Technical background briefing on NATO Command Structure

by Brigadier General Patrick Wouters, Deputy Director Plans and Policy Division, International Military Staff (IMS)

  • Last updated: 10 Jun. 2011 10:38

OANA LUNGESCU: Good afternoon, thank you very much for coming. This is a technical briefing about the NATO command structure review. It will be on the internet, so obviously it's not on background, but we've got our guest Brigadier General Patrick Wouters who's the Deputy Director Plans and Policy Division from the International Military Staff who will be able to answer all your details.

So Brigadier General, if you'd like to join us over there and we can start. If, of course, you have any questions.

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS (Deputy Director Plans and Policy Division, International Military Staff, IMS): Maybe if you allow I will take a couple of minutes to do some introductory remarks and then give you the floor for possible questions.

So, yesterday decisions have been taken by the Ministers of Defence for a fundamental review of the NATO command structure. The aims set out for this in Lisbon in the Lisbon framework essentially by the Secretary General, and agreed by the Heads of State and Government, was to make the command structure lean and more efficient, more fit for purpose in that its essential features will be more deployable. Make it also more affordable and, in fact, adapt it to the New Strategic Concept, which as you know, saw the light in Lisbon also.

Maybe to go a little bit more into detail what that exactly entails for the military structure I would go over the list of the entities that are presently in the command structure and what their status will be in the new command structure.

We have the two strategic headquarters, as you know them well, ACO for Operations and ACT for Transformation. They are essentially remaining in place and little is changing to the structure, save for a number of possible new task adaptations to the New Strategic Concept, which they will take into their portfolios.

Conversely, as you know, we had three Joint Force Commands in NATO which will now be reduced to two new headquarters, which will be called Joint Force Headquarters. The essential difference with the previous structure is that these headquarters will be a little bit taller in size, but will be deployable into a theatre when a particular operation is ongoing or is undertaken by NATO.

The peacetime structure will be about 850 posts, of which normally NATO will be able to deploy 500 for such an event. And also these Joint Force Headquarters, one of which will be situated in Brunssum in the Netherlands, the other one in Naples, Italy will also now take back a regional focus, which as you know, they had lost in the previous... in the actual structure, in fact. And they will also take on tasks that stem from the New Strategic Concept, such as engagement and outreach and partnerships for NATO.

We then had in the actual structure, as you know, two headquarters that were essentially dealing with land operations. That will now be restructured into one single Land Command Headquarters. This Land Command Headquarters will be situated in Izmir in Turkey and will essentially deal or try to gather all the land competency that is available in NATO for command-and-control of land operations essentially and also if you think collective defence, which still has, of course, in the New Strategic Concept also its place it will be the focus if NATO has to conduct multi-core operations.

For the air structure, as you know, we had two Air Command Headquarters, Air Component Command Headquarters. Also they are now reduced also to one, which will be situated in Ramstein, Germany. And the essential feature of this new Air Command Headquarters will be that it will take onboard new tasks, such as the missile defence tasks that NATO will obviously need to take on to conduct missile defence. But also it will be better adapted to the use of the joint force air component... air command concept. In other words, this HQ from its peacetime structure will be easily reverted to a structure that is necessary to conduct operations such as we have seen, or such as we see today over Libya.

And the Alliance on augmentees to man this headquarters should be less in this adapted headquarters that it was previously.

As for the maritime commands, we had two and we are reducing that also to one. It will be situated in Northwood, U.K. And also there the essential feature of the maritime headquarters, maritime command, will be to deal with the new tasks or the revised tasks of NATO, focusing on maritime surveillance. That's why the links that this maritime command can take with the civilian worlds, governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, such as Lloyd, is important and that's also part of the reason why it is being located in the U.K. in Northwood.

Let's go on now to a number of air command entities. I've already cited the operational headquarters in Ramstein, but as you know, we had in the actual structure four Combined Air Operation Centres across NATO Europe and they will be reduced to two. And trying to explain exactly what the duties of such a Combined Air Operation Centre are, you have to distinguish between the air policing part, which is important also for collective defence, and day-to-day operations. And then you have the air command functions, which are the ones that are necessary for conducting operations such as we see today over Libya.

