GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (Feb. 4, 2014) -- With twenty-six NATO nations, including the United States, reducing the size of their defense spending and capability, Lt. Gen. Frederick (Ben) Hodges, the commanding general of the Allied Land Command NATO, said that's more reason to work together.

"Only Poland and Turkey are either maintaining or increasing the amount of their defense spending," said Hodges, during a recent interview. "That means involvement in coalitions and the alliance becomes even more important for shared resources, shared capacity and cooperation."

While touring the facilities at Europe's Joint Multinational Training Command, and Grafenwoehr Training Area, Hodges discussed training objectives and ways the European community, U.S., partners and allies could support NATO. Likewise, Hodges revealed NATO's plan to conduct certification training for its land operations and crisis response initiative. Beginning in September, with mission command training during Exercise Loyal Lance and culminating in December with Exercise Trident Lance; Hodges said it's about transparency, information sharing, conserving resources, and connecting disparate NATO capabilities to ensure efficient and effective partnerships.

One way to educate partners, stakeholders and allies, is to get them in the room to see for themselves. Hodges plans to invite key leaders, stakeholders and interested parties from the 18 NATO Centres of Excellence because, he says NATO compliance is not only doctrine, certifications, systems, capabilities and integration, but also people, partnership and building capacity.

"What's most important is that, within their capability, the member nations of NATO continue to provide modern military capabilities," he said in his May 2013 interview with Army magazine. "This was evident in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. There are other ways in which nations contribute that matter besides percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) that also count."

Hodges said by bringing the capabilities of the Joint Force Training Center in Dydgoszcz, Poland, and the Joint Warfighting Center in Stavanger, Norway, together with those of the U.S. Army's Joint Multinational Training Command is one way to resolve system failures and miscommunication.

He said Germany's simulation center in Wildflecken successfully used NATO Mission networks. He suggested partnering between the U.S. simulation center and German simulation center for the upcoming exercise as a solution to meet challenges.

"That's what partnership is about," he said."It's not just fun to train with Germans, Italians or Polish soldiers. It's because we are going to fight together and do operations together. It's relationship, standards and communications."

The alliance trains at the Grafenwoehr Training Area at two operation center facilities within the Joint Multinational Simulation Center, or JMSC, as well as the support facilities. JMSC expects to fill about 80 percent of its infrastructure to host the event. Planners say large-scale exercises are often hosted at JMSC because the simulations center regularly provides technical support and accommodations, including work spaces for more than 1,000 personnel. The location provides at least one computer work station for each participant, and another 25 percent in functional area services throughout the footprint.

For example, the U.S. Army Europe's "Austere Challenge" involves computer networking and office space for up to 1,800 personnel, using about 57 buildings.

"I think there are two pillars of interoperability; everybody has to meet the same standards, and we've all agreed to NATO standards. And, we have to do our communications work together, and I'm not talking about the FMs (FM radios). I'm talking about each nation's CIS (computer-information systems) and battle-command systems."

The exercise includes NATO's SKOLKAN scenario, a scenario that requires Article V collective defense of a NATO member within a notional European region. The scenario was commissioned by Supreme Allied Commander Europe and designed by the Joint Warfare Centre. The scenario challenges the command and control structure, while overcoming gaps to process and capabilities. Events to be redressed and enhanced, as NATO Forces and troop contributing nations negotiate the best ways to defend sovereign territory and a NATO member.

"There is always a need for land forces," he said. "We've got to help land forces become as good as they can be," said Hodges."Our exercise is the culmination of two years of work to achieve our full operational capability as directed by the alliance."

Hodges said his force is currently at about 79-percent strength, but expects to be above 90 percent by December 2014, which is also when the command must be certified, "ready," as NATO's land component command.