• Last updated: 06 Jun. 2012 11:25

The term “logistics” can mean different things in different countries and in different contexts. Basically, it is a question of having the right thing, at the right place, at the right time. NATO defines logistics as the science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces. It can be seen as the bridge between the deployed forces and the industrial base that produces the materiel and weapons that forces need to accomplish their mission. Effectively, logistics comprises the identification of requirements as well as both the building up of stocks and capabilities, and the sustainment of weapons and forces. As such, the scope of logistics is huge. Among the core functions conducted by NATO are: supply, maintenance, movement and transportation, petroleum support, infrastructure and medical support.

The Alliance’s overarching function is to coordinate national efforts and encourage the highest degree possible of multinational responses to operational needs, therefore reducing the number of individual supply chains. Multinational logistics goes hand in hand with collective logistics, which aims to achieve cost-savings, harmonize life-cycle processes and increase efficiency in logistics support at all times.

The principle of collective responsibility is central to this approach. It is based on the idea that both NATO and participating countries are responsible for the logistic support of NATO’s multinational operations. While NATO is responsible for coordinating and prioritizing the provision of logistic support to deployed NATO forces, each state is responsible for ensuring that - individually or through cooperative arrangements – their own forces receive the required logistic resources.

Logistics is of vital importance for any military operation. Without it, operations could not be carried out and sustained, especially in the case of out-of-area operations.

The Alliance’s current missions are radically different from those it conducted during the Cold War. During the 1990s, NATO operations were still in Europe. However, the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States led NATO foreign ministers to state, at their May 2002 Reykjavik meeting, that there were no geographical limits to NATO’s area of operations. This posed obvious logistic challenges and NATO logistics doctrine has evolved accordingly, while, at the same time, various initiatives have been launched to develop the required capabilities.

  • Definitions

    Based on NATO’s agreed definition of logistics - the science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces – logistics covers the following areas:

    • design and development, acquisition, storage, transport, distribution, maintenance, evacuation and disposal of materiel;
    • transport of personnel;
    • acquisition, construction, maintenance, operation and disposition of facilities;
    • acquisition of provision of services;
    • medical and health service support.

    These services and responsibilities are subdivided into three domains:

    • production logistics,
    • in-service logistics and
    • consumer logistics.

    Production logistics

    Production logistics, also known as acquisition logistics, largely belongs to the industrial domain. It is concerned with planning, design, development and procurement of equipment and therefore includes the following: standardization and interoperability, contracting, quality assurance, acquiring spares, reliability and maintainability analysis, safety standards for equipment, specifications and production processes, trials and testing, codification, equipment documentation, and configuration control and modifications.

    While the responsibility for equipping and maintaining military forces is primarily a national one, cooperation does take place within NATO in numerous spheres. This is done, principally, under the auspices of the Conference of National Armament Directors (CNAD) and its subordinate bodies.

    In-service logistics

    In-service logistics bridges the gap between production and consumer logistics. It comprises the functions associated with procuring, receiving, storing, distributing and disposing of materiel that is required to maintain the equipment and supply the force.

    Although in-service support relates to activities required to assure that weapon system/ equipment is available and fit for use, it actually begins with the decision to bring the system into the inventory.

    The NATO Maintenance and Supply Organization (NAMSO) is the principal organization responsible for this area.

    Consumer logistics

    Consumer logistics, also known as operational logistics, is concerned with the supply and support functions of forces. It includes reception of the initial product, storage, transport, maintenance, operation and disposal of materiel. As a consequence, consumer logistics comprises stock control, provision or construction of facilities, movement and control, reliability and defect reporting, safety standards for storage, transport and handling and related training.

    These roles fall mainly under the responsibility of the Logistics Committee and the Petroleum Committee. Other bodies, such as the Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services in NATO, advise the Military Committee on logistical matters in their specific areas of responsibility.

    Within these loosely defined domains come concrete areas of activity, of which some fall within the core functions performed by NATO in the field of logistics.

