The principles and policies guiding NATO logistics were reviewed in 2004 to reflect the practical experience gained from NATO-led crisis-management operations.
The shift to more expeditionary operations and the expansion of operations to include defence against terrorism increased the likelihood of rapid deployment beyond NATO territory.
The presence of forces in locations with little or no Host Nation support at greater distances than previously necessary, operating along extended and perhaps very limited lines of communication, placed an emphasis on deployable logistic capabilities. In addition, assured access to strategic lift (i.e., aircraft) and deployable logistic enablers became crucial.
Evidently, the uncertain location of operations and composition of forces being deployed poses challenges for logistic readiness. Operations of any significant duration also raise sustainability issues, including those related to the logistics force elements required to keep the combat forces supplied and maintained.
In order to respond more effectively to these challenges, NATO has been encouraging multinationality in the delivery of logistic support at all levels.
Cooperative and multinational logistics
The way in which logistics functions are performed by NATO is characterized by two permanent features: cooperative logistics and multinational logistics.
- Cooperative logistics
It focuses on optimizing cooperation in the field of logistics so as to achieve cost-savings, harmonized life-cycle processes and increased efficiency in peacetime, crisis and wartime logistics support.
- Multinational logistics
It focuses on improving efficiency and effectiveness by developing multinational responses to operational needs, such as lead-nation, role-specialization and multinational integrated logistic support.
Multinational logistics is a slightly more complex concept in the sense that it includes the creation of multinational integrated logistic units.
Multinational integrated logistic units
Multinational integrated logistic units, or MILUs, are formed by two or more countries, under the operational control of a force commander at the joint force or component level, to provide logistic support to a multinational force. Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece and Austria formed the first such unit, the BELUGA transport unit, to support the Stabilization Force (SFOR) which succeeded the Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina in December 1996.
Subsequently, a few MILUs were formed on an ad hoc basis and for a short duration in SFOR and KFOR – the NATO-led Kosovo Force, deployed in 1999.
To achieve economies of scale, NATO is also pooling its logistics resources in the form of standing MILUs. In April 2005, for instance, Bulgaria, Canada, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and then Partnership for Peace (PfP) member Croatia agreed to form and sustain the first such unit, a Joint Theatre Movement Staff (JTMS) MILU. Based on lessons learned for operations and the NATO Commanders’ requirements, the participating countries agreed that this MILU will be renamed Movement Control MILU. The new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in March 2010. The unit provides movement control capabilities during NATO operations and exercises.
The following principles relate to the development of policy and doctrine for all functional areas of logistics including movement and transportation and medical support (with the exception of Germany, where medical support is not considered as a logistics function). As previously outlined, where the first principle is concerned - that of collective responsibility – it is the driving force of logistics support at NATO.
An element of overlap between the principles has been voluntarily introduced to provide a comprehensive and seamless foundation for logistic support to any possible Alliance mission. The definitions below have been drawn directly from the approved Military Committee document of 2004 (MC 319/2(Final)), which set out NATO principles and policies for logistics.
Nations and NATO authorities have collective responsibility for logistic support of NATO’s multinational operations. This collective responsibility encourages nations and NATO to cooperatively share the provision and use of logistic capabilities and resources to support the force effectively and efficiently. Standardization, cooperation and multinationality in logistics build together the basis for flexible and efficient use of logistic support, thereby contributing to the operational success.
There is an essential interdependence between responsibility and authority. The responsibility assigned to any NATO commander must be matched with the delegation of authority by nations and NATO to allow the adequate discharge of responsibilities. The NATO commander at the appropriate level must be given sufficient authority over the logistic resources necessary to enable him to receive, employ, sustain and redeploy forces assigned to him by nations in the most effective manner. The same should apply for non-NATO commanders of multinational forces participating in a NATO-led operation.
Primacy of operational requirements
All logistic support efforts, from both the military and civil sector, should be focused to satisfy the operational requirements necessary to guarantee the success of the mission.
