Centres of Excellence
Centres of Excellence (COEs) are international military organisations that train and educate leaders and specialists from NATO member and partner countries. They assist in doctrine development, identify lessons learned, improve interoperability and capabilities, and test and validate concepts through experimentation. They offer recognised 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 Alliance.
- COEs cover a wide variety of areas such as civil-military operations, cyber defence, military medicine, energy security, naval mine warfare, defence against terrorism, cold weather operations, and counter-IED.
- Allied Command Transformation has overall responsibility for COEs and is in charge of the establishment, accreditation, preparation of candidates for approval, and periodic assessments of the centres.
- COEs are nationally or multi-nationally funded. NATO does not directly fund COEs nor are they part of the NATO Command Structure.
More background information
COEs generally specialise in one functional area and act as subject-matter experts in their field. 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.
COEs work alongside the Alliance even though NATO does not directly fund them and they are not part of the NATO Command Structure. 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 utilisation within NATO lies with Allied Command Transformation (ACT), in coordination with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).
Currently, there are 24 COEs: 23 have NATO accreditation; one COE is in Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) negotiations. The working language of COEs is generally English.
- Analysis and Simulation for Air Operations
- Civil-Military Cooperation
- Cold Weather Operations
- Combined Joint Operations from the Sea
- Command and Control
- Cooperative Cyber Defence
- Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices
- Counter Intelligence
- Crisis Management and Disaster Response
- Defence Against Terrorism
- Energy Security
- Explosive Ordnance Disposal
- Human Intelligence
- Joint Air Power
- Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence
- Military Engineering
- Military Medicine
- Military Police
- Modelling and Simulation
- Naval Mine Warfare
- Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters
- Stability Policing
- Strategic Communications
Centre for Analysis and Simulation of Air Operations (CASPOA)
Location: Lyon, France
Expertise: command and control in joint and multinational air operations. The centre uses computer-assisted exercises (CAX) and command-post exercises (CPX) to achieve this objective. The COE also analyses lessons learned from both real operations and exercises to aid in training personnel and developing simulation tools.
Framework Nation: France
Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) COE
Location: The Hague, the Netherlands
Expertise: improving civil-military interaction and cooperation between NATO, Sponsoring Nations and other military and civil groups by utilising the skills and expertise of CIMIC’s own staff. The centre is also open to other international organisations (European Union, non-governmental organisations and scientific institutions).
Framework Nations: Germany and the Netherlands
Cold Weather Operations (CWO) COE
Location: Bodø, Norway
Expertise: focuses on operations in the extreme cold and collaborates with other institutions, for instance the Mountain Warfare COE in Slovenia.
Framework Nation: Norway
Combined Joint Operations from the Sea (CJOS) COE
Location: Norfolk, Virginia, United States
Expertise: countering global security challenges by improving the ability of the Sponsoring Nations and NATO to conduct combined joint operations from the sea. It also advises the Alliance on how to improve multinational education, training, doctrine and interoperability on maritime operations.
Framework Nation: The United States
Command and Control (C2) COE
Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands
Expertise: providing expertise on all aspects of the Command and Control (C2) process with a focus on the operational environment. It also assists NATO with exercises and assessment processes and supports ACT Headquarters with policy, doctrine, strategy and concept development, and provides C2 training.
Framework Nation: The Netherlands
Accreditation: in 2008
Cooperative Cyber Defence (CCD) COE
Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Expertise: fostering cooperation, capabilities and information-sharing on cyber security between NATO countries using, for instance, exercises, law and policy workshops, technical courses and conferences to prepare NATO and Sponsoring Nations to detect and fight cyber attacks. It also conducts research and training in several areas of cyber warfare.
Framework Nation: Estonia
Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) COE
Location: Madrid, Spain
Expertise: enhancing the capabilities needed to counter, reduce and eliminate threats from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by offering multinational courses for C-IED experts.
Framework Nation: Spain
Counter Intelligence (CI) COE
Location: Kraków, Poland
Expertise: helping to expand the capabilities of the Alliance, its member countries and partners by providing comprehensive expertise in the area of counter-intelligence. It aims to act as a catalyst for NATO adaptation and operations by supporting the development, promotion and implementation of new policies, concepts, strategies and doctrine that transform and enhance NATO counter-intelligence capabilities and interoperability.
Framework Nations: Poland and Slovakia
Crisis Management and Disaster Response (CMDR) COE
Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
Expertise: helping NATO, its members and partner countries in improving their capacity to deal with crises and disaster-response operations through collaborative partnerships.
Framework Nation: Bulgaria
Defence Against Terrorism (DAT) COE
Location: Ankara, Turkey
Expertise: defending against terrorism, providing training on counter-terrorism, assisting in the development of doctrine and helping to improve NATO’s capabilities and interoperability. It also publishes the Defence Against Terrorism Review twice a year.
