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European Adaptation to Expeditionary Warfare: Implications for the U.S. Army

Authored by Dr. Andrew M. Dorman.

November 2002

41 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The author briefly examines the European response to the changing security environment and the opportunities presented by the European Security and Defense Policy Expeditionary Force. As he correctly observes, the establishment of a European expeditionary force will be no easy matter, will require substantial investment, and will take years to complete. However, it is the right course for Europe to take. The European Union (EU) cannot manage emerging security issues using Cold War legacy forces because they are too ponderous to deploy. A lighter, more nimble expeditionary force is critical to EU policy. The author also points out that the United States must remain involved in the EU initiatives. Europe cannot go it alone and will need advice and perhaps even material support if it is to realize its ambitious agenda.


As has North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU) is adapting to the changing regional and global security environment in the wake of the Cold War. Almost immediately, Europe began to recognize that it could not barricade itself from the world and live off the peace dividend while instability rampaged along its border. The existing European security organizations (Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe [OSCE], Western European Union [WEU]) were ill-suited to deal with the host of new challenges, and as the Balkans conflicts revealed, the European contribution to NATO had fallen woefully behind.

European relevance in the security arena required the EU to develop an expeditionary force capability. After nearly a decade of evolution, the concept of a European expeditionary force developed and formed the centerpiece of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) generated during the 1999 EU Helsinki Summit.

Primarily intended for the Petersberg Tasks— humanitarian and rescue, peacekeeping, and use of combat forces in crisis management including peacemaking—the expeditionary force shall comprise 50,000 to 60,000 troops, with an additional 140,000 troops in support of extended operations. A 5,000-strong police contingent shall supplement the force by providing crisis management expertise. To wean Europe from the United States, the EU will procure sufficient air- and sealift (and sharing of airframes within the EU under the Air Transport and Air Refuelling Exchange of Services (ATARES) agreement; logistics; Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Information, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR); and combat support to provide it with the capability to deploy the force within 60 days and sustain it for a year. The headline goal is both ambitious and difficult.

Realization of the expeditionary force will require European states to reform or abolish conscription; restructure their forces (modularize) to permit multinational formations; invest significantly in airlift (Airbus A400M) to develop a European Air Transport Command; and, improve sealift and sea power capabilities. Moreover, theEUmust increase its precision attack and C4ISR capabilities significantly if it wishes to operate alongside the United States.

The United States can foster the development of the ESDP expeditionary force by:

    - monitoring EU progress as it develops a light, expeditionary force;

    - encouraging modularization of European units;

    - encouragingNATOto cover shortfalls in areas such as supression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), sealift, and airlift;

    - encouraging NATO to conduct structural reforms to enable it to conduct multiple contingency operations; remaining patient, as EU reforms will be slow;

    - considering adoption of the ATARES model for increased capability sharing;

    - offering the EU the C-17 should the Airbus A400M fail;

    - offering the U.S. Civil Reserve Fleet and Naval Ready Reserve Fleet systems for EU study;

    - encouraging the Europeans to explore off-the-shelf technology as a cost saving measure;

    - formalizing embarkation and debarkation as part of NATO mission essential task listing;

    - encouraging Anglo-Dutch Amphibious Force equivalent for southern Europe;

    - encouraging EU development of joint surveillance, target attack radar systems (JSTARS);

    - encouraging full implementation of the Helsinki Headline Goals, especially C4ISR, precision attack, and sustainability; and,

    - encouraging consortiums within the EU as well as between the EU and the United States.

The establishment of an EU expeditionary force makes sense because it increases burden-sharing and also symbolizes shared risk in between the United States and Europe. Now that Europe is secure, the time is ripe for Europe to take on added security responsibilities.

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