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27 June 2004

De Hoop Scheffer Showcases NATO's New Military Capabilities

Rapid response programs, CBRN defense, state-of-art training noted

By Rebecca Ford Mitchell
Washington File Staff Writer

Istanbul, Turkey -- With the NATO Summit set to begin the following day, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer spent June 27 showcasing recent military transformation successes of the Alliance at a series of pre-summit events.

He announced that NATO's new Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense Battalion, to be led by the Czech Republic, is now fully operational.

The battalion, he said, is a "superb example of how NATO is transforming to deal with the new threats posed by weapons of mass destruction."

In addition, the NATO Response Force (NRF), launched last October, will reach initial operational capability in only four more months, de Hoop Scheffer said.

While presiding over the change of command ceremony for that high-readiness, rapid-deployment force, the secretary general praised the outgoing commander, U.S. Marine Corps General James Jones for turning "an idea into a reality." The new commander is U.S. Navy Admiral Gregory Johnson.

De Hoop Scheffer referred to the NRF as the flagship of the Alliance's military transformation, and "a hothouse of ideas in which advanced technologies and doctrines flourish."

The secretary general also announced the opening, two days ago, of a state-of-the-art training center in Poland by the Allied Command Transformation, which he called a "driving force behind NATO's military adaptation." The command, headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, is in charge of standardization, training, concept development, and experimentation.

Also noted was the Turkish High Readiness Force, one of NATO's several new rapid-reaction headquarters, which emphasizes a military structure based on speed, mobility, and flexibility.

All four programs are featured in an exhibition on display next door to the summit site. In opening the exhibition, de Hoop Scheffer said these demonstrations "of what we in NATO can achieve by working together multinationally" filled him with great pride and great confidence in the future.

The secretary general presented the NATO Summit Science Prize to Bosporus Univerity, Istanbul Technical University, and Middle East Technical University for achievements in research on the prevention of the consequences of earthquakes and fostering cooperation between NATO and partner countries; he also spoke to attendees of the Youth Summit on the importance of protecting the values of freedom and security.