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NATO Lessons Learned Conference 2018
 

Hosted by the Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC), the NATO Lessons Learned Conference 2018 (Conference) was held on 20 – 22 March 2018 in Oeiras, Portugal at the Lagoas Park Hotel Congress Facilities. Bringing together more than one hundred participants with various backgrounds and from different entities inside and outside of NATO, this year's Conference aimed to focus on two main themes: Interoperability and Information Exchange of Lessons within NATO and with Partners, including IOs, GOs, and NGOs; and the NATO Lessons Learned Optimization Action Plan (NLLOAP) assessment and adaptation.

This year saw a big change to the format of the Conference. In past years, the Conference has been presented in seminar/presentation format with Participants listening to lectures and briefs on a wide range of topics relating to the Conference theme. This year, Participants were divided into syndicates and worked actively with JALLC staff and Subject Matter Experts (SME) to analyse the theme related topics in more depth and make recommendations for a way ahead for NATO. The syndicate work resulted in a tangible output that can be actioned via the NATO Lessons Learned Portal , NATO's single tool for all Lessons-related information and the digital home of the Conference.

Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Denis Mercier (French Air Force) opened the Conference by video. General Mercier emphasized that enhanced interoperability will make sharing lessons easier, and that machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other emerging disruptive technologies will assist the analysis of data in the future. General Mercier was followed by the JALLC's Commander, Brigadier General Mario Barreto (Portuguese Air Force), who noted that, "… the NATO Lessons community must also ensure true interoperability in the lessons learned context, to provide the right processes, tools, structures and training that enable and encourage—and not hinder—the exchange and sharing of information, knowledge, experience, lessons, and best practices"

Subsequently, four SMEs briefed the audience on their syndicate's topic. Mr. Nick Milton, director, co-founder of Knoco Ltd, and specialist on knowledge management, introduced the procedural dimension of interoperability followed by research analyst at the JALLC, Mr. Stefan Olaru, who spoke about the technical dimension. The human dimension of interoperability was then introduced by Mr. Marvin Lee Thordsen, civilian behavioural analyst who was followed by Brigadier General Henrik Sommer (Danish Army), Assistant Chief of Staff at HQ Supreme Allied Command Transformation ( HQ SACT, who highlighted the crucial work being done on the NATO Lessons Learned Process in the form of the NATO Lessons Learned Optimization Action Plan. This action plan is aimed at significantly improving the way NATO learns from its past experiences in both operations and exercises. The Participants were then introduced to their syndicates and began working on their relative topics under the guidance of JALLC staff and SMEs.

In order to further broaden the Participants understanding and awareness of the Conference themes, a series of SME lectures was offered during the second day of the Conference. Mr. Gilles Hansoul, senior advisor for Operational Affairs at ICRC, spoke about the ICRC-NATO Lessons Learned Dialogue. Colonel Marek Kotowski, Innovation, Doctrine, and Lessons Learned Branch head at HQ SACT, addressed the participants on the topic of Lessons Learned in a multinational environment. Mr. Stefan Olaru spoke about Communication and Information Systems Interoperability Verification and Validation, a hot topic in NATO at the moment and Mr. Marvin Lee Thordsen presented some food for thought on the topic of interoperability. And finally, Mr Nick Milton presented the issue of how to avoid the Garbage In Garbage Out (GIGO) principle in lessons learned. The Participants engaged in a fruitful discussion with the speakers asking lots of thought provoking questions.

The final plenary session of the Conference was opened by the JALLC's Commander who began by re-capping the events of the previous two days, and thanking the participants, as well as everyone who had contributed to making the Conference a success. Mr Ian Richmond, expert from the Crisis Response and Exercises Section in NATO HQ International Staff, followed with a presentation on Lessons Learned related topics from NATO HQ's perspective, the air gap between Lessons Learned at NATO HQ and the NATO Command Structure, and Lessons Learned challenges at the strategic level.

Representatives from each of the syndicate working groups then presented their respective findings which you can read about in the NATO Lessons Learned Conference 2018 Factsheet and in the Conference Report which will be published this Spring.

To conclude the plenary session and the Conference, the JALLC's Commander presented final Conference Statement which represents a summary of all of the key findings from the syndicate work and the best thinking from the Conference. The Commander first stressed the importance of the work done in the syndicates and the effort made by the syndicate chairs, facilitators, and experts as well as the significant level of participation from the conference participants. The Commander then confirmed that the new format of the Conference had been met with many positive remarks and perceived as a fruitful and dynamic way to bring worthwhile suggestions for transformation of NATO.

The next Lessons Learned event on the JALLC's calendar is planned for October and will look at how disruptive technologies can assist in lessons learning. Details on this event will be made available on the JALLC's website and on the NATO Lessons Learned Portal.