Cooperation amongst the nations and NATO is essential. Cooperation across the full spectrum of logistics, including between the civilian and military sector within and between nations, will contribute to the best use of limited resources. For non-Article 5 crisis response operations, this cooperation must be extended to non-NATO nations, and other relevant organizations as required.
Logistics support must be coordinated amongst nations and between NATO and nations at all levels. It must also be carried out with non-NATO nations and other relevant organizations as required. Generic and standing pre-arranged agreements are the tools to facilitate logistic coordination and cooperation. The overall responsibility for coordination lies with NATO and should be conducted as a matter of routine.
Nations and NATO must ensure, individually and collectively, the provision of logistic resources to support forces allocated to NATO during peace, crisis and conflict.
Logistic support must be available in the appropriate quantity and quality, at the appropriate notice, when and where it is required throughout the full spectrum of the Alliance’s possible missions. It must be ensured for any NATO-led operation continuously and for the duration required to accomplish the mission.
Logistics resources must be used as efficiently and economically as possible. Needs must be identified in a timely manner to optimize the efficient provision and effective use of such resources.
Logistic support must be proactive, adaptable and responsive to achieve the objective. Adequate planning which considers potentially changing circumstances enhances flexibility.
Visibility and transparency
Visibility and transparency of logistic resources are essential for effective logistic support. NATO commanders require a timely and accurate exchange of information among nations and NATO to prioritize consignment movement into and within the joint operation area to allow for redirection in accordance with agreements between the commander and national support elements, and to effectively employ logistic assets within the joint operation area.
A hierarchy of policy documents
A formal hierarchy of logistic policies and doctrine exists. At the top are the strategic level logistic policies, which are published as Council Memoranda and Military Committee documents. Then follow the Joint Logistic Doctrine; the Component Logistic Doctrine; Logistic Tactics, Techniques and Procedures; and Logistic Directives.
The NATO Policy for Cooperation in Logistics
In 2001, a NATO Policy for Cooperation in Logistics was developed to improve multinational cooperation. The framework for its implementation is the Concept for Cooperation in Logistics, which is composed of three principal elements:
- the Alliance’s policy and guidance documents that direct and influence NATO logistics in their own domains;
- the cooperation tools (or “enablers”) that promote cooperation in logistics, i.e., policy, doctrine, activities, systems, standards, procedures and capabilities;
- Harmonization, Co-ordination and Control Mechanism. This is the formal mechanism through which cooperation objectives and enablers are continuously identified and managed, enablers are put into place and objectives are achieved.
Responsibility and authority
All logistic policy documents promulgate the principles outlined in the section above: collective responsibility, authority, primacy of operational requirements, cooperation, co-ordination, assured provision, sufficiency, efficiency, flexibility, and visibility and transparency.
With regards to the general implementation of logistic support, responsibility and authority have a fundamental role to play.
Individual countries have the ultimate responsibility for equipping their forces and ensuring the provision of logistic resources to support the forces assigned to NATO during peace, crisis and conflict. They retain responsibility until such time as they are released to NATO by agreed mechanisms for the Transfer of Authority.
The NATO Strategic Commander assumes control of commonly provided resources as directed, and is responsible for their logistic support. He is responsible for establishing the logistic requirements for all phases of an operation and the development of a logistic support plan that supports the operational plan. The Strategic Commander must also ensure that the logistic force structure and the Command and Control (C2) arrangements have been established and are capable of supporting the operation.
Nations and NATO authorities have a collective responsibility for ensuring that the NATO Commander has access to the required logistic information.
The NATO Commander has the key authority enabling him to ensure that his force is properly supported and to establish a support organization to meet the operational requirement. His key authorities allow him to:
These authorities are also applicable to non-NATO Commanders of a multinational force participating in a NATO-led operation.
