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NATO E-3A flying with United States Air Force F-16s in a NATO exercise.

The military units and formations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are the operational side of the organisation, as determined by treaty. NATO is run by three bodies. The decision-making body is the Council of national NATO Permanent Representatives, and the decision-making and legislative process of which is converted into policy by the civilian International Staff that is divided into administrative divisions, offices and other organizations. These policies are produced on advice from the standing committees, of which only five are specifically military in nature.

The executive and operational process is overseen by the NATO Military Committee which commands the forces and also oversees their integration, training and research support. The coordination role between the two is carried out by the Defence Planning Committee which directs its output to the Division of Defence Policy and Planning, a nominally civilian department that works closely with the Military Committee's International Military Staff.[1]

All agencies and organizations integrated into either the civilian administrative or military executive roles. For the most part they perform roles and functions that directly or indirectly support the security role of the alliance as a whole.

Civilian structure[edit | edit source]

NATO has an extensive civilian structure, including:

  • Public Diplomacy Division
  • NATO Office of Security (NOS)
  • Executive Management
  • Division of Political Affairs and Security Policy
  • Division of Operations
  • Division of Defence Policy and Planning
  • Division of Defence Investment
  • NATO Office of Resources (NOR)
  • NATO Headquarters Consultation, Command and Control Staff (NHQC3S)
  • Office of the Financial Controller (FinCon)
  • Office of the Chairman of the Senior Resource Board (SRB)
  • Office of the Chairman of the Civil and Military Budget Committees (CBC/MBC))
  • International Board of Auditors for NATO (IBAN)
  • NATO Production and Logistics Organizations (NPLO)

The Defence Planning Committee (DPC) is normally composed of Permanent Representatives, but meets at the level of Defence Ministers at least twice a year. It deals with most defence matters and subjects related to collective defence planning. In this it serves as a coordinating body between the Civilian and Military organizational bureaucracies of NATO.

Military structures[edit | edit source]

Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers EuropeAllied Joint Force Command BrunssumAllied Joint Force Command NaplesAllied Joint Command LisbonAllied Air Command RamsteinAllied Command Europe Rapid Reaction CorpsNATO Rapid Deployable Italian CorpsI. German/Dutch CorpsEurocorpsMultinational Corps NortheastJoint Force Training CentreNATO Undersea Research CentreNATO SchoolAllied Command TransformationNATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force CommandNATO Military structure.svg
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NATO's military operations are directed by the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, and split into two Strategic Commands commanded by U.S. and French four-star officers assisted by a staff drawn from across NATO. The Strategic Commanders are responsible to the Military Committee for the overall direction and conduct of all Alliance military matters within their areas of command.

The Military Committee in turn directs the two principal NATO military formations: Allied Command Operations (ACO) responsible for the strategic, operational and tactical management of combat and combat support forces of the NATO members, and Allied Command Transformation (ACT) responsible for the induction of the new member states' forces into NATO, and NATO forces' research and training capability.[2]

Beginnings[edit | edit source]

A key step in establishing the NATO Command Structure was the North Atlantic Council’s selection of General Dwight D. Eisenhower as the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) in December 1950.[3] After Eisenhower arrived in Paris in January 1951, he and the other members of the multinational Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) Planning Group immediately began to devise a structure for the new Allied Command Europe. They quickly decided to divide Allied Command Europe into three regions: the North, containing Scandinavia, the North Sea and the Baltic; the Center, with Western Europe, and the South, covering Italy and the Mediterranean (Greece and Turkey were not yet members of NATO).

SHAPE was established at Rocquencourt, west of Paris, until 1966, when French president Charles de Gaulle withdrew French forces from the alliance. NATO's headquarters were then forced to move to Belgium, while many military units had to move. SACEUR's headquarters, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) was moved to Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons. This is about 80 km (50 mi) south of NATO’s political headquarters in Brussels.

Allied Command Operations[edit | edit source]

Before 2003 the Strategic Commanders were SACEUR and the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT). The current arrangement is to separate command responsibility between Allied Command Transformation (ACT), responsible for transformation and training of NATO forces, and Allied Command Operations (ACO), responsible for NATO operations worldwide. In late 2003 NATO restructured how it commands and deploys its troops. This resulted from post–Cold War restructuring of national forces, intervention in the Balkan conflicts, and subsequent participation in Afghanistan. The alliance created several NATO Rapid Deployable Corps and naval High Readiness Forces (HRFs), which all report to Allied Command Operations.

