Transformation in NATO has been a recurring and constant theme in the Alliance since DCI and PCC, and is an important theme although rebranded as Smart Defense. This thesis has sought to identify and map out different institutional logics of what is perceived as appropriate by key personnel within and affiliated with the concept, and to analyze the concept’s roles and rationale, especially in regard to the overall transformation NATO. Two questions have guided this analysis, namely
1) Which institutional logics that can be identified on how the COE concept and specific centers are organized, and
2) What role(s) do(es) the COE concept play in the field of defense transformation in NATO, and what is the concept’s strategic intention, relevance and importance?
The research question has been answered using a new institutionalist perspective, where the purpose has been to understand the rationale of the COE concept. Constructing institutional logics and matching the empirical evidence to these logics and their respective theoretical expectations has consequently led to the analysis in which I have concluded that a logic of defense solidarity and defense pluralism are dominant, as opposed to the less dominant logic of sovereignty and the logic of exclusiveness that was not found to be evident at all. Furthermore, in analyzing strategic roles I have found that the two most evident roles the concept plays in NATO transformation are identifying and supporting specific transformational efforts. Finally, I have found it implausible to conclude that COE concept is strategic intentional regarded from a NATO transformational perspective, but rather is a bottom-up phenomena without central steering. Nevertheless, the concept is strategically relevant for NATO transformation in the sense that it is coherent with transformational strategic guidelines, and also seems to be an important element although this conclusion needs further research and evaluation.
An executive summary for practitioners and decision-makers is attached in Appendix C.