International Military Staff

  • Last updated: 06 Jan. 2015 11:33

The International Military Staff (IMS) is the executive body of the Military Committee (MC), NATO’s senior military authority.


  • The IMS consists of a staff of approximately 500, composed solely of military and civilian personnel from NATO member countries, working from NATO HQ in Brussels.
  • It provides strategic and military advice and staff support for the Military Committee, which advises the North Atlantic Council on military aspects of policy, operations and transformation within the Alliance.
  • The IMS also ensures that NATO decisions and policies on military matters are implemented by the appropriate NATO military bodies.
  • It is headed by a Director General and is comprised of five divisions.

It is responsible for preparing assessments, studies on NATO military issues identifying areas of strategic and operational interest and proposing courses of action. It also ensures that NATO decisions and policies on military matters are implemented by the appropriate NATO military bodies.

The IMS’ work enables the Military Representatives of the Alliance’s 28 member countries to deal with issues rapidly and effectively, ensuring that the MC provides the North Atlantic Council (NAC) with consensus-based advice on all military aspects of policy, operations, and transformation within the Alliance.

The IMS is an independent body within NATO that comprises approximately 500 dedicated military and civilian personnel from NATO’s member states, working in an international capacity for the common interest of the Alliance.

It is headed by a Director General and divided into five functional divisions and several branches and support offices. It is able to move swiftly into a 24/7 crisis mode for a limited period of time without additional personnel.

The strength of the IMS lies in exchanging information and views with the staffs of the Military Representatives, the civilian International Staff (IS), the Strategic Commanders, the multinational Working Groups, and NATO Agencies, ensuring effective and efficient staff work.

  • Role and responsibilities

    The International Military Staff is the essential link between the political decision-making bodies of the Alliance and NATO’s Strategic Commanders (the Supreme Allied Commander Europe – SACEUR - and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation - SACT) and their staffs. The role of the IMS is to provide the best possible strategic military advice and staff support for the Military Committee.  

  • Working mechanism

    The IMS is headed by a Director General, at the level of a three star general or flag officer, assisted by 12 general/flag officers who head the divisions and administrative support offices within the IMS.

    Several key positions are located within or attached to the Office of the Director General of the IMS:

    • the Executive Coordinator (EXCO): the incumbent manages staff activities and controls the flow of information and communication, both within the IMS as well as between the IMS and other parts of NATO Headquarters;
    • the Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Advisor (PASCAD): the incumbent advises the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the MC, and the Director General of the IMS on strategic communications and public affairs matters. The Advisor works closely with the office of the Chairman of the Military Committee, acting as military spokesperson for the Chairman, and as the main source of information for all MC matters and activities;
    • the Financial Controller (FC): the incumbent advises key officials on all IMS financial and fiscal matters;
    • the Legal Officer (LO): this person provides guidance on all legal issues to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the MC, the Director General of the IMS and all organisations under the authority of this office, and the MC.
    • the NATO Office on Gender Perspectives (NOGP): they provide advice and support to the IMS on gender issues. It is the permanent focal point for collecting, providing and sharing information regarding national programmes, policies and procedures on these issues, including the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security (UNSCRs 1325 and 1820). It maintains liaison with the NATO IS and international organisations concerned with the integration of a gender perspective into military operations, as well as with gender-related issues.

    The five divisions

    The IMS’ key role is to support the MC, and to do this it is organised into five functional divisions responsible for the following:

    • The Intelligence Division provides intelligence support to all NATO HQ elements, NATO member states and NATO Commands. The Division provides strategic warning and situation awareness to all NATO HQ elements. Its core activities are: developing a NATO Intelligence framework, architecture and intelligence capabilities; providing customer-oriented policies and NATO-Agreed Intelligence Assessments; advising on intelligence sharing matters and conducting intelligence liaison activities.
    • The Operations Division closely monitors ongoing NATO operations, follows exercises and training and provides advice on all related NATO operations. It also follows the implementation of decisions taken by the MC with regard to NATO operations. The Division’s core activities: crisis response planning and operations; management of contingency reactions to international crises; planning and conducting all operations of air, land and maritime matters.
    • The Plans and Policy Division is involved in all policy and planning matters such as Alliance defence policy and strategic planning. This division supports and gives military advice to the Director general of the IMS (DGIMS) and the Chairman of the MC essentially on three areas: Strategic Policy and Concept; Nuclear Deterrence and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Policy; Defence and Force Planning.
    • The Cooperation and Regional Security (C&RS) Division develops military Cooperative Security Policy and is the main point of contact for NATO HQ military Cooperative Security with partners from the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and with Partners Across the Globe. Additionally, C&RS is the main military contact with all non-NATO member states who conduct operations with the Alliance. Military advice on NATO involvement in different aspects of disarmament, arms control and cooperative security issues is also developed.
    • The Logistics and Resources Division develops and defines policies and principles, plans and concepts on all matters concerning logistics, medical, armaments, research and development, and civil emergency planning. In addition, the Division is the focal point for NATO’s military manpower, financial and security investment issues.

    Additional functions and offices

    • The NATO HQ Consultation, Command and Control Staff (NHQC3S), combines the communications elements of both the IMS and the IS. This means it is an integrated staff with IMS and IS personnel that serves the NAC, the MC and the C3 Board. Two of its branches are mainly coordination branches: one is focused on overall policy and governance of the C3 domain and the other focuses on the implementation aspects. The Information Assurance and Cyber Defence Branch, the Information Communities of Interest Services Branch and the Spectrum and C3 Infrastructure Branch are subject-matter branches.
    • The NATO Situation Centre (SITCEN) serves as the focal point within the Alliance for the receipt, exchange and dissemination of information. It monitors political, military and economic matters of interest to NATO and partner countries on a 24-hour basis. The SITCEN also provides facilities for the rapid expansion of consultation during periods of tension and crisis.