Comprehensive Political Guidance

  • Last updated: 26 Oct. 2010 16:57

The Comprehensive Political Guidance is a major policy document that sets out the framework and priorities for all Alliance capability issues, planning disciplines and intelligence for the next 10 to 15 years.

NATO Russia Council (NRC) Meeting - General view of the meeting room

It analyses the probable future security environment, but acknowledges the possibility of unpredictable events.

Against that analysis, it sets out the kinds of operations the Alliance must be able to perform in light of the Alliance’s Strategic Concept and the kinds of capabilities the Alliance will need.

An evolving strategic context

The threats, risks and challenges now faced by the Allies are very different from those of the Cold War. NATO no longer perceives large-scale conventional military threats to Alliance territory. Instead, today’s security threats include instability, ethnic and religious-based rivalries, competition for natural resources, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, failed states, genocide, mass migration, organized crime, cyber attacks and terrorism.

The challenge is to cope with an ever-increasing set of demands and with new types of operations. That is why Allies are committed to pursuing the transformation of their forces: current and future operations will continue to require agile and interoperable, well-trained and well-led military forces – forces that are modern, deployable, sustainable and available to undertake demanding operations far from home bases. This also places a premium on close coordination and cooperation among international organizations and of particular importance to NATO is its relationship with the United Nations and the European Union.

Providing the means to implement the objectives

Capability requirements

The Comprehensive Political Guidance (CPG) sets out the kinds of operations the Alliance must be able to perform in the future and, as a logical consequence of that vision, the kinds of capabilities the Alliance will need. It defines NATO’s top priorities among those requirements, starting with expeditionary forces and the capability to deploy and sustain them. These capability requirements are expressed broadly. How specifically these capabilities will be filled is left open, since that is for members to determine both individually and collectively through NATO’s defence planning process.

The defence planning process

As such, the defence planning process is also under review to guarantee that NATO has effective military capabilities for defence and deterrence, as well as to fulfill the full range of its missions.

The defence planning process comprises a number of planning disciplines including armaments, civil emergency planning, consultation, command and control, logistics, and resource, nuclear and force planning. Subordinate documents, such as Ministerial Guidance, provide more detailed, quantitative and qualitative guidance. Usually provided every four years, Ministerial Guidance establishes the Alliance level of ambition in military terms and provides further strategic level politico-military direction for relevant planning disciplines. This provides the basis for specific requirements to be set by the NATO force planning system for those member countries engaged in collective force planning. The system then later assesses their ability to meet these planning targets through a biennial defence review process.

Building on the CPG, new Ministerial Guidance was agreed in June 2006. It seeks to provide NATO with the ability to conduct a greater number of smaller-scale operations, while retaining its ability to carry out larger operations. In addition, future planning targets will embrace the further transformation of the Alliance and will continue to seek to improve NATO’s capabilities to pursue the sort of expeditionary operations in which it is currently engaged.

The CPG Management Mechanism

The implementation of the CPG, both within the Alliance proper and by the Allies themselves is crucial. Ultimately, implementation should lead to the development of more usable capabilities for future operations and missions, thereby ensuring that the Alliance remains effective, credible and relevant in the 21st century. To this end, in February 2006, a CPG Management Mechanism was established.

Two aspects of the implementation of the CPG are being pursued: monitoring and evaluating the actual fulfillment of the required capabilities; and improving NATO’s processes for identifying, developing and delivering the required capabilities.

Adoption of the Comprehensive Political Guidance

The CPG was agreed on 21 December 2005 by the 26 NATO member countries.  It was endorsed by NATO Defence Ministers at their June 2006 meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, and – at the highest political level – by NATO Heads of State and Government at the November 2006 Riga Summit.