The financial crisis has put huge pressure on the defence spending of NATO allies, but there is shared understanding of the need to "cut fat and not muscle" from military budgets, NATO's head said on Thursday.
Some allies have already been forced to make deep cuts in defence spending, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a meeting of alliance defence ministers.
"And there is more to come," he told a news briefing.
"The bottom line is this: there will be less money for defence for quite some time. That's the way it is. But we can use this crisis to make the right changes to focus on the right things and to do as much as possible together."
Rasmussen said he was encouraged by a shared understanding among the 28 NATO states on how to cope with reduced resources.
"Firstly we must cut fat and not muscle," he said. "While seeking savings we must nevertheless preserve our ability to deter attacks against us and carry out essential operations.
"We cannot cut so much ... that we sacrifice our security. That would be the ultimate false economy."
Rasmussen also said there was a shared sense that "salami slicing", or cuts across the board, was the wrong approach and projects essential to the alliance must be prioritised.
"In a nutshell, what we can actually deploy, where and when we need it," he said, adding that cooperation in defence projects would bring savings by avoiding pointless duplication.
Responding to reports that Britain, Germany and other allies were considering the biggest defence cuts since the Cold War's end, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday they should trim overhead and improve business practices rather than cut troop strength.
Savings could also be used to fund investments in "modernisation", including new weapons systems, he said.
Britain's Defence Secretary Liam Fox said this week London was looking at ways to pare defence spending, as public debt had reached the equivalent of "borrowing some 1.2 million pounds every single day since the birth of Christ".
Germany has made clear steep spending cuts are needed and German newspapers have said troop cuts of tens of thousands were being considered.
U.S. officials said this week NATO's priority needed to be protecting critical capabilities, such as helicopters needed for the troubled operation in Afghanistan, missile defence and ground surveillance systems by unmanned aircraft, or drones.
Rasmussen said NATO had managed to find savings in its military budget of 1.5 billion euros over the next four years and planned to boost efficiency by cutting the number of its headquarters committees to less than 100 from around 400.
Rasmussen is also proposing streamlining NATO headquarters structures and cutting staff numbers by several thousand.
ReutersLast Mod: 11 Haziran 2010, 03:42