The IT acquisitions performed on behalf of the 29 NATO nations are key elements of NATO's defence and deterrence posture. Transparent and unbiased procurements, underpinning delivery of NATO capabilities and services, require a set of proper frameworks, policies, procedures, processes and people to turn the requirements into deliverables. The world is evolving – and so should NATO IT acquisitions; but do they really evolve in an adequate manner? This article provides an overview of past and current challenges and solutions and outlines expected developments in NATO acquisition of IT technologies and systems.
Evolution of NATO IT acquisition
In 1996, NATO revised its procedures for acquisition of commonly funded infrastructure under the NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP). The procedures promoted full and open competition—International Competitive Bidding (ICB)—as the default procurement method, with the lowest compliant bid as the evaluation methodology, and were geared primarily to the acquisition of static IT infrastructure.
Not surprisingly, this construct did not survive contact with real-time NATO operations triggered by the crisis in the Balkans in the late 1990's. To improve NATO's ability to better respond to crisis situations, in 2002 the NATO nations approved a set of procedures aimed to significantly shorten procurement timelines and, at the same time, promote the broader participation of the small and medium enterprises in NATO procurements through the so called Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) Programme.
The unfolding NATO operations in Afghanistan led to a further consolidation of the regulations for the NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP) in 2011, providing a set of procedures covering non-article 5 NATO-led operations, i.e. the Alliance Operations and Missions (AOM) NSIP Procurement Regulations.
In parallel, in 2009 the NATO nations also approved a policy for conducting international competitive bidding using a Best Value evaluation methodology.
So it looks like all regulations and other prerequisites are available – small and big scale procurements, lowest compliant and best value evaluation, peacetime and operations-geared procedures. Is there anything that we are missing? In fact, one can argue that there are remaining challenges, as well as opportunities to improve NATO's acquisition of IT systems.