Return to Homepage

Joseph Limprecht Memorial Website



Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Joseph Limprecht
Defense Media Conference
Friday, October 26, 2001 - 10:45–11:00 a.m.
Palace of Congresses
Conference Room

Thank you, Mr. Minister

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak with you today at this workshop on Albanian Defense Reform.

The program that will be presented here represents a significant step forward in your government’s efforts to address the new defense realities. Technological advances, the scope and role of defense missions, capabilities and a host of other issues influence the development of an effective, strong defense.

Today’s program will also illustrate what the leadership of your country is doing to meet Albania’s future defense needs. The United States of America actively supports this effort, with both recommendations and resources. We are here to assist the Ministry of Defense in moving towards its goals.

The September 11 terrorist attacks – a barbaric attack on freedom and democracy – brought to the forefront not only the defense of America but also the defense of democratic values and principles across the world. As you are all aware, the world is building a broad international coalition against terrorism. This coalition will remain intact until the anti-terrorism campaign is successful. We appreciate Albania’s strong participation in these efforts.

An examination of the Albanian National Security Strategy rightly declares the primary National Security objective to be the ability to “Protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nation.” This objective is expanded to include “…further democratization of the country; building and strengthening of state institutions; progress in development of a market economy; and encouragement of economic prosperity and respect for human rights for all of the citizens of Albania.” In order to do that in today’s world, Albania must be able to join with and contribute to coalitions of like-minded nations seeking peace, stability, and prosperity.

Your government has rightly concluded that integration into the European Union and NATO are essential to achieving these objectives. Albania has undergone profound social and economic change in the past ten years. Albania’s people have decided that isolationism will no longer serve the needs of this nation. Albania has launched upon a course of defense reorganization for domestic and regional stability, and eventual integration into Western security structures.

Today, I’d like to address the US role in helping Albania achieve Defense Reform, and how we and our European allies can assist Albania in achieving the goals it has so clearly articulated.

Albania and the United States maintain an excellent relationship. In the defense arena, we have enjoyed a valuable bi-lateral relationship for several years. About a year and a half ago, the United States agreed to conduct, with Albania, a mutual assessment of the Albanian Defense Forces. The United States committed to make recommendations for your government to consider in carrying out the reforms needed to achieve your national goals. We also made a commitment to assist in eventual NATO and EU integration. That study has been completed and will be presented formally to the Minister of Defense in Washington DC in the near future.

Now that the bi-lateral assessment is complete, the United States has selected a team of US defense experts to assist Albania in implementing the recommendations of the assessment report. We will also work with our European allies to build an integrated, long term implementation plan that is affordable and achievable, and which will meet the objectives set out in Albania’s National Security Strategy.

That team of U.S. experts arrived in Albania on 24 September. Their mission is to expand and prioritize the recommendations made in the U.S./Albanian bi-lateral Defense Assessment. Once this effort is completed next month, and approved by Albania, the team will then assist the Albanian MOD to build the implementation plan to carry out those actions/recommendations. Finally, by integrating our US efforts with those of our European allies, we are able to provide strong support for Albania’s defense reform. More details on these efforts will be provided in subsequent briefings.

I have no illusions – this will be a difficult effort! Real defense reform is not just about changing structures or buying some new equipment -- it is about building long-term capabilities and changing the mindset of a nation. The military of tomorrow must grow from the people of the nation it serves. It must develop its leadership and capabilities in such a manner that it can effectively integrate itself into coalitions and alliances that serve its nation’s needs. And finally, just as the military supports government policies, so too the military must be supported by governmental policy and the citizens it serves.

Let me be specific, what does military reform really mean? First, it means the development of a completely new personnel system that attracts and challenges the people with the right skills who want to serve their nation. This means a living wage and a quality of life equal to the people they serve. Second, the development of a new training system is required. A system that provides the doctrine enabling the development of tasks, conditions and standards for all training events, --- and the standard is NATO interoperability!! Third, the development of a logistic system that will allow the deployment of forces to wherever it suits Albania’s national interest. -- And fourth, the development of a command and control system that enables you to operate with a coalition or alliance effectively. Finally this must be accomplished in a manner that is affordable to the nation.

The mission is clear. It will be difficult. It requires sacrifice to accomplish, -- but it is what is necessary. We will continue our active support as you move through your military restructuring initiative.