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Innovating European defence

Given the strands of literature outlined in the previous section, how can we then apply this to the case of Europe specifically? What is needed is an analytical framework that would allow us to cut across these literatures of transformation to provide some meaningful understanding around the specificity of innovation regarding European militaries. In short, what are the implied drivers of innovation?

Table 11.1 Theories of military innovation

Model of military innovation

Key theoretical assumptions

Empirical examples

Key authors

The civil-military model of military innovation

Civil-military dynamics in response to perceived external threats determine if and how militaries innovate (Grissom, 2006, p. 908).

Key interwar doctrinal developments by the German, British and French armed forces.

Barry Posen Kimberly M. Zisk Edmund Beard Deborah Avant

The interservice model of military innovation

Resource scarcity is a key catalyst for innovation. Military organisations seek to maintain their budget authority and end-strength, which requires them to maintain control over their traditional missions. This model posits that services will compete to develop capabilities to address these contested mission areas, believing that additional resources will accrue to the winner. The result is innovation (Grissom, 2006, p. 910).

Development of the

Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile system.

The development of the A-10 Warthog and the 'Close Air Support Debate'.

Harvey M. Sapolsky Douglas N. Campbell Michael Armacost Owen Cote Andrew Bacevich.

The intraservice model of military innovation

Military services should not be treated as unitary actors. Instead, innovation in modern military organisations tends to involve competition between established branches of a military service and new branches that embrace new military capabilities. The innovation process begins when senior officers develop 'a new theory of victory, an explanation of what the next war will look like and how officers must fight if it is to be won'. An 'ideological struggle' ensues within the service. Advocates of the new theory work within the service to find allies and resources (Grissom, 2006, p. 913)

New special operations capabilities created by US Department of Defense during the 1980s by managing intraservice politics. The development of the Tomahawk cruise missile. The development of the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle.

Stephen P. Rosen Jon F. Giese Susan L. Marquis Vincent Davis

The cultural model of military innovation

Culture (defined as 'intersubjective beliefs about the social and natural word that define actors, their situations, and the possibilities of action') is a major causal factor in military innovation. Culture sets the context for military innovation, fundamentally shaping organisations' reactions to technological and strategic opportunities (Grissom, 2006, p. 916).

The development of French and British doctrine between the World Wars.

The relationship between professional military education and the professional culture of a military organisation.

Theo G. Farrell

Terry Terriff

Robert E. Mullins

Emily O. Goldman

The first is that militaries are being used beyond their traditional Cold War remits of national and regional defence towards counter-insurgency (COIN), peacekeeping, counterpiracy, counter-terrorism, cyber security and more. In line with Posen’s argument, this change is a response to the changing strategic context in which militaries find themselves. The second driver is budgets, or, rather, how much and in what way are governments paying for their militaries. As Sapolsky notes (1972, 2000), militaries are just one of many policy areas for which governments are responsible. Furthermore, this change in government priorities also reacts to social and political value changes which turn into electoral constraints (Edmunds, 2006). Finally, the third driver is the socio-technological adaptations that we see in applied operational contexts challenging traditional platforms, forcing militaries to rethink force, mass and space. As Farrell et al. (2013) suggest, there is a constant tension between the ever-changing adversarial relationship with the enemy and the resources that a military actually maintains.

There are other drivers at play. One of the most significant has been the changing nature of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. This has three over-arching explanations. First, NATO has both enlarged and expanded geographically from its 12 founding members to a current membership of 29 states stretching much further east than during the Cold War. Second, NATO -or NATO member states acting in coalitions of the willing - have conducted military operations from Bosnia and then Kosovo, to Afghanistan and Iraq (though the latter was not a NATO operation itself), to off the coasts of Somalia and Libya. For some, like Stuart Croft et al. (2000), these operations have given NATO a new lease, and, as we will see, they have also been a key driver of innovation for many European states. Finally, we have the USA’s changing relationship with Europe, from ‘pivots’ to ‘resets’, and there is uncertainty about what the medium- to long-term strategy is for the US government and where the transatlantic partnership fits into that. This uncertainty has only increased under the Trump Administration since 2017. Nevertheless, the USA remains a key transmission-belt for European military innovation, perhaps even more so than European governments themselves.