Two of those Combined Air Operation Centres, which we'll call static Combined Air Operation Centres, will be located in the command structure still. The other ones will remain in a national or a multi-national configuration. The two that will be in the command structure will Uedem in Germany and will be Torrejón in Spain.

Taking advantage and benefit of the experiences that were taken with the operations over Libya, the Secretary General had also proposed to create what has been called a deployable air command-and-control centre. This deployable air command-and-control centre would be, in fact, assuming both functions, the air command functions which I had already stated earlier, and that can be detached from the two static CAOCs, which I had named earlier, there will be now a third unit which will not only assume those air command functions as a third possible entity, but also assume air control functions; that is, to do the real time control of fighters or surface-to-air missile units that are being taken up in a particular operation.

So essentially that will be the Deployable ARS control station that was planned in the current plans due to take its place in Nieuw Mallingen in the Netherlands. That will be now combined with this Deployable Air Operation Centre and will be situated in Poggio Renatico in Italy.

That altogether more or less gives you the structure of the operations part of the structure. As far as Allied Command Transformation is concerned little changes, save that the number of posts has been reduced just a little bit, but as I alluded to earlier, their tasks are being adapted to the New Strategic Concept.

And then last part of this is the communications and information systems, where we had an agency that did that, the NATO Communications Agency. That will be now kind of divided up and about 1,300 posts will be devoted essentially to the deployable to make the command structure which I had explained earlier, to make it entirely deployable with its own communication systems. And that will take up around 1,300 posts.

So in all, this new command structure and reformed command structure will be, in our view, and in the view of the Ministers of Defence since yesterday now, more effective, more agile, more responsive. It will be able to meet the current and the future challenges and it is designed in a forward-looking way. It will have four HQs less than actual one. It will have three command elements less than the current one, and it will have a number of posts less than the current structure. So in all that will make it leaner and more affordable to the nations, to the allies.

And with that I would open the floor for possible questions.

OANA LUNGESCU: And I'd be very grateful if you could set your mobiles and Blackberries to silent. And I'll take the question over there.

Q: Julian Barnes with the Wall Street Journal. Of these four... I'm just a little confused. Of the four headquarters and the three commands that are no longer, are those facilities that will just cease to be NATO facilities and if so can you tick off what they are? Or is it the case that there's some NATO functions that will still reside there?

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: Thank you. That will essentially depend on the intentions that the host nation of these headquarters has with them. In some cases the host nation might decide to close this facility. In other occasions they might decide on a national or on a multinational basis to still keep the headquarters running, but then it wouldn't be part of the NATO command structure.

If you want to go over that list you have the Joint Force Command Lisbon which will cease to exist. There the Portuguese authorities will need to determine what they do with the facilities. The maritime headquarters in Naples will cease to exist, but it is moving anyway, so the infrastructure will be adapted to the new structure. The land command in Madrid will be closing. The air command ins Izmir will be closing, but as you know, I've already talked about the land command that would take place there, so it is more than likely that the same infrastructure will be reutilized.

Concerning the three air command elements I had alluded to, we had four axed CAOCs, two of which will now become NATO command structure CAOCs and the two other ones it will lie with the nations, the MOU nations that own that facility to decide whether they keep it as a force element and still make it available to NATO or if they decide to close that facility.

Finally, we had two DARs, so deployable control stations in the plans. One of which will not be stood up and the other one which was Nieuw Millingen will move to Poggio Renatico in Italy.

So there is the count of the seven entities that will either close or be reutilized in other purposes.

OANA LUNGESCU: (Inaudible).

Q: Yes, Gerard Gaudin, Belgium News Agency. Could you give us figure concerning the savings in manpower?

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: I was expecting that question, obviously. Let me try to give a very nuanced answer. When trying to deal with those figures you have to be comparing apples with apples. So what you take in the first count, in the "as is" situation, and what do you take in the "to be" situation? There are lots of moveable parts. But basically speaking from the command structure there will be about 30 percent of less posts in the new command structure than in the former command structure, which was about 13,000... over 13,000 posts.

In the new command structure there will be... the count, if you want to compare apples with apples we will have 8,800 posts. Not all of them part of the command structure though.