- - command common funded logistic resources and assume operational control of Multinational Integrated Logisitic Units (MILUs) and other assigned logistic assets, as directed;
- - redistribute the logistic assets of nations for the support of the forces in accordance with pre-agreed terms and conditions; and
- - inspect and require reports on the quantity and quality of logistic assets designated to support the forces that will be under his command.
Every logistician in NATO is involved in the process of ensuring that, collectively, the Alliance has sufficient capacity to fulfill its objectives and missions.
Logistic planning in defence planning
Logistic planning is an integral part of NATO’s defence planning process, which sets out the Alliance’s goals. Defence planning provides a framework within which national and NATO defence-related planning can be harmonized so as to meet the Alliance's agreed requirements in the most effective way. In other words, defence planning seeks to ensure that the Alliance has the requisite forces, assets, facilities and capabilities to fulfill its tasks throughout the full spectrum of its missions in accordance with the Strategic Concept. As such, it covers both NATO's own capabilities and those of Allied countries.
In concrete terms, logistic planning is done through the force planning process and Partnership Planning and Review Process (PARP). It is at this level that the logistic capabilities needed to deploy, sustain and redeploy Alliance forces are identified by by the Strategic Commanders, in consultation with participating countries.
Logistic capabilities can be called upon by NATO Commanders as part of the operational planning process to be used in a NATO-led operation. The authority, responsibility and funding for multinational logistic arrangements are established during the operational planning process.
The Strategic Commanders are also responsible for developing stockpile requirements, in consultation with participating countries. For this purpose, NATO requirements are listed in the NATO Stockpile Planning Guidance, which is reviewed and sent out to nations every two years.
Stockpiling is closely linked to the principles of logistic readiness and sustainability. National and NATO logistic plans must ensure that sufficient quantity and quality of logistic resources are available at the same readiness and deployability levels to support forces until a re-supply system is in place. In addition, combat power must be sustained for the foreseen duration of operations, which implies that there are sufficient stocks or that there is assured access to industrial capabilities, agreements, contingency contracts and other means, including contractor support to operations, to guarantee that requirements are met.
NATO Logistics Vision and Objectives
In 1999, the then Senior NATO Logisticians’ Committee (SNLC – since June 2010, renamed the Logistics Committee) decided to develop the NATO Logistic Vision and Objectives (V&O). Effectively, it is a planning tool that provides the Logistics Committee with a mechanism to co-ordinate and harmonize, on behalf of the North Atlantic Council and the Military Committee, the development and implementation of logistic policies and initiatives within NATO. It also ensures that NATO’s broader logistic concerns are taken into account in defence planning.
The NATO Logistics V&O consists of an overarching vision for NATO logistics over a period of ten years; broad objectives that are aligned with higher-level guidance; and detailed requirements that identify the actions, agents and timeframe for completion.
The NATO Logistics Vision and Objectives Process
This process consists of three phases:
- develop and approve the vision and strategic goals;
- develop and approve the objectives and tasks;
- monitor and manage the achievement of the objectives and tasks.
The NATO Logistics V&O covers a ten-year period and is updated every four, with a review taking place after two years, if required. It is approved by the Logistics Committee, but logistic and logistic-related committees are invited to cooperate in its completion.
Progress on objectives is reported to the Logistics Committee through an Annual Logistic Report, which is also sent to defence ministers for notation.
Logistic planning in operational planning
Logistics operational planning is part of the overall NATO operational planning process. It aims to get what is effectively needed in the field of logistics for a specific operation, whereas logistic planning aims to ensure the availability of logistics in general. Three key documents are produced during operational planning:
- the Concept of Operations (CONOPS);
- the Operation Plan (OPLAN); and
- the Contingency Plan (COP).
In addition to these three documents, logistic support guidelines are produced that include considerations such as the geography of the theatre and the political and military situation. Other issues are also taken into account such as the use of multinational logistics, movement planning, medical planning, the role of the host nation and coordination with international organizations and non-governmental organizations.