Framework Nation: Turkey
Energy Security (ENSEC) COE
Location: Vilnius, Lithuania
Expertise: supporting NATO’s capability development process, mission effectiveness, and interoperability in the near, mid and long term by providing expertise on all aspects of energy security.
Framework Nation: Lithuania
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) COE
Location: Trenčín, Slovakia
Expertise: supporting and enhancing NATO transformation and operational efforts in the EOD area, while improving relations, interoperability and practical cooperation with partners, NATO command elements, member countries and international organisations. The Centre also works with NATO in the areas of standardization, doctrine development and concept validation.
Framework Nation: Slovakia
Human Intelligence (HUMINT) COE
Location: Oradea, Romania
Expertise: human intelligence expertise for Strategic Commands and other NATO bodies to improve interoperability and standardization, and contribute to doctrine development through experimentation, testing and validation.
Framework Nation: Romania
Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC)
Location: Kalkar, Germany
Expertise: improving the space, land and maritime air power operations of the Alliance by developing and advancing new ideas for the command, control and use of air assets from all service branches, while ensuring the implementation of those ideas. It also supports the Strategic Commands and Sponsoring Nations.
Framework Nation: Germany
Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence (JCBRN Defence) COE
Location: Vyškov, Czech Republic
Expertise: develops defence doctrines, standards and knowledge with the goal of improving interoperability and capabilities in the area of CBRN defence. It advises NATO, Sponsoring Nations and other international organisations and institutions and shares lessons learned. It also trains and certifies the CBRN Defence Task Force of the NATO Response Force.
Framework Nation: The Czech Republic
Military Engineering (MILENG) COE
Location: Ingolstadt, Germany
Expertise: joint and combined military engineering, with the aim of improving interoperability.
Framework Nation: Germany
Military Medicine (MILMED) COE
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Expertise: developing the provision of effective, sustainable and ethical full-spectrum health services at best value to the Allies. It focuses on medical training and evaluation, standards development and lessons learned, while striving to improve multinational medical capabilities and interoperability.
Framework Nations: Hungary and Germany
Military Police (MP) COE
Location: Bydgoszcz, Poland
Expertise: enhancing the capabilities of Military Police in NATO, fostering interoperability, and providing expertise on MP activities.
Framework Nation: Poland
Modelling and Simulation (M&S) COE
Location: Rome, Italy
Expertise: focus on education, training, knowledge management, lessons learned, analysis, concept development, experimentation, doctrine development and interoperability in the field of modelling and simulation.
Framework Nation: Italy
Naval Mine Warfare (NMW) COE
Location: Oostende, Belgium
Expertise: providing Naval Mine Countermeasures (NMCM) courses to naval personnel from Belgium and the Netherlands. It also acts as NMCM technical advisor to Allied Command Operations, assists NATO’s Operational Commands and offers courses to NATO, partner and other non-NATO countries.
Framework Nations: Belgium and the Netherlands
Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters (CSW) COE
Location: Kiel, Germany
Expertise: developing the Alliance’s confined and shallow-water war fighting capabilities.
Framework Nation: Germany
Stability Policing (SP) COE
Location: Vicenza, Italy
Expertise: increasing contributions to the stability and reconstruction efforts of the Alliance in post-conflict scenarios.
Framework Nation: Italy
Strategic Communications (StratCom) COE
Location: Riga, Latvia
Expertise: developing improved strategic communications capabilities within the Alliance by helping to advance doctrine development and harmonisation, conducting research and experimentation, identifying lessons learned from applied StratCom during operations, and enhancing training and education. It also operates as a hub for debate within various StratCom disciplines: public diplomacy, public affairs, military public affairs, information operations and psychological operations.
Framework Nation: Latvia
Mountain Warfare (MW) COE
Location: Poljče, Slovenia
Expertise: preparing both individuals and units for operations in mountainous and other difficult terrain, as well as in extreme weather conditions. More specifically, developing mountain warfare-specific doctrine and tactics; concept development and experimentation; mountain warfare lessons learned process; supporting capability development, and education and training.
Framework Nation: Slovenia
Accreditation: The Centre is seeking accreditation.
Different types of participants
There are three different types of participants 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(s) submit a proposal for the COE, which Allied Command Transformation (ACT) then considers. Next, the Framework Nation(s) coordinate with ACT to further flesh out the proposal before sending the official offer to establish a COE to the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT). If the proposal meets certain criteria, ACT formally welcomes the offer.
Afterwards, the Framework Nation(s) further develop the concept, draft an Operational 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 ACT. The COE then enters into the accreditation phase. 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’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 NATO. To this end, all COEs must have subject-matter experts in their field of specialisation. 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.
COEs trace their roots back to the reorganisation 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 organisation.
Specifically, ACT ensures that the Alliance is able to 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.
The Joint Air Power Competence Centre in Germany and the Defence Against Terrorism Centre of Excellence in Turkey became the first institutions to receive NATO COE accreditation in 2005 and 2006, respectively.