The explanatory logic contained in the four models outlined above has been evident in European innovation since the Cold War. This literature is distinctly layered, whereby military innovation and transformation is driven by state interest that is filtered through various external threat perceptions, attitudes towards alliance politics, domestic politicalsocial agendas, and/or combat operational necessities. In the immediate post Cold War era, European governments welcomed the so-called ‘peace dividend’ and their militaries have been shaped less by existential threats posed by great powers as the context of European security changed to making and keeping the peace and to fighting the ‘War on Terror’. At the same time, the USA was experimenting with different approaches to warfare that would attempt to build in momentum and change. European militaries have also experienced the other layered drivers, as NATO enlarged and ‘transformed’, as defence budgets shrank and services competed, and as European militaries found themselves in protracted but illusive combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, the transformation literature fails to take into account the interlinking between layers. Rather than seeing these drivers as distinct, we should instead see them as interrelated and reflexive, whereby adaptions and innovation at the operational level may reverberate in budgets, services, alliances and even perceptions of global threats to national security. What is needed is a way that we can look at this system of military change that is able to take these linkages into account. The research project, ‘The Drivers of Military Strategic Reform in the Face of Economic Crisis and Changing Warfare’, led by David J. Galbreath (see also Galbreath, 2016), has suggested one framework for accomplishing this. As a result, this chapter suggests that change can be understood across the literature in three ways: transform, transfer and translate.

This approach assumes that militaries are always forward leaning, even when pathdependent and perhaps doomed to prepare for the next war in the style of the last one (see Gray, 2005). In fact, not only does competition and uncertainty drive change, but organisations naturally transform, as suggested by Niklas Luhmann (2006). All of this is to say that we should expect to see change as a necessary element of transformation.

Second, transference entails a relocation from outside a military into said military. Typically, the transformation literature has suggested that the USA and its so-called revolution in military affairs (RMA) has been a frame that has had an impact on European militaries, whether that is network-centric warfare, effects-based operations, paramilitary troops (Farrell and Rynning, 2010; Galbreath, 2014, 2015) or something more practical such as basic military kit. More often, though, transfer happens through socialisation. In their studies of military transformation, Theo Farrell (Terriff et al., 2010) and Ina Wiesner (2013) suggest that transformation often happens as a result of communication between officers from different militaries, in particular at officer training in the USA. Reporting those responsible for platforms such as networked enabledness, there is evidence that some innovations or adaptations are, in fact, leamt, especially when they are within the context of a notion or system of war. At the same time, there is often such a dependence on deploying with US forces, that there needs to be a way in which European armed forces can ‘plug in’ to US forces without making either less battle-ready (see Rasmussen, 2013). This dilemma fits into the capabilities gap that has arisen between US and European forces since the end of the Cold War (see Coonen, 2006). However, we should allow for the possibility that European-to-European transfer may be even more relevant than that between the USA and a European military. Although we can expect that the majority of original innovation would be located in a military that is more resourced and diverse, like the US military, this does not mean to suggest that European forces cannot be the source of innovation as well.

Finally, we can think of military change through the concept of translation . Already, we understand that while European states may share some basic, and perhaps even advanced, notions of war with US forces, we also can see that European states have different military traditions and strategic cultures that shape the way they think about deployment and operations. In fact, it is difficult to find a direct transfer from one military to another. Nearly 70 years of NATO suggests that the translation between the USA’s and European militaries should be gradually less over time, but this does not take into account either how resourced and large the US military is and neither does it take into account the changes in European social values towards standing armies since the end of the Cold War. The RMA was translated to Europe, through joint deployments, NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) and its impact on the USA’s and European defence industries. Network-centric warfare, perhaps a major characterisation of RMA, has been translated, however, in various different ways in Europe as a result of cultural and resources conditions. Cultural and resource conditions are difficult to separate, in as far as states will seek to resource what they find strategically and culturally important. Of the three explanations of change, translation is arguably the most useful in explaining military innovation in Europe.

In summary, transform, transfer and translate can be understood to work across the multiple levels of change established in the innovation literature review section, above. With transfer and translate concentrating on the role of social communication and learning, we should not forget that there are endogenous reasons why transformation may occur, such as to reduce or increase the number of frigates, tanks, combat soldiers, establish joint command and operations, etc. Overall, we think that endogenous and exogenous factors are fundamental to understanding changes in European militaries. To add another dimension to our analysis, let us now unpack changes in European militaries through Galbreath’s three additional categories offellowship, frontline and falling (Galbreath, 2016).

 
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