The other caveat I have to give with these figures is that in the actual structure we have about 4,000 posts that deal with communication and information systems. Part of that will remain in the command structure, as I alluded to earlier. That is essentially to have the deployable support of the command structure when it goes into a theatre at the direct reach of SACEUR, under his operational command, that's for about 1,300 posts. And the remainder of the posts will be moved to the agency and become part of the agency reform. If you will exclude those figures then we are counting about 1,600 to 1,700 posts, excluding these CIS workers. So in all it's more than that, but the CIS figures will be rearranged with the agencies.

OANA LUNGESCU: Over there.

Q: Tarek Mahmoud from the Middle East News Agency. I wonder if you have a sort of calendar, and I heard that the savings for military would be around $20 million a year, but what about the global savings? Do you have a figure, sort of estimation what will be exactly? And how you will guarantee that this money won't be cut from the budget and will be used effectively for the functioning?

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: Thank you for that question. Yes, there are indeed savings in two different parts you already alluded to in the investments and in the current... in the operations and maintenance budgets. So on a recurring basis the figure to which you have cited is a realistic one. We anticipate with the number of headquarters coming down and the number of posts being sustained that indeed the requirement for operations and maintenance budgets would be reduced by approximately $20 million.

For investments it's a little bit more different to ascertain because we will have some transition cost from the old structure to the new structure. Those civilian posts, it will be part of the implementation plan to see whether the civilians have to be moved, whether they are desiring to be moved. If not, then obviously you have loss of job indemnity if they decide not to move. Then you have the investment parts. I already alluded to the fact that some of the infrastructures will be reutilized and will have to be potentially adapted to that. All that will be governed in the NATO Security Investment Program, which is a program that has its governance, that has its structure and which will now be adapted to that new command structure in the two or three years that follow.

It is also the case that some of the refurbishments which we had in the plans for 17 headquarters can now be cut since we will only be sustaining 10 new headquarters if you make the count. So in investments that will be investments in refurbishments which NATO will not need to do and I think the SecGen and the Chairman of the Military Committee will make sure that those amounts can be reutilized for the benefit of the Alliance in a considerate way.

Q: (Inaudible...)?

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: Well, the calendar, that will, again, there are transitions that can take place pretty quickly, and I won't speculate on which one they can be. It will essentially depend on the synergies that NATO can achieve with the host nations of where these entities are situated for the moment.

Let's take one example, and I wouldn't want to speculate or discuss too early what's going to happen, but for instance in Izmir you now have an air command where you have 400 staff officers dealing with air operations. You can imagine that staff entity could turn around pretty quickly into a land command. Obviously the officers that serve in that staff need to be other officers, but that's supposedly something that can be done over a number of months.

In other instances we will need to conduct studies, and NATO Security Investment Program will need to put in place new infrastructures to support this new command structure.

But we have tried to keep the transition costs as low as possible obviously not to neutralize the savings that can be made from this new structure.

OANA LUNGESCU: Jane's.

Q: Yes, I wanted to come back to what you said about the information officer... you know, all of the personnel occupied with information assurance. I think it's the NCIS Agency at SHAPE. I think there are about 3,000 there working now. One of the big questions is the relationship with NC3A where they're doing a lot of duplicative work. How is that going to work out and by how much will NCIS fall, the personnel? Thank you.

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: I wouldn't characterize too quickly that there is much redundancy in there. You do have, indeed the NCSA and the NC3A, two distinct agencies, and I'm not a specialist to talk on the agencies, but what has been the motto and the rationality of this command structure review is to keep under SACEUR's direct control those CIS features which he needs to support the immediate deployment of his own command structure elements.

For that he has 18 units, CIS specialized units, modules that can be deployed to establish what we call in military terms a point of presence. A point of presence, call it your local NATO provider for CIS. That has been key that it be kept under the operational control of SACEUR.

All the other features that deal with the maintenance of the static networks, for instance, cyber defence, which the SecGen alluded to earlier, and all of those functions will now be part of the tasks that will be given to the future CNI Agency. And if you want more specific details on that I will refer you to a briefing next week on the subject.

There will need to be some work, obviously, as to what the partition between military personnel and civilian personnel in both entities are today and what they will be in this new structure, like I alluded to the 1,300 posts within the command structure and then the remainder, which will be in the agency.

Q: (Inaudible...)?

