Reserve forces

  • Last updated: 01 Apr. 2015 14:44

As threats to global security have evolved, so too has the role of reserve forces in NATO. Reservists play a crucial role in building bridges between military and non-military personnel across the Alliance and are recognised as indispensable to the Alliance’s defence at the earliest stages of a conflict.

The Alliance does not have or control its own reserve forces. However, it works through the National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC) to tackle reservist issues with both the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (known by its French acronym CIOR) and the Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers (CIOMR).

Whenever possible the NRFC, the CIOR and the CIOMR convene at the same time and place. The three bodies also work to harmonise their respective programmes and projects. The work of the NRFC and CIOR is complementary, particularly where requirements converge. NRFC focuses more on military policy and concepts, while the CIOR concentrates on developing an inter-allied common spirit and the training and education of reservists. Both serve principally as a place for the exchange of views of national best practices.

The Military Committee (MC) is briefed once a year on the activities of these organisations.


  • NATO does not have or control its own reserve forces.
  • It works on reservist issues through the NATO Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC), which is an advisory body for the Military Committee on these questions.
  • NATO also works with both the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers and the Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers on reservist issues.
  • Together, these entities seek to complement efforts and harmonise their respective programmes and projects.
  • The National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC)

    Up to the early 1980s, reserve forces and policy matters relating to them were considered to be a national issue only, so therefore not within the remit of NATO.

    The National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC) was established in 1981 as the central forum of the Alliance for reservist matters. However, it was not until 1996 that it was officially recognised as a NATO committee.

    Objectives and responsibilities

    The NRFC has the task of preparing conceptual proposals and developing approaches as an advisory body for the MC in this area. Its objectives and responsibilities were approved by the MC (MC 392) on 18 November 1996 and have since been amended several times – most recently on 27 July 2012.

    These are defined as:

    1. Providing policy advice on reserve issues to the MC;
    2. Strengthening the readiness and effectiveness of Alliance reserves by providing a forum for the exchange of information and sharing of best practices;
    3. Maintaining awareness of relevant issues and identifying common activities that may be of interest to Alliance and partner reserves by liaising with entities that have an interest in these issues. In particular, the NRFC cooperates with the CIOR.

    The Committee does not address strategic, tactical or operational issues.

    Functioning of the committee

    The NRFC consists of a chairman and a secretariat, as well as national delegations from all NATO member countries and observers from Australia, Austria, Georgia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Sweden. The International Military Staff, Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation are represented by liaison officers. Committee delegations are appointed by their respective national ministries of defence.

    Chairmanship is held for a period of two years by one of the member countries. The Chairman organises and conducts meetings and coordinates the activities of the Committee. He/she is the correspondent between the NRFC and the MC, speaks on behalf of the NRFC and is in charge of tasks and studies requested by the MC.

    The NRFC holds plenary conferences at least twice a year.

  • The Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR)

    The Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (la Confédération interalliée des officiers de réserve or CIOR) is an independent body that represents the reserve officers from 26 NATO members and eight associated countries. It was founded in 1948 and officially recognised by NATO in 1976 (MC 248/1) with the objectives of providing advice on the best utilisation of reservists, continuing to improve the knowledge of NATO authorities about national reserve forces, and exchange information between member states. It is a non-political, non-governmental, non-profit-making organisation which cooperates with the Alliance on reservists issues.

    The members of the CIOR associations are active as civilians and professionals, in addition to their role as reserve officers. This dual role allows them to contribute to a better understanding of security and defence issues within their national populations, as well as bringing civilian expertise and experiences to the challenges facing reserve forces at NATO.

    Delegates to the CIOR are elected by their national reserve officer associations. The head of each delegation is a CIOR vice-president. The Confederation is structured around a constitution that provides for a rotating presidency, an executive council comprised of vice-presidents, key committees and several annual events that promote training, education and professional development of reserve forces.

    CIOR’s main roles:

    • Improving “NATO understanding of CIOR goals and activities, by informing NATO Authorities, periodically briefing the Military Committee”.
    • To increase cooperation between NATO and CIOR “by providing advice from CIOR’s perspective on the best utilisation of reservists in the defence of NATO and in non Art. 5 operations.”
    • “To contribute to improving the knowledge of NATO authorities about national reserve forces and the role of the reserve forces in common NATO defence and new missions, particularly from the CIOR perspective.”
    • “To utilise CIOR knowledge of reserve affairs within each member nation in order to inspire developments in the organisation, administration and social aspects, where appropriate, of reserve forces and in particular of reserve Officers.”

    CIOR Committees:

    1. Defence Attitudes & Security Issues Committee
    2. Civil Military Cooperation Committee
    3. Military Competitions Committee
    4. Legal Committee
    5. Partnership for Peace & Outreach Committee
    6. Language Academy Committee
    7. Seminar Committee
    8. Young Reserve Officers Committee

    The main meetings of the CIOR are held on an annual basis in the summer, with locations alternating among member countries. It also organises a winter conference each year in Brussels, Belgium, for the CIOR Council and Committees. The Confederation is financed by annual subscriptions from its component national associations. The CIOR has a permanent representative at NATO HQ in the IMS Plans and Policy Division.


    The Confédération interalliée des officiers médicaux de réserve (Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers, or CIOMR) is an associated member of the CIOR.

    Established in 1947, the CIOMR is the official organisation of medical officers within Reserve Forces from countries which were to become NATO members. Originally founded by Belgium, France and the Netherlands, the Confederation now includes all CIOR member countries. It works to establish close professional relations with the medical doctors and services of NATO countries and promotes effective collaboration with the active forces of the Alliance.