NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Centres of Excellence

Turkish field hospital.

Centres of Excellence (COEs) are nationally or multi-nationally funded institutions that train and educate leaders and specialists from NATO member and partner countries, assist in doctrine development, identify lessons learned, improve interoperability, and capabilities and test and validate concepts through experimentation. They offer recognized expertise and experience that is of benefit to the Alliance and support the transformation of NATO, while avoiding the duplication of assets, resources and capabilities already present within the NATO command structure.

Coordinated by Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in Norfolk, Virginia in the United States, COEs are considered to be international military organizations. Although not part of the NATO command structure, they are part of a wider framework supporting NATO Command Arrangements. Designed to complement the Alliance’s current resources, COEs cover a wide variety of areas, with each one focusing on a specific field of expertise to enhance NATO capabilities.

ACT has overall responsibility for COEs and is in charge of the establishment, accreditation, preparation of candidates for approval, and periodic assessments of the centres. The establishment of a COE is a straightforward procedure. Normally, one or more members decide to establish a COE. The idea then moves into the concept development phase. During this phase the “Framework Nation” or “Nations” fleshes out the concept to ACT by providing information such as the area of specialization, the location of the potential COE and how it will support NATO transformation.

Once ACT approves the concept, the COE and any NATO country that wishes to participate in the COE’s activities then negotiate two Memorandums of Understanding (MOU): a Functional MOU, which governs the relationship between Centres of Excellence and the Alliance and an Operational MOU, which governs the relationship between participating countries and the COE. Once participating countries agree to and sign the MOU, the COE seeks accreditation from ACT.

The Alliance does not fund COEs. Instead, they receive national or multinational support, with “Framework Nations”, “Sponsoring Nations” and “Contributing Nations” financing the operating costs of the institutions. Twenty-one COEs have either received NATO accreditation or are in the development stages.

  • Role of the Centres of Excellence

    Considered to be international military organizations, the primary purpose of COEs is to assist with transformation within the Alliance, while avoiding the duplication of assets, resources and capabilities already present within the NATO command structure.

    They generally specialize in one functional area and act as subject matter experts in their field of expertise. They distribute their in-depth knowledge through training, conferences, seminars, concepts, doctrine, lessons learned and papers.

    In addition to giving NATO and partner country leaders and units the opportunity to augment their education and training, COEs also help the Alliance to expand interoperability, increase capabilities, aid in the development of doctrine and standards, conduct analyses, evaluate lessons-learned and experiment in order to test and verify concepts.

    While NATO does not directly fund COEs nor are they part of the NATO command structure, COEs do work alongside the Alliance. They are nationally or multi-nationally funded and are part of a supporting network, encouraging internal and external information exchange to the benefit of the Alliance. The overall responsibility for COE coordination and utilization within NATO lies with ACT, in co-ordination with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

    Currently, there are 21 COEs: 18 with NATO-accreditation plus three additional COEs that are in the development stages. The working language of COEs is generally English.

  • Working mechanisms

    Different types of participants

    There are three different types of supporters for COEs: “Framework Nations”, “Sponsoring Nations” and “Contributing Nations”. Generally, a Framework Nation agrees to take on the responsibility of developing the concept and implementation of the COE. In addition, it agrees to provide physical space for the operation of the COE, as well as personnel to run the institution. Sponsoring Nations contribute financially to the COE and also provide personnel, whose salary they cover. Contributing Nations may provide financial support or some other service that is of use to the functioning of the COE.

    Receiving NATO accreditation

    All COEs follow a set process to receive NATO accreditation. The Framework Nation or Nations submit a proposal for the COE, which HQ ACT then considers. Next, the Framework Nation or Nations coordinate with ACT to further flesh out the proposal before sending the official offer to establish a COE to SACT. If the proposal meets certain criteria, ACT formally welcomes the offer.

    Afterwards, the Framework Nation or Nations further develop the concept, draft an Operational Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and present the COE offer to other countries. Those that are interested in joining the COE then engage in MOU negotiations before agreeing to the terms of the MOU. For COEs that did not have some sort of facility in place previously, the COE is physically established. 

    The Framework and Sponsoring nations must also coordinate, draft, negotiate and agree to a Functional MOU with HQ ACT. The COE then enters into the accreditation phase. HQ ACT develops accreditation criteria, after which the Framework Nation or Nations request accreditation for the COE. A team from ACT then visits the COE and assesses it against the tailored list of points based on the Military Committee (MC)’s accreditation criteria for COEs.

    All COEs must act as a catalyst for NATO transformation and open activities to all Alliance members. COEs must not duplicate nor compete with current NATO capabilities, but instead offer an area of expertise not already found within the Organization. To this end, all COEs must have subject matter experts in their field of specialization. ACT periodically re-assesses COEs in order to ensure that they continue to meet those criteria and assure continued NATO accreditation status. Ultimately, the Military Committee and the North Atlantic Council must approve the initial accreditation of the COE.

