1 Oct. 2007
Eng. / Fr.
Military Committee Executive Brief
Election of the Chairman of the Military Committee (CMC)
The next Chairman of the NATO Military Committee will be elected on 14 November 2007 in Brussels, at the third and final meeting this year among NATO Chiefs of Defence. The Chairman-elect will assume his duties in summer 2008 from Gen. Ray Henault, a Canadian air force officer. The chiefs of defence from Italy (Adm. Giampaolo di Paola: navy), Poland (Gen. Franciszek Gagor: army), and Spain (Gen. Felix Sanz Roldan: army) are the three candidates for election.
The Chairman of the Military Committee is NATO’s senior officer, by virtue of being the principal military advisor to the Secretary General and the conduit through which consensus-based advice from NATO’s 26 Chiefs of Defence is brought forward to the political decision-making bodies of NATO, including the North Atlantic Council.
The Military Committee is the oldest permanent body in NATO after the North Atlantic Council, both having been formed months after the Alliance came into being. Initially, chairmanship was held on a one-year rotational basis by each of the members according to the alphabetical order of nations (in English), beginning with the United States. As such, in fall 1949, American Gen. Omar Bradley became the first Chairman. By 1963, it became clear that the range, scope and complexity of issues and activities called for a full-time officer to assist and guide the work of the Military Committee and since December of that year, the Chairman has been elected by all NATO's Chiefs of Defence in a simple majority vote. He works full-time from Brussels, normally for a three-year period, and represents all nations, not his own nationality. General Henault became the 15th Chairman of the Military Committee (in Chiefs of Staff Session) since the position was permanently established, and the 29thoverall.
Since 1963, the position has been held by 15 officers from: Germany (5 times), the United Kingdom (three times), Canada (twice), Norway (twice), and Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands (once each).
There were two candidates at Gen. Henault's election (Canada, Denmark), one for his predecessor Gen. Kujat's election, and three for Adm. Venturoni's election before that (Belgium, Italy, Norway).
This is the first time an officer from a former Warsaw Pact nation has stood for election as the CMC, and the first time that Spain has put forward a candidate.
The CMC has served preferably as Chief of Defence or an equivalent capacity in his own country, and is a non-U.S. officer of four-star rank or national equivalent. The CMC prepares for, convenes, and chairs the MC meetings. He directs its day-to-day business, and represents the Military Committee at meetings of the North Atlantic Council, the Defence Planning Committee and the Nuclear Planning Group in an advisory capacity on military matters. He meets frequently with government officials and senior military officers from NATO’s 64 member and partner states. The CMC has an important public role and is the senior military spokesperson for the Alliance in contacts with media.
Of interest, an American cannot serve as the CMC, as the U.S. provides the two Strategic Commanders (Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation), and also provides a three-star officer to be the Deputy Chairman of the Military Committee, with specific responsibilities including chemical, biological and nuclear matters. He also co-chairs the principal committee dealing with NATO logistics, that meets in joint civil and military sessions.
Chairmen of the Military Committee (in Chiefs of Staff Session)
(From 1963, the post of CMC in Permanent Session also became CMC in Chiefs of Staff Session, and became a full-time, elected position).