Today was the first day of the NATO Lessons Learned Conference 2019 (NLLC 19), hosted by the JALLC.

Participants from NATO, the Nations and academia came together to share, discuss, learn, and challenge.

This year, the theme of the NATO Lessons Learned Conference is improving NATO’s Lessons Learned capability to enhance NATO’s warfighting capability.

Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General André Lanata welcomed participants to the conference by video.

He said that their mission for the conference was an important and timely one. The character of warfare evolves, and NATO needed to Observe, Orientate, Decide and Act faster in the new operating environments.

The NATO Lessons Learned (LL) Process has to ensure that we learn faster and better from our experiences. He encouraged us to think added value, and bring our ideas to shape the NATO LL Process.

The JALLC’s Commander Brigadier General Bogdan Cernat welcomed participants to the highly innovative NOVA School of Business and Economics, in Lisbon, and to what would be the Smartest NATO Lessons Learned Conference in terms of technology so far.

He said that this event combined the annual NLLC with the follow-on to the very successful NATO New Technology Event 2018, to maximize synergies and opportunities.

There are two key elements in the drive for more effective Warfare Development. The first is Lessons Learned, to ensure that we learn faster and better from our experiences.

The second is New Technology, to ensure that we understand how technology is changing the very nature of future military conflict and that we can harness it for the benefit of the Alliance.

Brigadier General Ilmars Lejins, Assistant Chief of Staff, Joint Force Development, opened the day’s presentations, speaking about the status of implementing the NATO Lessons Learned Capability and the way ahead.

He discussed the gaps in governance, the JALLC, the NATO LL Portal (NLLP) and NATO’s LL culture, and how the new NATO-wide Lessons Learned Plan for 2020 to 2025 would add value and help to fill those gaps.

Colonel Manuel SantosSHAPE J5, said that the warfighting capability that NATO needed was constantly evolving.

The past few years had seen an emphasis on readiness, multinationality, and responsiveness, all of which increased the need for interoperability.

The aim of having highly capable, deployable and trained forces required a culture of interoperability by design, and not as an afterthought.

Before lunch, there was a demonstration by Crowdicity of its collaboration and ideas-generating platform, and everyone was encouraged to use it to log ideas, questions and comments and respond to the daily NLLC 19 challenge.

After lunch, Lieutenant Colonel Fabrizio OttavianiJALLC, spoke about the status of the NATO LL Capability, from the JALLC perspective.

He highlighted certain aspects of the implementation of the NATO LL Capability that seemed to require attention.

These included:

  • difficulties in filling LL posts and keeping post-holders focused on LL;
  • hierarchical and functional issues;
  • the use of generic rather than HQ-specific documentation;
  • effective responsibility for recommendations sent to HQs; and
  • the LL mindset and culture.

The root cause seems to be the current prioritization given to LL in NATO.

LTC Ottaviani noted that action at any level would be likely to make a difference, and participants were asked to think about what they could do to address potential challenges.

Mr David NoonJALLC, spoke next about the insights JALLC had obtained from supporting the LL process at Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018 (TRJE 18).

From its analysis, the JALLC had identified differences between the execution of the NATO LL Process during routine HQ activity, and the execution during a major exercise, such as TRJE 18

These differences were likely to be the result of:

  • the increased volume of lessons identified during an Exercise, and the speed at which they entered the system;
  • the complexity of the situations described in the data, which went beyond the expertise of any specific HQ;
  • the raw state of the data; and
  • keeping the relevant people engaged in the NATO LL Working Groups and analysis after the end of the Exercise, once they had returned to regular duty.

Although many issues are raised during an Exercise, these do not necessarily find their way into the NLLP, and can potentially create a real-world risk.

As a result of the analysis of the NATO LL Process during TRJE 18, it is becoming clear that the NATO LL Process and the reporting process for Exercises are not meshing well. For example, the First Impressions Report for an Exercise has to be produced within 15 days, whereas defining a Lesson Identified takes considerably longer under the NATO LL Process.

Lieutenant Colonel Rigo GenzJALLC, then presented the recent developments in training for the NATO LL Capability.

LL Training was added in early 2018 as a fourth pillar to the NATO LL Capability – in addition to LL Structure, Process, and Tools.

As well as the online two-hour course for general awareness, the JALLC Advisory and Training Team (JATT), and the five-day LL Staff Officer Course for Subject Matter Experts, a new NATO LL Management Course will be offered for the first time the week after NLLC 19 in Oberammergau, Germany.

This course will provide the opportunity for hands-on experience and a deeper dive into the subject.

The final presentation of the afternoon was provided by Commander Pedro ViegasJALLC, on the subject of NLLP developments.

He described the development of the NLLP, partly the result of increased data migration from the NATO Command Structure.

Commander Viegas highlighted that:

  • The JALLC has implemented over 180 improvements to the way that the NLLP worked.
  • In the short term, the JALLC is working on the NLLP Improvement Plan 2019.
  • In the medium term, there will be further NLLP improvement, implementation of the new NATO LL Plan 2020-25, and the integration of New Technologies.
  • It is expected that the NATO Communication and Information Agency will take over some of the technical functions of the NLLP from 2020.
  • In the longer term, the focus will be on a new LL Toolset with plans to discontinue the present NLLP from 2025.

There was then the opportunity for participants to discuss three topics emerging from the Crowdicity App discussion, with participants rising to Brigadier General Bogdan’s challenge to come up with their big ideas, bright ideas, and best ideas.