  • NATO accredited Centres of Excellence

    These include:

    • Centre for Analysis and Simulation for the Preparation of Air Operations
    • Civil Military Cooperation
    • Cold Weather Operations
    • Combined Joint Operations from the Sea
    • Command and Control
    • Cooperative Cyber Defence
    • Counter Improvised Explosive Devices
    • Defence Against Terrorism
    • Energy Security
    • Explosive Ordnance Disposal
    • Human Intelligence
    • Joint Air Power Competence Centre
    • Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence
    • Military Engineering
    • Military Medical
    • Modelling and Simulation
    • Naval Mine Warfare
    • Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters

    Centre for Analysis and Simulation for the Preparation of Air Operations (CASPOA) COE

    Based in Lyon, France, the Centre for Analysis and Simulation for the Preparation of Air Operations (CASPOA) specializes in the area of Command and Control in joint and multinational air operations. CASPOA uses both Computer Assisted Exercise (CAX) and Command Post Exercises (CPX) to achieve this objective.

    CASPOA offers courses in several fields, including air operations and command, air operations systems and specific air operations to train personnel. In addition, CASPOA also analyzes lessons learned from both real operations and exercises to aid in training personnel and developing simulation tools.

    Established in 1997, CASPOA COE’s Framework Nation, France, sought NATO accreditation as a COE in 2007 and received it in 2008.

    Civil - Military Cooperation (CIMIC) COE

    Based in Enschede, the Netherlands, the Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) COE focuses on improving civil-military interaction and cooperation between NATO, Sponsoring Nations and other military and civil groups by utilizing the skills and experts of CIMIC’s own staff.

    The experience and expertise of CIMIC is available to NATO members, Sponsoring Nations, military and civil groups, as well as other international organizations, such as the European Union, non-governmental organizations and scientific institutions.

    Germany and the Netherlands, the CIMIC Framework Nations, sought NATO accreditation in 2006. The COE received accreditation in 2007.

    Cold Weather Operations (CWO) COE

    Based in Bodø, Norway, the Cold Weather Operations (CWO) COE specializes in operations in the extreme cold.

    CWO is also working to establish relationships with other institutions. To this end, CWO and the Mountain Warfare COE in Slovenia are working on establishing a Technical Agreement cementing a formal cooperation agreement between the two COEs.

    Norway, the CWO Framework Nation, sought NATO accreditation for the COE beginning in 2005. It received accreditation in 2007.

    Combined Joint Operations from the Sea (CJOS) COE

    Based in Norfolk, Virginia in the United States, the Combined Joint Operations from the Sea (CJOS) COE assists with the transformation of NATO’s maritime capabilities by utilizing the joint warfare expertise and experience of the Centre. Its main goal is to counter emerging global security challenges by improving the ability of the Sponsoring Nations and NATO to conduct combined joint operations from the sea. CJOS also advises the Alliance on how to improve multinational education, training, doctrine and interoperability regarding maritime operations.

    The United States, the CJOS Framework Nation, sought NATO accreditation in 2006 and received it later the same year.

    Command and Control (C2) COE

    Based in Ede, the Netherlands, the main focus of the Command and Control (C2) COE is improving joint and combined interoperability. It offers several seminars, workshops and conferences to transfer knowledge to NATO member countries and Sponsoring Nations.

    Other focus areas include assisting NATO exercises and assessment processes, supporting HQ ACT with policy, doctrine, strategy and concept development, providing C2 and NNEC training, investigating and authenticating C2-related NATO concepts through testing and simulation, and stabilizing and sustaining C2-focused relationships.

    C2’s Framework Nation, the Netherlands, requested NATO accreditation as a COE in 2007 and received it in 2008.

    Cooperative Cyber Defence (CCD) COE

    A major cyber attack in Estonia that hit banks, the government, national ministries, the media, the police and emergency services in 2007 highlighted the importance of cyber security. To address this need, several countries came together to establish the Cooperative Cyber Defence (CCD) COE. Based in Tallinn, Estonia, CCD’s mission is to foster cooperation, capabilities and information sharing between NATO countries regarding cyber security.

    To this end, CCD uses several strategies, including cyber defence exercises, law and policy workshops, technical courses and conferences, to prepare NATO and Sponsoring Nations for detecting and fighting cyber attacks.

    Composed of experts from several NATO member countries, CCD also conducts research and training on several areas of cyber warfare. As the Framework Nation, Estonia established the CCD in 2008. It received NATO COE accreditation later the same year.

    Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) COE

    Based in Madrid, Spain, the principal aim of the Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) COE is to enhance the capabilities to counter, reduce and eliminate threats from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by offering multinational courses for C-IED experts

    With Spain as the Framework Nation, C-IED COE received NATO accreditation in 2010.

    Defence Against Terrorism (DAT) COE

    Based in Ankara, Turkey, the Defence Against Terrorism (DAT) COE provides subject matter expertise on how best to defend against terrorism. It also provides training on counter terrorism, assists in the development of doctrine and helps improve NATO’s capabilities and interoperability.

    In addition to publishing the Defence Against Terrorism Review twice a year, DAT also holds conferences, workshops, symposiums and advanced training courses relating to defence against terrorism. DAT regularly participates in NATO Working Groups.

    Established by Turkey, the Framework Nation, in 2005, DAT received NATO COE accreditation in 2006.

    Energy Security (ENSEC) COE

    Based in Vilnius, Lithuania, the Energy Security (ENSEC) COE’s mission is to support NATO’s capability development process, mission effectiveness, and interoperability in the near, mid and long terms by providing comprehensive and timely subject matter expertise on all aspects of energy security.

    Established stablished in July 2012 by Lithuania, the Framework Nation, the ENSEC COE received NATO accreditation in October 2012.

    Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) COE

    Based in Trenčín, Slovakia, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) COE provides expertise in the field of explosive ordnance disposal for NATO and Partnership for Peace countries.

    Like other COEs, EOD works with NATO in the areas of standardization, doctrine development and concepts validation. It supports NATO operations in the field of explosive ordnance disposal by improving interoperability and cooperation between NATO member countries, partner countries, international organizations and the NATO command structure.

    Established by Slovakia, the Framework Nation, in 2007, the EOD COE received NATO accreditation 28 April 2011.

    Human Intelligence (HUMINT) COE

    Based in Oradea, Romania, the Human Intelligence (HUMINT) COE acts as the main focal point for human intelligence expertise.

    Like other COEs, HUMINT engages in education and training, provides expertise to NATO Bodies and Strategic Commanders, improves interoperability and standardization, increases capabilities, and contributes to doctrine development through experimentation, testing and validation.

    The HUMINT COE Framework Nation, Romania, sought NATO accreditation as a COE beginning in 2010. It received accreditation later the same year.

    Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC) COE

    Based in Kalkar, Germany, the Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC) seeks to improve the space, land and maritime air power operations of the Alliance. In particular, it strives to develop and advance new ideas for the command, control and use of air assets from all service branches, while ensuring the implementation of those ideas. JAPCC also supports ACT, ACO and Sponsoring Nations by providing advice and expertise relating to air and space power.

    JAPCC’s Framework Nation, Germany, sought COE accreditation in 2004, which it received in 2005.

    Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear Defence (JCBRN Defence) COE

    Based in Vyškov, Czech Republic, the Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear (JCBRN) Defence COE develops defence doctrines, standards and knowledge with the goal of improving interoperability and capabilities. It also provides education and training opportunities, assists and advises NATO, Sponsoring Nations and other international organizations and institutions in the area of CBRN defence. In addition to developing and circulating lessons learned, JCBRN also trains and certifies the CBRN Defence Task Force of the NATO Response Force.

    Established by the Czech Republic, the COE’s Framework Nation, JCBRN Defence sought NATO accreditation in 2006, which it received in 2007.

    Military Engineering (MILENG) COE

    Based in Inglostadt, Germany, the Military Engineering (MILENG) COE provides expertise relating to joint and combined military engineering to improve interoperability. It also provides, support for exercises and operations, develops concepts and doctrine, and acts as knowledge managers for the field of military engineering. Much like other COEs, MILENG holds seminars, workshops and courses to disseminate information and training.

    Established by Germany, MILENG sought COE accreditation in 2008, which it received in 2010.

    Military Medical (MILMED) COE

    Based in Budapest, Hungary, the Military Medical (MILMED) COE aims to improve military medical capacity and capability through multinational interoperability and standardization. As the subject matter expert for military medicine, MILMED focuses on several areas, including medical training and evaluation, standards development and lessons learned.

    From the medical training and evaluation perspective, MILMED strives to improve multinational medical capabilities and interoperability. To achieve this goal, it gives medical courses through coordination with the NATO School. In addition to the implementation of necessary certification tools, MILMED also provides mobile training teams to ACO and Sponsoring Nations to aid in the certification process for deployable multinational medical units.

    For the standards development side, MILMED takes the lead in assisting and developing medical standardization agreements that deal with training requirements and certification procedures for both individuals and units. In addition to this, MILMED contributes to lessons learned by collecting, analyzing and making recommendations on information and experiences.

