Two years ago, Norway held a multinational military exercise with 15,000 participants. Orders for supplies, fuel and other services came in from all over NATO, resulting in piles of forms, invoices and payment reminders. With 50,000 soldiers from 31 countries in the upcoming exercise Trident Juncture, the Norwegian Armed Forces realised it was time for a change.
Gone are now the days of unnecessary bureaucracy with its thousands of paper sheets. And it is thanks to the Host Nation Support Order and Billing System, abbreviated HOBS. The Norwegian-designed system allows the nations to select what they need from a product catalogue. To modern-day people, used to order anything simply by a touch at their smartphones, this may not seem very innovative. But in a military context, the system is unique, and several countries have already asked the Norwegian Armed Forces if they can buy the system.
The German Major Andreas Söllner manages all the orders for the German troops in Trident Juncture. He sums it up like this:
"It is just like shopping on the internet."
This is a real-time system with all the available modern functions.
Pick what you need
With 6,000 soldiers, Germany will be one of the largest countries at exercise Trident Juncture in Norway this autumn. The German personnel will need housing, food, fuel, spare parts, transportation, high-speed internet connections, waste disposal services, and much more. Söllner could order all of these services directly from the military online store. And if he needs to change an order, he can easily log onto HOBS and change it.
"The previous system was based on Excel sheets. If we needed to change an order, we had to make a whole new document and send it back to the host nation", Söllner explains.
This resulted in a lot of Excel sheets flying back and forth between the countries. This is now history.
"Our experiences with HOBS are very good. This is a real-time system with all the available modern functions," Söllner says.
The system is based on a platform owned by the Norwegian company WilNor Governmental Services (WGS), one of the Norwegian Armed Forces' strategic partners.
The Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation has further developed the platform into the present-day HOBS. The organisation is in charge of the system and ensures that Norway as host country can supply the participants with all the required services and equipment.
Ronny Angeltvedt, chief for the HOBS programme.
classrooms at Sessvollmoen Base just north of Oslo, Norwegian personnel
have processed the more than 15,000 orders from all over NATO. So far,
NATO and the Norwegian Armed Forces have signed contracts with Norwegian
businesses worth NOK 1.5 billion (USD 180 million, EUR 160 million).
Much of this money ends up in the hands of local businesses,
organisations, sports clubs and other local services.
The Norwegian officer Ronny Angeltvedt is chief for the HOBS programme, and he is continuously in contact with the foreign personnel who place their orders.
"I have received positive feedback only, and the users find the system user friendly. Spain, who hosted Trident Juncture 2015 together with Portugal, is impressed with what we have accomplished, says the "shop-owner".
Angeltvedt explains that the prices for the different services pop up immediately in HOBS. The online system also has chat features, allowing the users to communicate directly with the personnel who manage all the incoming orders.
|en_219_introducinghobs||en_40_natoexercise2018||/en/exercise-and-operations/exercises/nato-exercise-2018||/media/PubImages/DSC_4518_2.jpg||Trident Juncture 18||50,000 participants, 250 aircraft and 65 vessels from more than 30 nations – this is NATO's exercise Trident Juncture 18.||en_219_introducinghobs||http://forsvaret.no/en/Lists/RelatedPages/DispForm.aspx?ID=101|
No fighting over the bill
The new online system also gives Norway an economic guarantee. When an order comes in, the Norwegian personnel pass it directly on to their suppliers. The supplier then sends back the price for the specific order.
"When the order is confirmed, we send them the bill. Previously there could be problems with different versions of Excel sheets. We did not always know which version to use," he says.
Before HOBS there was chaos. Today, there is structure.
Another challenge was to find the person who was authorised to pay the bills. With HOBS, there is only one person who can close and approve an order.
"Then there will be no discussion about the bill, and we have documentation of all the actions taken", says Angeltvedt.
end of chaos
Of all the expenses from exercise Trident Juncture, NATO has committed to repay 80 per cent of the expenses already in 2018. The remaining 20 per cent will be repaid next year. Previously, all the expenses were repaid the following year. The new regime makes it easier for the countries to plan the economic side of military exercises. Angeltvedt has no doubts:
"Before HOBS there was chaos. Today, there is structure."