The NATO defense collective wants to do less with more by having member states develop military specialties, like workers on an assembly line.
An inescapable fact of modern defense planning is budget austerity. Smaller budgets are prompting some tough thinking across Europe and in the U.S. about how these countries can maintain their global security posture with less money. Under normal circumstances, less money would mean less equipment, fewer people, fewer activities, and fewer operations.
NATO, however, seems to think it can get around the limitations of a smaller budget. "Smart Defense," as they call it, is based around a simple idea: specialization and cooperation, in accordance with the principles first established at the 2010 Lisbon Summit. Adam Smith wrote of the economies of scale that a factory might achieve by specializing labor, and NATO wants to apply this idea by encouraging national militaries to specialize in specific mission areas will allow them to cooperate together to achieve a much greater, more capable, NATO force.
The Smart Defense framework rests on a couple of assumptions, however, that could be tricky to apply. Cooperation is not always easy, as with NATO's experience in Libya. Last year, it was not easy to build even a tentative consensus about the alliance's role in intervening there -- and if it weren't for U.S. equipment and logistics support, the intervention could have taken a dramatically different shape (if it happened at all).