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The year 2020 just passed, and we started the new year 2021 with optimism and great expectations. In 2020, we faced many challenges, but it also provided us opportunities.

On one hand, we had to change how we operated, and we were encouraged to use new technologies that would have otherwise taken us years to implement. We implemented and enhanced many new capabilities such as video teleconference, including secure VTC, collaborative tools, e-learning, knowledge management, information sharing and many others.

On the other hand, we gained experience and learned much from the COVID-19 pandemic situation and its subsequent restrictions. A significant lesson we learned is that online solutions are not as perfect as we believed they could be, and they cannot always completely substitute for in-person events. Virtual meetings or courses provide only a partial solution, so our requirements and should be viewed as complementary tools. One of the areas which were significantly impacted is education and training, where the restrictions prevented us from organizing courses. While some of our other events were organised online, many more were cancelled or postponed to 2021.

The pandemic situation was not the only concern in the CBRN world. Another attack with a Novichok-type agent reminded us that there are still capabilities and capacities available for perpetrators with the will to use them. Our CBRN reachback capability proved its value in providing CBRN related scientific and technical information support to NATO and Allies for CBRN related events to include the current pandemic.

These challenges did not avert us from the 2020 JCBRN Defence COE Programme of Work. In 2021, we will continue to support NATO in the same areas the Centre provided in previous years.Of note, we will continue our efforts supporting the ongoing NATO HQ effort to improve civil-military interaction through the recently established COE civil-military interaction cell and organizing our annual conference planned for 5-6 October 2021 in Prague. In addition, we will continue our promising and NATO-leading effort in support of the NATO-EU declaration with a focus on civil-military interaction in the CBRN Defence domain.

The year 2021 will be extraordinary for the JCBRN Defence COE as we continue providing support to NATO and Allies and celebrate our 15th anniversary. The JCBRN Defence COE will mark this anniversary with photograph exhibitions, strategic communications and events that will culminate with the anniversary celebration on 26 October 2021 during the steering committee meeting. In addition, as a part of the celebration, we are conducting a strategic gap analysis to look back on what we have achieved, what we want to achieve, and how we will accomplish that in the future. We believe the results will help us enhance our capabilities and capacities in support of NATO and Allies, not only for current requirements, but also future requirements and challenges.

I look forward to 2021 and continuing the success of our centre of excellence!

Author: Colonel David Martínek, Director, JCBRN Defence COE, CZE – A