Some 1,000 civilians work within NATO's International Staff (IS) at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The primary role of the IS is to provide advice, guidance and administrative support to the national delegations at NATO Headquarters. It helps to implement decisions taken at different committee levels and, in doing so, supports the process of consensus-building and decision-making within the Alliance.
The IS is headed by NATO’s Secretary General, who from an administrative point of view, is also a member of the IS. Staff members are recruited from NATO member countries. Worldwide, some 6,000 civilians work for NATO in different agencies and strategic and regional commands.
The IS is currently being reviewed as part of a broader package of reform being undertaken within the Organization, in line with commitments made under the 2010 Strategic Concept.
The IS is an advisory and administrative body that supports the delegations of NATO members at different committee levels and helps implement their decisions. For instance, the IS produces policy papers, background notes, reports and speeches on issues relevant to NATO’s political and military agenda. It supports and advises committees, and prepares and follows up on their discussions and decisions, therefore facilitating the political consultation process. It also liaises closely with NATO’s International Military Staff (IMS) located in the same building in Brussels. The IMS is the executive body of the Military Committee – NATO’s senior military authority.
Members of the IS owe their allegiance to the Organization throughout the period of their appointment. They are either recruited directly by the Organization or seconded by their governments and each appointment is approved by the Secretary General.
Vacancies within the IS are announced on NATO’s website and are open to member country citizens.
The International Staff includes the Office of the Secretary General, seven divisions, each headed by an Assistant Secretary General, and a number of independent offices headed by directors.
The Private Office
The Secretary General heads the IS and has a Private Office that includes a director and staff, the Deputy Secretary General, a Policy Planning Unit and the Council Secretariat.
The IS fulfills a number of roles filled by different divisions:
- Political Affairs and Security Policy Division: this division provides political advice and policy guidance. It has the lead role in the political aspects of NATO's core security tasks, including regional, economic and security affairs, as well as relations with other international organisations and partner countries.
- Defence Policy and Planning Division: this division develops and implements the defence policy and planning dimension of NATO’s fundamental security tasks. This includes defence planning, the Alliance's nuclear policy, defence against weapons of mass destruction and certain aspects of operational planning.
- Operations Division: Operations provides the operational capability required to meet NATO's deterrence, defence and crisis management tasks. Responsibilities include NATO's crisis management and peacekeeping activities, and civil emergency planning and exercises.
- Defence Investment Division: this division is responsible for developing and investing in assets and capabilities aimed at enhancing the Alliance's defence capacity, including armaments planning, air defence and security investment.
- Emerging Security Challenges Division: this division was more recently created to deal with a growing range of non-traditional risks and challenges. It started its work at the beginning of August 2010 and is focusing on terrorism, nuclear issues, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber defence and energy security, as well as NATO’s science programme.
- Public Diplomacy Division: communicating with the wider public is one of NATO’s priorities. The Public Diplomacy Division is responsible for informing different target audiences about NATO's activities and policies through the media, the NATO website, multimedia products, seminars and conferences.
- Executive Management Division: this division manages staff, finances and security standards. It is tasked with ensuring that NATO's IS works efficiently and also provides support to all elements operating at NATO headquarters, including support and conference services, information management and NATO's human and financial resources.
Also within the IS are the NATO Office of Security and the NATO Office of Resources, both headed by a Director; the Intelligence Unit; the Office of the Legal Adviser; the Office of the Financial Controller; and an independent International Board of Auditors.
The NATO Office of Security is a distinct body responsible for coordinating, monitoring and implementing NATO's security policy, for overall security within NATO and for the NATO Headquarters Security Service.
The NATO Office of Resources was created in 2007. Under the direction of the Director, it brings together all IS members working on NATO military common-funded issues, with the aim of reinforcing military common-funded resource management at NATO HQ.
The IS was created in 1951 to support the North Atlantic Council (NAC). It was made responsible for the preparation and follow-up of action in all matters of the Council. The 'Agreement on the Status of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’ defined its status, which National Representatives and International Staff negotiated and signed in September 1951.
Throughout the years, the IS has been reorganised many times. One of the most recent restructuring exercises stemmed from the November 2002 Prague Summit, when NATO leaders approved a package of measures to enhance the Alliance's ability to meet new security threats. This included a reorganisation of NATO's IS and the implementation of modern management processes. The restructuring aimed to ensure a fairer redistribution of responsibilities among divisions, strengthen management of the staff and improve coordination on key issues and programmes.
More recently, a review of the IS has been launched as part of a larger package of reform – that of the military command structure, organisations and agencies, and NATO committees. This process forms part of NATO’s commitment to “engage in a process of continual reform, to streamline structures, improve working methods and maximise efficiency”, made in the Strategic Concept endorsed at the Lisbon Summit, November 2010.