NATO Summit Should Boost Homeland Security Cooperation

Although NATO countries have made some progress in promoting intelligence sharing and mutual law enforcement assistance as part of the Global War on Terrorism, they need to substantially improve their cooperation in researching, developing, and testing homeland security technologies. A strategic and coordinated approach -- directed towards generating science and technology (S&T) contributions in areas of highest priority -- would help optimize allied countries' collective response to common security challenges. The Nov. 28-29 NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, could provide an opportune occasion for launching several initiatives to promote such an integrated multinational S&T approach.

<>Europe's uneven approach towards developing homeland security technologies raises the specter of another transatlantic capabilities gap that would compound U.S.-European disparities in other defense areas. Although the European Union launched a Security Research Program in March 2003 to fund homeland security research and development (R&D), it focuses on enhancing protection of critical transportation infrastructure (railroads, ports, airlines, and information networks) instead of developing new capabilities for emergency responders. As with many Europe-wide projects, the continent's homeland security programs also remain highly fragmented. Disparate authorities and competencies are distributed widely among EU-wide bodies and member country agencies. Until these trends are reversed, Europeans will continue to depend on American assistance, either bilaterally or through NATO, in the event of any major homeland security incident -- help that may not always be available in a major global crisis.

NATO can employ several existing mechanisms to reinforce and complement EU homeland security R&D efforts. For example, the alliance could use its "Security Through Science" program and Partnership for Peace Trust Funds more creatively to support homeland security technology R&D by NATO member and partner countries. Second, NATO could hold "reinforced" sessions of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Defense Ministers to include ministers responsible for homeland security issues (e.g., internal security and public health). Third, the alliance could organize special consultative groups among NATO experts in various homeland security technologies. Fourth, NATO governments could adopt more flexible national visa policies that reflected a "neighborhood watch" approach rather than the cult of secrecy traditionally associated with defense research programs. The aim should be to encourage students and scientists from allied governments to contribute to solving common homeland security problems. All these various dialogues and exchanges would help promote understanding of the diverse security threats confronting the transatlantic community.

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