NATO REFORM – Reform Plots Course Between Rationalization and Compensation

Defence ministers meeting in Brussels on 8 and 9 June came to an agreement on the “most fundamental structural changes the Alliance has ever seen “, according to Robert Gates. Based on a decision of principle taken during the Lisbon summit in November 2010, reform is based on two key complementary principles to:

  • reduce the number of specialised agencies and headquarters; and
  • simplify the command structure.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen is of the opinion that this should allow a new structure to be set in place that is “more efficient, more deployable and more compact”. The search for efficiency, however, conceals a will to cut costs and a tricky trade-off between countries willing to host the various elements of the structure concerned by reform. The number of headquarters has been decreased from 11 to 7, the number of agencies from 14 to 4 (or 5 upon completion of reform), and the number of personnel employed in the command structure from 13,000 (a theoretical number) to 8,800.

On Thursday 9 June, Belgian Brigadier General Patrick Wouters explained the changes made to the NATO integrated military structure. Thus, the outcome of the command structure summit was that the two strategic headquarters – namely the Allied Command Transformation (ACT – Norfolk, USA) and the Allied Command Operations (ACO – Mons, Belgium) – remain in place, although their specific structures and roles will be adjusted to meet the requirements of the new Strategic Concept. At the intermediary level of operations command, two new joint force headquarters (JFHQ) are maintained in Brunssum, the Netherlands, and in Naples, Italy. That in Lisbon, Portugal, will be closed down. In exchange, Lisbon will receive the Striking Force NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and the Communications and Information Systems (NATOCIS), which will move there from Italy.

As far as their size goes, the new HQs are expected to be bulkier but they should also have  the capacity to deploy in the field of operations.

General Wouters said that, of the 850 personnel, 500 would be able to deploy. With reform, the land, air and maritime component commands will be reduced from two each to one each.

The land component command will be in Izmir, Turkey, entailing the closure of the Heidelberg headquarters and that in Madrid. The air component command will be in Rammstein, Germany, entailing dismantlement of the Izmir air base. The maritime component will be in Northwood, Great Britain, with closure of the maritime HQ in Naples.

Reform also affects NATO’s four static Coalition Air Operation Centres (CAOCs) based in Uedem (Germany), Finderup (Denmark), Poggio Renatico (Italy) and Larissa (Greece), and two deployable CAOCs (at Uedem and Poggio Renato). The overall number of four will be reduced to two – at Uedem in Germany and at Torrejon in Spain. The latter is a form of  compensation for the loss of the land component (Madrid). Further to the proposal by the secretary general and with a view to drawing lessons from the operation in Libya, deployable air operation centres will also be hosted there. This new kind of centre will take on a double role, that of air command that may come under the static command (CAOC) and that of air control, understood as control in real time of all air assets during an operation.

Very little change is, however, planned for the ACT other than a scaling down of the personnel. The transformation command also retains three specialised centres: the Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) in Monsanto, near Lisbon; the Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) in Bydgozcz (Poland); and the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger (Norway).

Regarding the matter of hoped-for cost savings for operations and maintenance, General Wouters said that the figure of (E 20 million per year was completely realistic.

Without the function of the NATO specialised agencies being scaled down, they will be reorganised into three groups: (1) acquisitions, (2) support and (3) communication and information.

This new structure will be based on the former. Thus, the support agency will be based in Capellen, Luxembourg, instead of the current NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA).

Belgium will host the two other groups as well as the agency dedicated to standardisation, whose responsibilities are to be reviewed by 2014. It should be noted that, if the acquisitions pole is set up in Brussels, the various multinational programme management structures (Eurofighter, NH-90, etc) continue in their present form and with their present installations.

Finally, a new structure responsible for science and technology, including a chief scientist, a programme office for cooperation research and the submarine research centre in La Spezia (Italy), will see the light of day by July 2012.


You may also like...