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"Secure roads and lines of communication are absolutely crucial for the safety of […] soldiers and their equipment." Dr. Jamie Shea, the DASG of NATO's ESCD, 2012, Hohenfels, RC Demo.

Military Engineering Centre of Excellence (MILENG COE) NATO Route Clearance (RC) Project

The RC Project is about creating an effective consultative framework and producing enduring RC doctrine encompassed in current MILENG capstone doctrine publications. It exploits on-going concepts development while looking for opportunities to enhance their effects.  It will span two and a half years with the bulk of deliverables in 2014. Benefits are about ensuring that the effort and venture that's gone into the project gives the greatest possible results. The project is built on four pillars: consolidation, development, validation, and exploitation.

 

By Lieutenant-Colonel (ROU)(A) Florin Adrian Obreja, 
Military Engineering Centre of Excellence, Support Branch Chief

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Context
 
The most reasonable assessments are that the dominant operational environment in the close future will be similar to Alliance operations in the last decade, while the possibilities of conventional engagements remain conceivable.
 
We need to better recognise the dynamics and limitations of freedom of movement in future operations, in the same way that we succeeded to understand how to counter IEDs and the capabilities required to do it effectively.
 
In recent operations the Alliance’s mobility and particularly routes have been one of the most favourite adversaries’ targets. Mobility is the ability of military forces to move in an AOO while retaining the capability to fulfil their primary mission; RC includes those activities that enable a force freedom of movement without delays due to terrain or obstacles.
 
A key policy dispute relates to the acceptable balance between mobility and safety. As the Alliance addresses the safety and mobility needs of friendly forces, it is important to ensure that all decision makers and key players are well informed of the requirements, how to  access  information on the measures needed, the capabilities available and how best to employ them.
 
The development of RC capabilities has been driven mostly by high profile considerations such as C-IED and force protection. Capability development has been influenced by the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan or in some cases by stabilization and reconstruction efforts.
 
The influence of technology has abridged RC to heavy equipped teams and theatre driven operating procedures. However, RC is a MILENG mobility task and there is an urgent need to ensure the efforts to develop this important capability are harmonized and a robust NATO doctrine established.
 

 

Project
 
The RC Project is a multinational, multiagency and multi-branch initiative led by the MILENG COE.   The NATO HQ Emerging Security Challenges Division (ESCD) is the sponsoring agency and acts as the liaison between the IS, IMS and NCI Agency ensuring a robust framework to support the project.  

 

The RC Project will challenge current processes and procedures in order to improve them, look for the common factors in different situations and use/ modify previously successful approaches to meet the needs of a general situation, listen to new ideas and recognize their value in solving problems, integrate and apply different ideas and approaches to accomplish the main objective. The NCI Agency will simultaneously undertake a sub project which will monitor RC technologies, provide support to a doctrine validation exercise and develop an ADL RC staff awareness course.
The NATO RC Project will ensure conceptual framework is developed considering Lessons Learned from a wide spectrum of operations and in mutual support with other related doctrine. The Military Committee Land Standardization Board (MCLSB) MILENG Working Group (WG) is eager to ensure all related concepts are aligned with the guidance it governs concerning this capability.
The MILENG COE is custodian for all NATO MILENG doctrine on behalf of the MCLSB MILENG WG and will ensure RC is covered in land component tactical publications, as well as higher level joint doctrine as applicable - it is important that higher level doctrine takes account of this requirement.
MILENG capstone documents will also be written/ revised with the input of all key players, who have been identified in a consultation process which commenced with a RC Workshop (May 2013)  organized by the MILENG COE, endorsed by the MCLSB MILENG Working Group and with  support  from ESCD.
RC doctrine will be developed with considerations to usability at the staff level. Special attention will be directed to develop tools and content which will be validated in a synthetic environment.
 
 
Outcomes
 
RC Project might change over its lifecycles (30 months), but it is important to focus on the project's benefits, and not just its timely completion.

 

The key product of the project will be a solid and consolidated NATO RC doctrine based on a sound concept - there is a need to standardize the understanding of the conceptual framework in order to improve related capabilities.

 

The RC project will only be as successful as the results it adds to the development and or improvement of Alliance’s capabilities. Undoubtedly there are rich benefits to be found when each key player has a clear vision of the RC capabilities development goals and not only their specialized perspective is taken into consideration.

 

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Route Clearance has been a traditional task assigned to Military Engineers; however, there are many important contributors such as force protection, C-IED, logistics, EOD, intelligence, forensics, civilian agencies and many other specialties. It is essential to establish a solid COI and a framework of RC key players.