The commander of Allied Command Operations retained the title "Supreme Allied Commander Europe", and remains based at SHAPE at Casteau. He is a U.S. four-star general or admiral with the dual-hatted role of heading United States European Command, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. ACO includes Joint Force Command Brunssum in the Netherlands, Joint Force Command Naples in Italy, and Joint Command Lisbon in Portugal, all multi-national headquarters with many nations represented. JFC Brunssum has its land component, Allied Land Component Command Headquarters Heidelberg at Heidelberg, Germany, its air component at Ramstein in Germany, and its naval component at the Northwood Headquarters in the northwest suburbs of London. JFC Naples has its land component in Madrid, air component at İzmir, Turkey, and naval component in Naples, Italy. It also directs KFOR in Kosovo. JC Lisbon is a smaller HQ with no subordinate commands. Lajes Field, in the Portuguese Azores, is an important transatlantic staging post. A number of NATO Force Structure formations, such as the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps are answerable ultimately to SACEUR either directly or through the component commands. Directly responsible to SACEUR is the NATO Airborne Early Warning Force at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen in Germany where a jointly funded fleet of E-3 Sentry AWACS airborne radar aircraft is located. The C-17s of the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability, which became fully operational in July 2009, is based at Pápa airfield in Hungary.

Allied Command Transformation[edit | edit source]

Allied Command Transformation (ACT) is based in the former Allied Command Atlantic headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, United States. Allied Command Atlantic, usually known as Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT), after its commander, became ACT in 2003. It is headed by the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), a French officer. There is also an ACT command element located at SHAPE in Mons, Belgium. In June 2009 Le Figaro named the French officer who was to take command of ACT following France's return to the NATO Military Command Structure.[4]

Subordinate ACT organizations include the Joint Warfare Center (JWC) located in Stavanger, Norway (in the same site as the Norwegian Armed Forces National Joint HQ); the Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) in Bydgoszcz, Poland; and the Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) in Monsanto, Portugal. The NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) at La Spezia, Italy, was also part of ACT until it was shifted under the auspices of the NATO Science & Technology Organization.

Canada-US Regional Planning Group[edit | edit source]

The Canada-US Regional Planning Group (CUSRPG) is the only survivor of the originally five regional planning groups of the late 1940s and early 1950s.[5] All the others were subsumed into Allied Command Europe and Allied Command Atlantic.[6] The NATO Handbook stated in 1990s editions that it was responsible for the defence of the US-Canada area and meets alternatively in Washington, D.C. and Ottawa. (As such it appears to duplicate, in part, the work of the Permanent Joint Board on Defence.)

Organizations and Agencies[edit | edit source]

New structure for Agencies[edit | edit source]

A major reorganization of the NATO Agencies was agreed at a meeting of the defence ministers from NATO's 28 member states on 8 June 2011. The new Agencies' structure will build upon the existing one:[7]

  • Headquarters for the NATO Support Agency will be in Capellen Luxembourg (site of the current NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency – NAMSA).
  • The NATO Communications and Information Agency Headquarters will be in Brussels, as will the very small staff which will design the new NATO Procurement Agency.
  • A new NATO Science and Technology (S&T) Organization will be created before July 2012, consisting of Chief Scientist, a Programme Office for Collaborative S&T, and the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC).
  • The current NATO Standardization Agency will continue and be subject to review by Spring 2014.

Former structure[edit | edit source]

Prior to the reorganization, the NATO website listed 43 different agencies and organizations and five project committees/offices as of 15 May 2008.[8] They included:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. NATO's Military Committee: focused on operations, capabilities and cooperation [1]
  2. Espen Barth, Eide; Frédéric Bozo (Spring 2005). "Should NATO play a more political role?". Nato Review. NATO. http://www.nato.int/docu/review/2005/issue1/english/debate.html. Retrieved 15 July 2007. 
  3. Pedlow, Evolution of NATO's Command Structure 1951-2009.
  4. (French) LeFigaro.fr, accessed June 2009
  5. Final Communique of the First Session of the North Atlantic Council, Terms of Reference and Organisation, 17 September 1949, retrieved from NATO.int, October 2013.
  6. Sean Moloney thesis
  7. Jorge Benitez, "Details of NATO's new agency structure", NATO Source, 9 June 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
  8. NATO, Organizations and Agencies, accessed May 2008
  9. NATO C3 Agency
  10. NATO Communication and Information Systems Agency
  11. NATO Research & Technology Organization

External links[edit | edit source]

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