Reserve Forces and policy matters relating to them were considered, until the early 1980s, to be a national issue only and therefore not within the remit of NATO. The NRFC was established in 1981 as the central forum of the Alliance for reservist matters. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the NRFC and the CIOR formally establishing areas of work.
Objectives and responsibilities
The NRFC has the task of preparing conceptual proposals and developing approaches as an advisory body for the Military Committee and member countries in this area. Its objectives and responsibilities were approved by the Military Committee (MC 392) on 18 November 1996 and amended on 1 April 1998.
These are defined as:
- Strengthen the readiness of the Alliance Reserves by providing a forum for informal and candid exchanges of information.
- Providing policy advice on Reserve issues to the Military Committee.
- Providing advice and support to the CIOR to assist their activities in support of Alliance goals and advise the Military Committee on its relationship with CIOR.
Since 1996, the NRFC has focused on strengthening the operational readiness of NATO reserve forces by broadening the exchange of information and deploying reserve forces jointly with active forces. The Committee does not address strategic, tactical or operational issues. This is the prerogative of the member nations or the NATO military command structure.
Functioning of the committee
Currently 23 NATO nations are members while Australia has been granted permanent observer status. The NRFC holds plenary conferences at least twice a year and almost all NATO countries are members – the exceptions being Albania, Iceland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Croatia. It consists of a chairman and a secretariat, national delegations and observers. The International Military Staff, Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation are represented by liaison officers. Committee delegations are appointed by their respective national ministries of defence, and the national heads of delegations are mostly heads of reserve or commissioners of reserve allied forces.
Chairmanship is held for a period of two years by one of the member countries. Meetings are organised and conducted by the Chairman, who also coordinates with the Committee. The Secretariat of the NRFC is of the same country as the Chairman. The Committee retains the authority to establish its own procedures.