    Created in May 2009 by Hungary, the Framework Nation, MILMED received NATO accreditation later the same year.

    Modelling and Simulation (M&S) COE

    Based at the Adriano De Cicco Army Barracks within the Cecchignola Military Compound in Rome Italy, the Modelling and Simulation (M&S) COE focuses on education,  training, knowledge management, lessons learned, analysis, concept development, experimentation, doctrine development and improving interoperability in the field of modelling and simulation.

    As subject matter experts, M&S functions as knowledge managers for modelling and simulation. It develops and manages shared repositories for information related to this field. It also provides advice and assistance on data interconnectivity.

    With Italy as the Framework Nation, the M&S COE received NATO accreditation on 18 July 2012.

    Naval Mine Warfare (NMW) COE

    Based in Oostende, Belgium, the Naval Mine Warfare (NMW) COE, is co-located with the Ecole de Guerre de Mines (EGUERMIN), which has existed since 1965. In addition to providing Naval Mine Countermeasures (NMCM) courses to naval personnel from the Netherlands and Belgium, NMW COE acts as NMCM technical advisor to ACO and assist NATO’s Operational Commands and offers courses for both NATO and non-NATO countries, including Partnership for Peace countries.

    NMW COE Framework Nations, Belgium and the Netherlands sought NATO accreditation as a COE in 2005. It received accreditation in 2006

    Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters (CSW) COE

    Based in Kiel, Germany, the Operations in Confined Shallow Waters (CSW) COE aims to help develop the Alliance’s confined and shallow water war fighting capabilities. Like other COEs, CSW also conducts presentations, workshops and courses, in addition to contributing to concept development and releasing papers.

    CSW received NATO accreditation in 2009, after its establishment by Framework Nation Germany in 2008.

  • Centres of Excellence in Development

    These include:

    • Crisis Management for Disaster Response
    • Military Police
    • Mountain Warfare

    Crisis Management for Disaster Response (CMDR) COE

    With a proposed base in Sofia, Bulgaria, the Crisis Management for Disaster Relief (CMDR) COE’s mission will be to build and develop the crisis management and disaster relief capabilities of NATO and member nations, while also providing subject matter expertise. The CMDR COE is currently in the development phase.

    Military Police (MP) COE

    With a proposed base in Wroclaw, Poland, the Military Police (MP) COE will begin MOU negotiations in 2011. Its mission is to enhance the NATO MP Capability by providing subject matter expertise on all aspects of MP activities, thus improving the Alliances interoperability in the field of MP operations.

    MP COE framework Nation, Poland, has not yet sought Accreditation.

    Mountain Warfare (MW) COE

    Based in Bohinjska Bela, Slovenia in the Bohinjska Bela Barracks, the Mountain Warfare (MW) COE’s area of expertise is preparing both individuals and units for operations in mountainous and other difficult terrain, as well as in extreme weather conditions.

    MW will also hosts conferences, seminars and talks from experts relating to mountain warfare in order to further doctrine and concept development, conduct research projects and experiments relating to mountain warfare, and prepare reports based on lessons learned in order to transfer the knowledge into practice and to aid the education and training processes. As with other COE’s, MW is not intended to duplicate existing NATO capabilities, but to enhance and increase them.

    Participation in MW events will be open to NATO member countries, PfP countries, partner countries involved in partnership programs approved by the North Atlantic Council, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and universities, in addition to personnel from the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia and the Slovenian Armed Forces.

    The Slovenian Armed Forces will first establish the MW COE as a multi-national unit in 2011. Slovenia, the MW COE framework nation, will then put forward the COE for accreditation after 2015.

  • Evolution of the Centres of Excellence

    COEs trace their roots back to the reorganization of NATO’s military command structure following the Prague Summit in 2002. After the summit, Allied Command Atlantic became Allied Command Transformation (ACT). ACT became responsible for transforming the Alliance into a leaner, more efficient organization.

    Specifically, ACT ensures that the Alliance is able face future challenges by enhancing training, conducting experiments to test new concepts and promoting interoperability within the Alliance. In line with this goal, ACT has used its links with various institutions to direct the transformation of the military structure, forces, capabilities and doctrine of the Alliance.

    COEs are not part of the NATO command structure nor were they created by ACT. Instead, they are facilities in the Euro-Atlantic area recognized by the Alliance for their expertise. ACT coordinates the relationship between these facilities and ACO.

    The Joint Air Power Competence Centre in Germany and the Defence Against Terrorism Centre of Excellence became the first institutions to receive NATO COE accreditation in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Since then, SACT has certified 18 COEs, with 17 in Europe and one on North America. An additional three COEs are in the MOU negotiation phase or the concept development phase.

Last updated: 30-Jul-2012 11:52

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