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2020 will go down in history as a remarkable year; the pandemic has thoroughly and permanently changed what we consider to be normal and routine. We therefore expect that what will be normal in the future, after the pandemic, will differ drastically from what we were used to. Nevertheless, let me first point out that there are also things that have not changed at the NATO C2COE, such as comradery, professionalism and qualitatively outstanding output. They should not be taken for granted.

When I came back from a seminar in the United Kingdom in February 2020, I discovered that this would be the last physical visit in our planned line of operations known as “knowledge events”. Exercises, workshops and seminars disappeared from the calendar, mostly after being postponed several times. Luckily virtual events replaced some of the physical events and our goal of spreading and collecting knowledge could be retained. A great example of that was our own webinar, (which replaced the annual seminar). Not only did it break records in the number of attendees, it also led to deep and fruitful discussions among the speakers and the attendees. As a result of this, our future seminars will be planned as hybrid events and can, when needed, be transformed into webinars without a substantial delay.

The second line of operations, “projects”, was kept intact too, as we kept on working on ongoing projects and started with new ones. The requests for support on Command and Control themes did increase in size, rather than in number. Cooperation with external parties intensified and our Multi- Domain C2 demonstrator introduced large numbers of senior leaders in the future of military decision making with the help of currently available technology. The only limiting factor in 2020 was the available personnel, which was due to unfilled staff positions and the onboarding of new personnel.

Our line of support to develop the NATO C2COE continued but at a slower pace, as group activities, such as our annual “way ahead” design session, were not allowed. Although there is positive progress, the administrative handover from the Dutch Defence Material Organisation to the Dutch “AdminCom” Joint Support Command, did set us back a little. Supporting network relations had to be transferred, which was time and energy consuming. Other adaptations, like the (digital) daily Parole, kept spirits up, kept the members informed and made it possible to stay in contact with each other while working fully dispersed. As a result, I can already conclude that the NATO C2COE will not return to a full physical workweek as a standard. In my opinion, three days of physical attendance should be sufficient to create and sustain the necessary level of trust needed for dispersed working.

In review, 2020 was a remarkable year on many different levels. Although I cannot look into the future, I can state that the NATO C2COE will continue its support to NATO with subject matter expertise on Command and Control by capturing, creating, assessing and distributing C2 knowledge. If you need our help, feel free to get in touch to see what we can do for you.

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