LTG Charles Pede, The Judge Advocate General, and his British counterpart, Maj Gen Alexander Taylor, dine together at the Military Formal event during the WWCLE in September 2019.
It is a tremendous honor to be asked to pen this article for this edition of the Army Lawyer. As Director-General, British Army Legal Services, I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to reflect upon the extraordinarily close relationship enjoyed between the Army Legal Services (ALS) and the United States (U.S.) Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. It is a relationship which is incredibly precious to me; from a personal and professional perspective, indeed, returning to The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, and Charlottesville, felt like coming home.
It was only a few months ago, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the start of Operation Market Garden that I was able to offer a few brief thoughts to the JAG Corps’s 2019 Worldwide Continuing Legal Education course on the question of interoperability. It is a principle as important and relevant in the twenty-first century as it was to the Soldiers of the British 1st and U.S. 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions on the morning of 17 September 1944 as they left the Airfields of Ramsbury, Membury, and Cottesmore.
It is perhaps axiomatic to suggest that coalition operations are the reality of the battlefields of the future across the globe. The principle is acknowledged in both the United Kingdom’s National Security Strategy through our approach of being “international by design” and by the United States National Defence Strategy with the importance of strengthening alliances and partnership, being one of only four lines of effort in the U.S. Army Strategy. Indeed, principles of interoperability are deeply embedded in national defence strategies of many states and remain the organising principle around. It is also the principles, on which the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is founded, which themselves enjoyed a seventieth birthday very recently.
While, traditionally, our armies have thought about interoperability in technical terms, such as the ways in which our equipment physically operates together, I believe that true interoperability depends on much more. It must incorporate a true understanding of our international partners, their ethos, history, and culture. Perhaps the “why” behind the way they organise and operate. It is these so called “soft” interoperability considerations that are central to our ability to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the battlefield as trusted and predictable allies and partners.
For legal officers, such understanding should be forged by first-hand experience—whether through exercise or on operations. The combat operations that marked the first decade of the twenty-first century offered an unparalleled opportunity for allied legal advisors to work closely together and to better understand the legal capabilities and nuances that each coalition partner brought to bear. As these operations have morphed into smaller commitments, our opportunities to achieve this understanding at scale have also diminished.
Recognising this challenge, I have focused one of my three overarching lines of development within ALS on finding ways to preserve and improve our ability to provide legal interoperability. I am delighted that this intent is mirrored within the JAG Corps. To turn words into action, we have initiated an ALS-JAG Corps Interoperability Committee to coordinate and cohere our bilateral interoperability efforts. The inaugural meeting held at the one-star level occurred in the resplendent surroundings of the Naval and Military Club in St. James Square, London, at the end of January. This will precipitate a pilot program that integrates ALS officers into U.S. exercises and JAG Corps officers into British Army exercises. We are also working on an exciting proposition to expand the Military Personnel Exchange Program to include an exchange of ALS and JAG Corps officers between III Corps and 3d (U.K.) Division.
Through all these efforts, my most strident hope is that we foster a culture amongst our legal officers that instinctively considers international interoperability in all that we do. In this way, I believe, ALS and JAG Corps officers can help unlock the full potential of our armies’ combined efforts in barracks and on operations. In doing so, we must also be able to advise our commanders on both the legal limitations of coalition members and on the ways that allied legal frameworks might mitigate our own legal constraints.
As I hope you will read throughout this issue, interoperability remains a “Golden Thread” running through all aspects of practical operational law. It is one that legal advisors at all levels, across all our allied and partner nations, must continue to hold dear. TAL
Maj Gen Taylor is the Director General, Army Legal Services, United Kingdom.