  • Core functions

    Another way of understanding NATO’s responsibilities in the field of logistics is through the functions they fulfill. NATO is responsible for a number of core functions, which can, at times, overlap. They comprise:


    Supply covers all materiel and items used in the equipment, support and maintenance of military forces. The supply function includes the determination of stock levels, provisioning, distribution and replenishment.


    Maintenance means all actions, including repair, to retain the materiel or restore it to a specified condition. The operational readiness of land, naval and air forces will depend to a great extent on a high standard of preventive maintenance, in peacetime, of the equipment and associated materiel. Repair includes all measures taken to restore materiel to a serviceable condition in the shortest possible time.

    In addition, the capability to maintain equipment in-theatre is as fundamental as having it available in the first place. One does not work without the other, as seen with helicopters in Afghanistan: some countries have helicopters they could contribute to the operation but lack the capabilities to maintain them in the field.

    Movement and transportation

    A flexible capability needs to exist to move forces in a timely manner within and between theatres to undertake the full spectrum of the Alliance’s roles and missions. It also applies to the logistic support necessary to mount and sustain operations.

    Petroleum support

    The NATO Petroleum Supply Chain has to be able to respond to the Alliance’s operational requirements, taking into account the deployment distances and dispersions envisaged. Other factors also impact on the fuels delivery capability, such as increased cooperation between member and partner countries, financial considerations and the need for greater interoperability. As such, the fuels delivery capability is constantly reviewed to find innovative ways of responding to new needs.

    Infrastructure engineering for logistics

    Infrastructure engineering, while not exclusively a logistic function, requires close coordination with logistics as its mission is very closely aligned with logistics in terms of facilitating the opening of lines of communication and constructing support facilities.

    The engineering mission bridges the gap from logistics to operations and is closely related to the ultimate success of both.

    The acquisition, construction and operation of facilities form the basis for the NATO Security Investment Programme – a term used within NATO for installations and facilities for the support of military forces.

    Medical support

    An efficient medical support system is needed to treat and evacuate sick, injured and wounded personnel, minimize man-days lost and return casualties to duty. It is considered as a morale booster and a potential force multiplier. It also plays a vital role in force protection.

    Medical support is normally a national responsibility, however planning needs to be flexible to consider multinational approaches. The degree of multinationality varies according to the circumstances of the mission and the willingness of countries to participate.

    Enabling functions

    In addition to core functions, there are enabling functions, which include:

    • logistic information management: this couples available information technology with logistic processes and practices to meet the logistic information requirements of the NATO commanders and the countries;
    • reception, staging and onward movement: this is the phase of the deployment process that transitions units, personnel, equipment and materiel from arrival at ports of debarkation to their final destination. Although this is an operational matter, it requires the provision of a significant degree of logistic support;
    • contracting: contracting has become increasingly important to the conduct of operations, especially when operating beyond NATO territory. It can be employed to gain quick access to in-country resources by procuring the supplies and services that the commander requires;
    • host nation support: if available, host nation support can provide the NATO commander and contributing countries with logistic and other support, in accordance with negotiated arrangements between NATO and/or contributing countries and the host nation government. It may reduce the amount of logistic forces and materiel required to deploy, sustain and redeploy forces that otherwise must be provided by contributing countries.

    Related areas

    NATO logistics also monitors several other separate areas that relate in varying degrees to its core and enabling functions. These include explosive ordnance disposal, environmental protection, civil-military cooperation and standardization.

    These areas play an important role in the success of an operation. For instance, standardization is the key tool for achieving interoperability. Interoperability has a direct impact on mission sustainability and combat effectiveness of forces. The minimum requirements for interoperability are commonality of concepts, doctrines and procedures, compatibility of equipment and interchangeability of combat supplies. NATO sets standards which it encourages individual countries to adopt and produces NATO Standardization Agreements for procedures, systems and equipment components, known as STANAGS.

