other unique characteristics. This ability to interpret and accommodate the customers' operational requirements is decisive to success in the international marketplace.
International military transformation relies on the collective ability to field equipment that can complement and support the process. In this respect, the Norwegian defence industry has the know-how, technical skills and the intellectual capital to tailor systems that can accommodate evolving multinational requirements. I am therefore convinced that the Norwegian defence industry will continue to bring valuable contributions to national and international military preparedness.
Norwegian National Armaments Director