Interview with COL David Martínek, Director, JCBRN Defence Center of Excellence, Czech Republic

Could you describe the JCBRN Defence COE’s main activities?

The JCBRN Defence COE is a NATO military body and multi-nationally sponsored organization which offers recognized expertise and experience to the benefit of the Alliance and partners. We are focused on CBRN defense within the NATO transformation process, education and training, and operations support. This covers a wide range of activities such as capability development, concept and doctrine development, experimentation, lessons learned, organization of specialized courses, support to NATO exercises and multinational CBRN defence exercises, CBRN defence advice and assessment provision, and CBRN incidents modelling and simulations. There are also many cross functional activities and projects that provide opportunities for increasing collaboration, cooperation, interaction and synergy. For example, support to NATO’s effort to enhance civil-military interaction, the Joint Declaration on NATO-EU cooperation, and NATO and EU projects in support of both organizations.

What would you say are the biggest challenges ahead of us in countering CBRN threats?

From my point of view, the major challenges are emerging technologies and information sharing. The technologies are developing incredibly fast, and in combination with artificial intelligence, present a serious challenge. Synthetization and selection of substances suitable for military purpose used to take time and significant resources. Furthermore, knowledge about such topics was limited and the public had limited access to this type of information in the past. Nowadays, information sharing is unlimited, and all details including instructions on how to synthetize chemical substances or grow viruses or bacteria could be found on the internet. On the other hand, sharing intelligence among nations and on the national level could present additional challenges. Therefore, perpetrators are in better position to get information they need to cause significant harm or damage to people, places or things, thus increasing the risk of CBRN incidents. Developing weapons systems required resources available only to governments. This is not valid anymore. There are off-the-shelf products available for improvised solutions, e.g., Unmanned Areal Vehicles (UMV) or drones, and as some recent examples have demonstrated; drones can also be used as a possible mean of delivery. This topic is so wide that I could elaborate on it for hours.

It is crucial that CBRN operators are appropriately trained to deal with potential threats. What are the unique qualities of the JCBCN Defence COE led trainings and exercises?

There are two parts of the JCBRN Defence COE support. The first area supports NATO Education and Training as a part of preparation for deployment to NATO structure or operations based on NATO requirements. The second is supporting NATO and its partners. The unique feature of our courses is their ability to link civil and military procedures during our CBRN consequence management course. The JCBRN Defence COE has a long-standing cooperation with the Fire Rescue Services of the Czech Republic, and we use the Firefighter’s training facility for practical training. The course participants can see their procedures and equipment. In addition, some of the lessons are provided by members of the Fire Rescue Services. Another example is the Live agent training course, located in an area near Vyskov. We offer this course, covering practical training. Participants train on sampling, detection, and decontamination procedures with real chemical warfare agents.

How does the JCBRN Defence CoE cooperate with industry? What opportunities does the CoE offer to the private sector?

The JCBRN Defence COE is restricted in this area. We want to stay independent. It means we are not offering or promoting commercial product. As I was talking about technologies, that is an area that we must monitor. We must understand cutting edge technologies to foreseen emerging or future CBRN threats. It covers technologies that might be used for both attack and defensive purposes. So, the benefit for the private sector is sharing information about available technologies on the markets with NATO nations and partners through the JCBRN Defence COE as a part of the ‘technology watch’ function. It could support a national decision for acquisition process. However, we are not providing recommendation or assessments in this area.

Who are the JCBRN Defence CoE’s main international partners? How important is international cooperation for you? What are the current challenges hindering multinational partnerships?

It is difficult to specifically mention one particular partner as all our partners are important to us. Of course, the main partner is NATO as we are a NATO Military Body. But the JCBRN Defence COE also provides an opportunity to create a bridge between NATO and other organizations such as the EU. The main areas in which we cooperate with other organizations are education and training, and CBRN reach back. Of course, there are some limits that create challenges for such cooperation. Information security is paramount for a military organization and that is a challenge for us due to cyber defense, security and information management policies and limitations. Also, the current covid-19 pandemic situation is challenging us like all other organizations. Yet, by using technologies we can successfully address the challenges to continue out support to the Alliance and its partners.

As a Director, what do you find most rewarding in your job?

I am very proud to be in charge of this highly respected and recognized organization. It is extremely flattering to see the JCBRN Defence COE doing an excellent job and being recognized by external organizations for this excellent work. Moreover, I find it very rewarding that we are very successful in linking and cooperating with civil and military CBRN defence worlds, which is key both of our success. It is a unique capability.

I very much appreciate your effort and enthusiasm in organizing NCT Europe virtually and allowing us to meet despite the pandemic situation and all restrictions.

The JCBRN Defence CoE is the official partner of the CBRNe Society for the upcoming NCT Virtual Europe. What are you most looking forward to at the event?

Networking and information exchange. The NCT Virtual Europe conference is a perfect event where we can meet friends, former colleagues and new ones, of course, virtually. We can exchange latest information and discuss various topics. Personally, discussions about some particular topics help me to consider them from different points of view and gives me a better understanding. In other words, more counter-positions, or as some may say arguments, provide an overall better understanding of the topic. I very much appreciate your effort and enthusiasm in organizing NCT Europe virtually and allowing us to meet despite the pandemic situation and all restrictions.

JCBRN Defence Center of Excellence is the offical partner of NCT Virtual Europe 2021 ! Come listen to COL David Martinek during the conference and visit the JCBRN Defence COE Pavilion on March 31 - April 1!

Colonel David Martínek (born in 1975) is the Director of the Joint CBRN Defence Centre of Excellence (JCBRN Defence COE), Vyškov, The Czech Republic. The Director is a principal advisor to Supreme Allied Command Transformatio (SACT) for transformation and Supreme Allied Command Europe (SACEUR) for operations in the field of CBRN defence. In this capacity, he promotes transformation in the field of CBRN defence in support of ACT, and within an approved Programme of Work (PoW), supports Sponsoring Nations (SN) and contributing partners (CP), Allied Command Operation (ACO) and other international institutions/organizations in their CBRN defence-related efforts. His working experience covers CBRN defence positions from tactical to a strategic level. He started his career as a squad leader, and CBRN Defence Officer from battalion level to Joint Force Command and the JCBRN Defence COE. His experience includes deployments in NATO operation ISAF in Afghanistan in 2008 and EU operation ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina 2011. Between 2014 – 2017 he served as the CBRN Defence Policy Staff Officer at SHAPE, Belgium. COL Martinek holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Theory of control and combat use of combat units and master’s in military chemistry.