    Materiel and services also form part of logistics, but are not currently treated by NATO. Services for combat troops and logistic activities include, for instance, manpower and skills provisioning, housing/accommodation, burials, water provision, canteen, laundry and bathing facilities and other services like map redistribution, and postal and courier service.

  • Logistics principles, policies and planning

    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 principles

    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.

    Collective responsibility

    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.

    Assured provision

    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.

    The policies

    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.

    • Responsibility
      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.
    • Authority
      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:
      • - 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.
      These authorities are also applicable to non-NATO Commanders of a multinational force participating in a NATO-led operation.

    Logistic planning

    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.

  • The bodies involved

    A number of associated policy committees, organizations and agencies are involved in, or support logistics. They comprise:

    • the Logistics Committee (LC);
    • the Petroleum Committee (PC) which now reports to the LC;
    • Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services in NATO (COMEDS);
    • the Civil Emergency Planning Committee (CEPC);
    • the Committee for Standardization;
    • the NATO-Russia Ad-Hoc Working Group on Logistics;
    • the NATO Maintenance and Supply Organization (NAMSO);
    • the Central European Pipeline Management Organization (CEPMO);
    • the Bi-SC* Logistic Co-ordination Board (Bi-SC LCB);
    • the Bi-SC* Movement and Transportation Forum (Bi-SC M&T Forum);
    • the Bi-SC* Medical Advisory Group (Bi-SC MEDAG).

    (*Bi-SC signifies that the formation in question reports to both strategic commanders (SC).)

    There is a distinction to be made between the committees and organizations involved in logistics. Committees are bodies that are run by member countries and need full agreement, i.e., consensus to move their decisions forward; organizations are structured forms of multinational funding that work within the framework of an agreed NATO Charter and therefore benefit from relative autonomy. They typically lead to the setting up of a management organization and an implementation agency, i.e., the NATO Maintenance and Supply Organization (NAMSO) and Agency (NAMSA). NAMSA’s director is accountable to the Board of Directors where participating member countries are represented.

    The Logistics Committee

    The Logistics Committee (LC) is the principal committee dealing with logistics.

    Its overall mandate is two-fold: to address logistics matters with a view to enhancing the performance, efficiency, sustainability and combat effectiveness of Alliance forces; and to exercise, on behalf of the North Atlantic Council, an overarching coordinating authority across the whole spectrum of logistics functions within NATO.

    It carries out its work through four subordinate bodies of which the Logistics Committee Executive Group and the Movement and Transportation Group are the principal ones.

    The LC reports jointly to both the Military Committee and the North Atlantic Council or the Defence Planning Committee as appropriate, reflecting the dependence of logistics on both civil and military factors.

    The Petroleum Committee

    The Petroleum Committee (PC) is the senior advisory body in NATO for logistic support to Alliance forces on all matters concerning petroleum, including the NATO Pipeline System, other petroleum installations and handling equipment.

    The PC is the expert body reporting to the LC responsible to ensure NATO can meet its petroleum requirements in times of peace, crisis and conflict, including expeditionary operations.

    The PC was originally established as the NATO Pipeline Committee in 1956, but was renamed twice after that: once in March 2008 when it became the NATO Petroleum Committee to better reflect its wider role and responsibilities; and the second time in June 2010 during a major committee review, when it became the Petroleum Committee and placed under the LC.

    The Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services in NATO

    The Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services in NATO (COMEDS) acts as the central point for the development and coordination of military medical matters and for providing medical advice to the NATO Military Committee.

    The Civil Emergency Planning Committee

    The Senior Civil Emergency Planning Committee (CEPC) is responsible for the policy direction and general coordination of civil emergency planning and preparedness at the NATO level. It facilitates integration of civil support and advice on civil issues into Alliance operational planning, including the possible use of military logistic resources for civil emergencies. It coordinates closely with the LC.

