09 October 2019

INTERVIEW Thomas-Durell Young: The defence missile shield is not an important asset for Romania or the United States, but for NATO | VIDEO

Mircea Olteanu

The defence missile shield is not an important asset for Romania or the US, but for NATO, and it is an example for Romania’s willingness to do its part in the North-Atlantic alliance, stated the American expert, Thomas-Durell Young, in an interview at the D.S.M. Conference.

Dr. Thomas Durell Young, associate professor at the US Naval Postgraduate School has talked, in an interview for MEDIAFAX and the Defence and Security Monitor (DSM), at the Conference on “The national security policy, from strategic thinking to security and defence institutions”, about the importance of the missile defence shield from Deveselu.

The American expert also addressed Romania’s armed forces modernization topic, stating that people should be in the center of all modernization efforts, as they are the most important “asset”.

Another major topic he addressed within the interview was the distribution methods of the funds allotted for defence, Dr. Thomas Durell Young saying that old equipment can become a significant financial burden, and their use on the modern battlefield is questionable.

We are presenting you the entire interview with Dr. Thomas Durell Young:

Reporter: What are the main security challenges for Central and Eastern Europe and in the Black Sea Region?

Dr. Thomas Durell Young: Before I say anything, I need to preface whatever I say with the limitation that I am here in a personal capacity, I do not speak with the authority of the United States government, and these are only my own views. But in terms of the security challenges for Central and Eastern Europe, I have written about this extensively over the past few years. I think you see it manifesting in some of the discussions today and this is not an ad hominem comment about anybody, but we are all prisoners of our past. And I would say- and I will talk about this in my presentation later this afternoon-, you can still see vestiges or historical memories of a previous regime and previous ways of doing things and a previous way of thinking. It is in the concepts- I like to argue-, the presumptions, the expectations, the incentives. They still are in the process of changing. In some ways, Romania is far ahead, in some ways, Romania lags behind. But, if have to say, the more time I am able to spend in more countries like Romania- this is my third trip this year and it is great to be back-, I am always surprised by what I find and I am glad to see that the procurement, even though you complain a lot about defence procurement, relatively speaking, I think you have done a great job. If you look at other countries, to what other countries have paid, if you look to see what the Poles have paid, for example, for their Patriots, as compared to what you have paid for your Patriots; you got a great deal. I think what you have done with the F-16, I think it is beyond commendable and it will talk about this this afternoon. So, you can see examples of success, but there are still some things that are troubling and they need to be addresses and I will talk about those examples this afternoon.

Reporter: Do you think that the defence missile shield amplifies the security risks for Romania?

Dr. Thomas Durell Young: Any time you have an asset, that’s valuable, there are functions of vulnerability and I can see why someone may make that argument, but then, again, there is a very important asset for NATO, not just Romania, not just the United States, but for NATO. When I talk with my students, when I am in Central or East Europe and I work with different Ministries of Defence and General Staffs and politicians, I like to say <<Everybody wants to have what we call “security guarantors”. We have done and we continue to do what we are supposed to do and this is how we convince our partners of our bona fides.>> I think Romania has done a great job with the deployments in the Middle East, I think you have done a great job with spending money correctly; I think you can still spend your money a little bit better, and we will talk about this this afternoon. But the important announcement, I think it was last week or the two weeks ago, the huge amount of money Romania will use in the infrastructure, for the Mikhail Kogalniceanu base, I think it is a great example of a “security guarantor”, just like the missile defence system is a great example for Romania’s willingness to do its part in NATO. So, it is a vulnerability? Possibly. But I am sure it give certain states in the East and South-East “pause” when they think about Romania. And I think that’s a great thing.

Reporter: Romania and the other NATO countries are increasingly investing in improving their defence capabilities. Are these investments effective? What is the proper defence budget to basically cover Romania’s national security issues in domestic and alliance’s frameworks?

Dr. Thomas Durell Young: I think you get nowhere discussing defence when you put these sort of discussion in the context of the percentage of the GDP. I think that’s a huge mistake, because in some ways you can never spend enough on defence. I think that it is more important to ask <what are you buying today? >>. Because the politicians will tell you how much money you have. The Minister of Defence, the General Stuff, the professional military, the professional defence civilians- let’s not forget them, as I am one-, we are the ones to make recommendations on how to spend the money. The distribution of your defence budget is out of balance. I understand the pension reform law, I understand the huge amount of money you have to spend on personnel. The good news is that the percentage is going down- that’s great. But, a healthy defence budget- if you look at the main three categories- personnel, operations and maintenance and procurement- should be an equal thirds. Once you move out the equal thirds, something is missing. You spend too much on capital investment, Estonians have this problem, you do not spend too much money on training the right personnel and you are not spending enough money on training. So, whenever you see this go out of alignment, bad things start to happen. You are not out of alignment, and we can see this in terms of what you spend on operations and maintenance- less than 10%- so, that is one of the lowest percentages in Central and Eastern Europe. But, then there are a lot of countries that spend a lot, like Hungary, they spend like close to 32% on operations and maintenance, but, if you look at the indicators, they do not do collective training for the army, and their Gripen fleet do not fly the record number of hours. So, where is the money going? So, there are percentages, and then you have to look at the outputs, the outcomes. So, yes, if you are spending a lot of money on operations and maintenance, if you use old equipment –MiG-21 they may be useful for air policing, but they are not useful for modern airspace- what are the outputs you are giving? So, forget about the percentage of GDP, look at the percentages of the defence budget, how are allocated and spent, and then you can start asking questions. Do I really need this infrastructure? Do I need this? Do I need all these legacy stuff? Do I need essentially two fleets of ships? The modern ships, the two Tip 22 and then you got the old legacies. The old legacy stuff eats money, and can it survive on the modern battlefield? I have my doubts.

Reporter:  What should be Romania’s foremost priority considering all security challenges that it is facing?

Dr. Thomas Durell Young: Modernization. Modernization in terms of equipment, modernization in terms of making people the most important asset you have. Modernization and training. So, very simple, focus on the individual and continue what you have been doing: buying intelligently, making sure the right people are educated and trained and then drilling them, and you do so by stressing them. You do not stress your commanders enough and you do not make you commanders rate their subordinates. There are a lot of things you do that are still legacies, and you need to think very hard about it, but your fundamental purpose is modernization. Start with people, because that is something you can do today and that costs no money. Buying the equipment, that costs money, we understand that. But changing the way you utilize the people you have in the force today, attracting the right people, and I hate to say it, you are going to have to retire people that do not want to be retired. Every modern defence force, professional force has to deal with this; you have no choice. Otherwise, you will end up with an old army, which is not going to be very helpful, not on today’s modern battlefield; it is a young men modern game. That would be my message: modernization; start with individuals.

Thomas-Durell Young is Program Manager, Europe Center for Civil-Military Relations (CCMR), Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. He is also Academic Associate for the Comparative Defense Planning Certificate in the Department of National Security Affairs. He has authored / co-authored 3 books and monographs and over 100 book chapters, articles and book reviews. His currently completing a book-length manuscript that is the first comprehensive assessment of the current state of defense institutions in Central and Eastern Europe and identifies innovative reform techniques. Its tentative title: Anatomy of Post-Communist European Defense Institutions: Why Reform Has Failed.