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: No, that will be the future CNI Agency. Yes. The future CNI Agency will be the merger between the NC3A, parts of NCSA and other agencies such as NACMA. But I would prefer that experts give you all the details of that.

OANA LUNGESCU: For those of you confused about all the acronyms, we are hoping to organize another technical briefing about agencies next week. I'll take two more questions. Europa Press.

Q: Thank you. Concerning the CAOCs, I don't understand too much the difference between the two that will be formally integrated in the command structure and the other two. I don't know if you can give a bit more details of the other two that I think you touched upon a bit less. And if you can confirm if the one in Torrejón de Ardoz will actually have a leading role in supervising just day-to-day air traffic in the south?

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: Which one were you citing?

Q: Torrejón de Ardoz, the one in Madrid. Yeah.

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: Torrejón.

Q: And then sorry, very, very quick second one, you mentioned that we'll try to keep transitional costs as low a possible. I don't know if it's possible to have an estimation of how much you think it will... this transition to the new structure will cost. Thank you.

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: Okay, let me in the most simplified terms try to explain our air operations to you. I can probably talk hours about it, but I would end up boring you.

You have to look at three distinct functions. One is what we call air policing. It is the police of the air, obviously, but it's also the defence of possible ingressors in the third dimension. That is one distinct feature.

The second distinct feature is air command operations. It is what we do now over Libya to prepare for that, the plans that we make for that, and then the conduct of that.

And then the third part is what we call air control functions. That is more the execution level. Once the plans are made at the earlier level that I talked about you then have somebody that needs to talk to the pilots and that needs to talk and give the immediate orders to the missile operators, also the missile defence operators later on. If you could say that is the conduct of operations while the earlier one was the planning of operations.

Since you asked the question of how these CAOCs are, well, you will have a static... what we call a static CAOC in Uedem and one in Torrejón, the one that was of particular interest to you. In this static CAOC you will have two of those functions. The first one, the air policing one, and the second one, the air command one. The air command one is a deployable feature, so it's a part of this entity which SACEUR, upon a NAC decision, can decide to place somewhere else than its current location in Torrejón or in Uedem. Now, where can that be? That could be, for instance, in Ramstein, as we saw in the very early days of the Libya operation, before it was a NATO operation. You could take this command entity and use it as a reinforcement of a bigger headquarter.

The other thing that you could do with this deployable command feature is take it and reinforce another feature at a place in NATO where you need it. Let's imagine that we are conducting operations in east of Turkey and that you have a CAOC there, a national CAOC. You could take this deployable piece of NATO command and put it and collocate it over there. That's a second way of doing it.

The third way now is a totally different one, and that is that you want to support operations not only with command, but also with the execution features. So you want to be able to NATO ownership, direct control of SACEUR, to yourself use sensors, radars or passive sensors and to control aircraft and missiles and possibly missile defence entities. That is this third feature, the Deployable air control centre, where you join the execution and the command in one entity that you can deploy. So, in fact, NATO will now have three deployable command entities and a third one is also an execution one.

And this gives us a very versatile command arrangement which SACEUR can then combine, for instance, for a very big operation, such as the Balkans. He could combine all three of them and then have on the order of 500 air operators in one location, all of them NATO-trained, NATO command people. So no reliance for that on nations. And that gives SACEUR a very, very versatile instrument.

Coming back now to the very early part of your question, Torrejón. Torrejón will have the air policing duty, for part of the area of responsibility of SACEUR still to be determined. And Uedem will be the second entity, so with them together SACEUR will need to decide which area of responsibility he gives to Uedem and which he gives to Torrejón.

But that is for air policing, it is a day-to-day feature. It is to guard the air spaces, if you want. That is distinct from operations such as we conduct in Libya today. So you have the three functions there. I hope in simplified terms was able to explain it.

Q: Just to be very clear, then with the ones (inaudible...) commands in the air operations in Libya?

BRIGIADIER GENERAL PATRICK WOUTERS: Yes, definitely. Yes. Yes. If SACEUR and the Atlantic Council decided that was to be the case.

OANA LUNGESCU: Okay, I think we had the last two questions from Ana. With that, thank you very much. Thank you very much, Brigadier General, and I hope that's all extremely clear now.

(LAUGHTER)