On 7 and 8 August 2023, the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) Chief of Staff, Major General Hans Folmer, discussed interoperability, digital sovereignty and cooperation opportunities at the BWI Industry Days in Berlin, Germany.
Organized by the Bundeswehr's IT System House (BWI), this third edition of the event, "Together for a resilient IT future", offered a platform for BWI partners, industry suppliers, science and research institutions, international organizations and the German Armed Forces to share expertise, insights and explore cooperation opportunities.
Major General Folmer participated in the panel "Between digital sovereignty and integration: collectively creating added value for the Bundeswehr", together with the Chief Executive Officer of BWI, GmbH Frank Leidenberger, and the Commander of the Bundeswehr Digitization, Brigadier General Michael Volkmer. They shared perspectives on the current challenges that both the Bundeswehr and the NCI Agency face in light of an increasingly complex cyber space, and the need to balance digital sovereignty and interoperability in the technological and cyber domain.
Folmer explained how NATO addresses the relation between digital sovereignty and integration by the use of NATO-wide standards. "These standards respect national sovereignty but also allow close cooperation and interoperability between the member countries, which today is more essential than ever", he added.
Folmer spoke about the Federated Mission Networking and the NATO Nations Gateways, two solutions NATO and the NCI Agency provide to member nations to connect national communication and information infrastructure to the Alliance. "These two solutions enable NATO members to integrate their sometimes very heterogeneous communications and information infrastructure and share their capabilities. At the same time, nations retain control over the implementation and protection of their own digital sovereignty", he explained.
Lastly, he also shared the Agency's perspective on the evolving role of technology and innovation in defence arena, highlighting the Agency's strategic priorities and the need for cooperation. "We cannot tackle the challenges of the digital age in isolation. Therefore, building closer partnerships with organizations such as BWI, industry and academia is key to success. We need your expertise to help NATO maintain its technological edge".