    The Committee for Standardization

    This is the senior authority of the Alliance for providing coordinated advice to the North Atlantic Council on overall standardization matters.

    Since the aim of NATO standardization is to enhance the Alliance’s operational effectiveness through the attainment of interoperability among NATO forces and additionally between NATO forces and forces of Partner and other countries, it coordinates with the LC.

    Other NATO logistics bodies

    The NATO-Russia Ad Hoc Working Group on Logistics

    The NATO-Russia Ad Hoc Working Group on Logistics (NRC(LOG)) is a joint civil-military group. It aims to identify opportunities for joint action in all areas of logistics, and initiate and implement civil and military logistics cooperation programmes between NRC member countries. It focuses mainly on promoting information-sharing so as to reinforce mutual understanding in the field of logistics.

    The Annual Logistic Action Plan incorporates all NRC initiatives in logistic cooperation on both civilian and military sides.

    NATO Maintenance and Supply Organization

    The NATO Maintenance and Supply Organization (NAMSO) provides logistic support to NATO or to its member countries individually or collectively. Its aim is to maximize, in times of peace and war, the effectiveness of logistics support to armed forces of NATO states and to minimize costs.

    Central European Pipeline Management Organization (CEPMO)

    The Central Europe Pipeline Management Organization – or CEPMO - is the organization that manages NATO’s Central Europe Pipeline System (CEPS).

    The CEPS is the largest element of the NATO Pipeline System (NPS). Its principal purpose is to meet operational requirements in Central Europe in times of peace, crisis and conflict. This means that CEPMO’s priority is to ensure that, when needed, military missions conducted in Central Europe or using European airbases as an intermediate hub, are guaranteed fuel that meets the required technical specifications at all times.

    Once military requirements in peacetime have been satisfied, any remaining capacity may be used for commercial purposes, under strict safeguards, to help reduce costs.

    Bi-SC Logistic Co-ordination Board

    The Bi-SC Logistic Co-ordination Board (Bi-SC LCB) is responsible to the Strategic Commanders for advice and recommendations on logistics guidance and doctrine, concepts, structures, plans and procedures in support of NATO operations. It is responsible to the Senior NATO Logisticians' Conference (SNLC) for the development of joint logistical doctrinal documents and the review of other logistic documents, with the aim of achieving consistency and harmonization of logistic doctrine and procedures throughout the range of NATO publications.

    The Bi-SC LCB was established by the Strategic Commanders in 1996 as their senior forum for co-ordinating Alliance-wide concerns for logistic policy and planning between Strategic Commanders, the NATO Command Structure, NATO members and designated agencies.

    Bi-SC Movement and Transportation Forum (Bi-SC M&T Forum)

    Bi-SC Movement and Transportation Forum (Bi-SC M&T Forum) is responsible to the Strategic Commanders for advice and recommendations on movement and transport guidance and doctrine, concepts, structures, plans and procedures in support of NATO operations.

    The Bi-SC M&T Forum was also formed in 1996 and is the senior forum for co-ordinating Alliance-wide concerns for movement and transportation policy planning between Strategic Commanders, NATO members and designated agencies. Movement and transport matters of relevance to the forum are those that derive from the NATO Commanders’ movement and transport responsibility and from concepts and policies developed by NATO HQ.

    Bi-SC Medical Advisory Group

    The Bi-SC Medical Advisory Group (Bi-SC MEDAG) provides a forum for medical issues between the Strategic Commanders. Medical matters of relevance to the group are those that derive from the NATO Commander’s medical responsibility and from concepts and policies developed by NATO HQ.

  • The evolution of logistics

    During the Cold War

    During the Cold War, NATO followed the principle that logistics was a national responsibility. Accordingly, its only focus at the time was the establishment of and compliance with overall logistics requirements. This principle governed NATO’s plans and actions until the beginning of the 1990’s, when it was understood and accepted that the strategic situation that had underpinned this principle had undergone a fundamental change.

