The last time Kevin Scheid worked at NATO, defense spending across the alliance felt the crunch of the 2009 global recession.
Back then, the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency—a 900-people strong procurement organization within the alliance where he was deputy general manager—was about to lose a large chunk of its workforce.
“NATO was really struggling to pay for projects and capabilities that it had signed up for,” Scheid recalled in a recent interview. “We actually went through a period early in my tenure where we had to let about 120 people either retire early or leave or not continue contract.”
But things are different now as Scheid returns to NATO on July 1 as general manager of the NATO Communications and Information Agency, the organization created from a merger of the Consultation, Command and Control Agency and other offices. The economy is rebounding and cash-strapped nations are pledging larger investments in defense.
“It really looks like it’s turned around; a much different environment than what I faced the first time I came to NATO,” Scheid said. “It’s got me thinking about the agency, future over the next 5-10 years and how it can take on some new responsibilities and leading responsibilities in NATO as nations invest in defense.”
The NATO Communications and Information Agency oversees cyber, IT and command and control for the alliance. It also defends the alliance’s computer networks.
“Cybersecurity in particular is an area where the nations are going to pay particular attention in the coming decade,” Scheid said. “[The NATO Communications and Information Agency] can play a real thought-leadership role as well as developing capabilities.”
As members of the alliance up security spending, Scheid says he sees a blend between investment in weapons themselves and cybersecurity. He pointed to Germany’s creation of a Cyber Command earlier this year.
“There’s real money being spent in the alliance on these sorts of capabilities,” he said. “And they’re reorganizing themselves to prepare for more of it in the future.”
The organization typically issues contracts worth about €1 billion each year and has deals in the works totaling about €3 billion.
Scheid, who was the Pentagon’s deputy comptroller from 2006 to 2009, said he plans take 90 days to take deep dives into the key areas within the agency—such as missile defense, cyber and command and control—and then develop a strategy for the next three years.
“That strategy should be forward looking and take advantage of these potential investments in defense in Europe and how we can help play a role in that area,” he said.
He also touted an April conference the NATO Communications and Information Agency held in Ottawa, part of its outreach out to the private sector.
“We have to think about the ecosystem that surrounds NATO,” Scheid said, specifically noting the defense industry, not-for-profit organizations and laboratories. “We need to think about the ecosystem and how do we engage with it, how do we expand the engagements of [NATO Communications and Information Agency] and NATO as a whole with industry.”
He talked about a desire to expand the use of e-commerce to expand e-bidding and streamlining acquisitions as well.
“I did some of that when I was at NATO before and I’d like to keep developing that as the [general manager],” he said.