According to the annual Bi-Strategic Command (BiSC) Programme of Work, the Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (HQ SACT) and the Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) organized the virtual NATO Lessons Learned Conference 2021 (NLLC21) from 16 to 18 March 2021. The theme of the Conference was: “NATO Lessons Learned in a global crisis: what did we learn and how can we do better?”. The aim of this conference was to discuss challenges and opportunities identified during the COVID-19 pandemic and to highlight findings as well as ways and means to potentially improve the Alliance's LL Capability (how to better "adapt," "deliver," and "innovate").
During his welcome speech, the JALLC’s Commander, Brig. General B. Cernat, expressed his pride that, despite the pandemic and the need for social distancing, the number and diversity of attendees to the NATO Lessons Learned Conference confirmed that NATO feels more united than ever.
In his opening remarks, the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General André Lanata, reminded the audience that the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the main drivers of adaptation in 2020 for NATO and that, while it imposed many constraints, it also pushed the Alliance to quickly adapt to new circumstances.
During this three-day event, different speakers from different organizations presented and led discussions on a wide range of critical issues.
The NATO Science and Technology Organization illustrated the report entitled “The Military Impacts of COVID-19 on the Alliance: Challenges and Opportunities”, which analyses the possible post-COVID-19 environment and the potential impact on military operations-This was useful for NATO’s planners and decision makers. Another Panel discussed how different Nations resolved similar problems, highlighting that there is a lot to learn from each other’s experiences, both good and bad.
On the second day, the panels focused on Partner’s Perspectives on Lessons Learned Capability adaptation and how NATO successfully adapted Lessons Learned output to meet the needs of the Alliance and Nations during the COVID-19 pandemic. These panels included presentations from: the Swedish Armed Forces; the EU Military Staff (EUMS); the Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO); the Future Plans and Requirements Branch at SHAPE and the Lessons Learned Management Division at the JALLC. They covered topics including how national armed forces provided support to increase medical facilities and to improve military-civilian cooperation, and they highlighted a shift in the Lessons Learned culture from a blame culture to a "just culture".
During the last day, the Conference dove into the four Break-Out Sessions which covered: Standardization in Lessons Learned; Improvement and Innovation in Lessons Learned; Collection and Exploitation of Lessons Learned in Exercises, and Future Leaders’ Perspectives. The sessions allowed the audience to take on a more active role as they engaged with the facilitators maximizing the ideas-sharing within the Conference Community.
JALLC’s Commander’s closing remarks offered some insightful points on the past three days, affirming that, although NATO responded effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance could do better next time if we learn the lessons now. Furthermore, he highlighted the need to shape NATO’s organizational culture to make Lessons Learned a reality at all levels and move towards a new mind-set where accepting failure is a part of the learning and innovation process.
This event provides the LL Community with opportunities to share and discuss challenges and shortfalls as well as best and suitable practices for improving the current NATO LL Capability and supporting its future development, as such enabling the continuous transformation of the Alliance.
The NATO SFA COE is fully involved in the NATO Covid-19 LL campaign and human capital enhancement and the Centre is working on different projects to fill gaps identified in the specific SFA domain which has also been affected by pandemic consequences.
SFA COE LL Branch Head, LTC Haxhija, actively participated throughout the online sessions. The NATO SFA COE LL Branch is continuously collecting observations and LL from NATO/EU missions by participating in SFA contingent/mission commander debriefing meetings and virtual interviews. In addition, it is promoting relevant activities for the future and developing new projects for the benefit of the SFA Community of Interest, including through support to JALLC joint analysis projects by providing SMEs.