    Effectively, this meant that during the Cold War, NATO logistics was limited to the North Atlantic area. The Alliance planned the linear defence of West Germany with national corps supported by national support elements.

    Lines of communication within Europe extended westwards and northwards to Channel and North Sea ports. Planning called for reinforcements and supplies to be sea-lifted from the United States and Canada to these same ports and to be airlifted to European bases to pick up pre-positioned equipment.

    The NATO Pipeline System evolved to supply fuel to NATO forces in Europe. The NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) was created in Luxembourg, initially to aid European countries in their Foreign Military Sales purchase of US combat aircraft in the 1950s.

    In the 1990s, NATO recognized the changed security environment it was operating in as a result of enlargement, Partnership for Peace (PfP) and other cooperation programmes with Central and Eastern Europe, cooperation with other international organizations, and peace support operations in the Balkans. All these developments presented significant challenges for NATO’s logistics staff.

    The Balkans experience

    NATO's deployment of the Implementation Force (IFOR) to Bosnia and Herzegovina in December 1995 revealed shortcomings in Alliance logistic support for peace support operations. The logistic footprint was very large, featuring redundant and inefficient national logistic structures. Experiences from IFOR resulted in major revisions to PfP and NATO logistic policies and procedures and highlighted the need for greater multinationality in logistics.

    IFOR's 60,000 troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina were deployed and supplied nationally by road, rail, ships and aircraft over relatively short lines of communication.

    While the force was able to rely on some Host Nation support - civil and military assistance from neighbouring countries and even Bosnia and Herzegovina itself - it relied heavily on national support elements with redundant logistic support capabilities, reducing the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the overall force.

    The Stabilization Force (SFOR), which replaced IFOR, and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), which deployed to the Serb province in June 1999, suffered from the same stove-piped national logistic support as IFOR. For example, KFOR had five field hospitals, which most NATO countries include in their logistic structures, one for each brigade, when fewer would have been sufficient for the force.

    Increased cooperation and multinationality

    As such and as early as January 1996, NATO logisticians recognized the new challenges facing the Alliance. In particular, the downsizing of military resources stressed the need for increased cooperation and multinationality in logistic support. The new challenges required the Alliance to be able to logistically sustain and operate in non-Article 5 crisis response operations, possibly at a far distance from the supporting national logistic and industrial bases and on non-NATO territory, with no supportive or functioning Host Nation. All of this needed to be performed under the legal conditions of peace, with no access to mobilization and/ or emergency legislation. Additionally, there was the need to integrate non-NATO military forces and their logistic support.

    The 1999 Strategic Concept

    The Senior NATO Logisticians’ Conference (SNLC), the then senior body on logistics, then undertook to translate the Alliance’s 1999 Strategic Concept into responsive, flexible and interoperable logistic principles and policies. It first developed a vision for NATO logistics aimed at addressing the challenge of developing collective responsibility in logistics between NATO and the states involved.

    This collective responsibility is attained through close coordination and cooperation between national and NATO authorities during both planning and execution, and includes greater consideration of the efficient use of civil resources.

    As a result of their experiences in NATO-led operations, states have gained an appreciation of the value of this approach to logistic support, especially in the case of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

    The Afghan experience

    After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, NATO could no longer afford to do logistics in the same way it did in the Balkans.

    NATO started facing some of these limitations with ISAF in Afghanistan, which is land-locked and far from Europe. The long lines of communication inside the country are hampered by rough terrain, unpaved roads and security threats.

    The force therefore relies heavily on airlift for movement, reinforcements and supplies. Most of its airlift requirements are provided by the United States or by Russian aircraft leased by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) through the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) in Luxembourg.

    Tactical fixed and rotary-wing aircraft were crucial for the expansion of the ISAF mission beyond Kabul because it can take days to travel from the capital to the provinces by road, which can even be impossible in the winter if there is snow. This expansion began in January 2005 with the establishment of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) north of the Afghan capital, then to the west, the south and the east.