International Military Staff

  • Last updated: 21 May. 2024 10:37

The International Military Staff (IMS) is the executive body of the Military Committee (MC), NATO’s senior military authority.

Opening Remarks of the 191st Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session -16 May 2024 - Brussels


  • The IMS consists of a staff of approximately 500, composed solely of military and civilian personnel from NATO member countries, working from NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
  • It provides strategic and military advice and staff support for the Military Committee, which advises the North Atlantic Council on military aspects of policy, operations and transformation within the Alliance.
  • The IMS also ensures that NATO decisions and policies on military matters are implemented by the appropriate NATO military bodies.
  • It is headed by a Director General and is comprised of several divisions.

Role and responsibilities

The IMS is the essential link between the political decision-making bodies of the Alliance and NATO’s Strategic Commanders (the Supreme Allied Commander Europe – SACEUR – and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation – SACT) and their staffs. Its strength lies in exchanging information and views with the staffs of the Military Representatives, the civilian International Staff (IS), the Strategic Commanders, the multinational Working Groups and NATO Agencies, ensuring effective and efficient staff work.

The role of the IMS is to provide the best possible strategic military advice and staff support for the Military Committee (MC).  It is responsible for preparing assessments, studies on NATO military issues identifying areas of strategic and operational interest, and proposing courses of action. Its work enables the Military Representatives of the Alliance’s member countries to deal with issues rapidly and effectively, ensuring that the MC provides the North Atlantic Council (NAC) – NATO’s principal political decision-making body – with consensus-based advice on all military aspects of policy, operations and transformation within the Alliance.

Working mechanism

The IMS is headed by a Director General, at the level of a three star general or flag officer, assisted by 12 general/flag officers who head the divisions and administrative support offices within the IMS. It is able to move swiftly into a 24/7 crisis mode for a limited period of time without additional personnel.

Several key positions are located within or attached to the Office of the Director General of the IMS:

  • Office of the Executive Coordinator (EXCO): EXCO manages staff activities and controls the flow of information and communication, both within the IMS as well as between the IMS and other parts of NATO Headquarters. EXCO is the Secretary to the Military Committee , directly answerable to the Chair and also prepares MC visits and provides secretarial support to the MC;
  • Office of the Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Advisor (PASCAD): PASCAD advises the Chair and Deputy Chair of the MC, and the Director General of the IMS on strategic communications and public affairs matters. The Advisor works closely with the office of the Chair of the Military Committee, acting as military spokesperson for the Chair, and as the main source of information for all MC matters and activities;
  • Office of the Financial Controller (FC): the FC advises key officials on all IMS financial and fiscal matters;
  • Office of the Legal Officer (LEGAD): LEGAD provides guidance on all legal issues to the Chair and Deputy Chair of the MC, the Director General of the IMS and all organisations under the authority of this office, and the MC.
  • Office of the Gender Advisor (GENAD): GENAD provides advice and support to the IMS on gender issues. It is the permanent focal point for collecting, providing and sharing information regarding national programmes, policies and procedures on these issues, including the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCRs 1325 and 1820). It maintains close liaison with the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, the Strategic Commands, International Staff and international organisations concerned with the integration of a gender perspective into military operations, as well as with gender-related issues.

The IMS divisions

The IMS’ key role is to support the MC, and to do this it is organised into functional divisions responsible for the following:

The Operations and Planning (O&P) Division closely monitors NATO operations, manages all Advance Plans, follows exercises and training, and provides advice on all related ongoing and unfolding military operations. It also follows the implementation of decisions taken by the MC with regard to NATO operations. The Division’s core activities are: NATO and NATO-led current and unfolding military operations; advance plans and crisis management procedures / arrangements; NATO Education, Training, Exercises and Evaluation (ETEE) events and/or systems; NATO military responsibilities in the fields of Hybrid Warfare, Maritime Warfare, Air Defence, Ballistic Missile Defence, Air Traffic Management, Electronic Warfare, Information Operations as well as Meteorological and Oceanographic (METOC) services.

The Policy and Capabilities (P&C) Division has the military lead within the International Military Staff for all matters related to Alliance defence policy and analysis. P&C Division is responsible for transformation issues and strategic military policy of specific interest to the Military Committee (MC). This includes developing, staffing and representing the views of the MC on strategic military policy. This Division provides strategic military advice across three broad areas: Strategic Policy and Concepts; Nuclear Deterrence Policy and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defence Policy; and Defence Planning, Capability Development and Delivery including Armaments as well as Science and Technology aspects.

The Cooperative Security (CS) Division develops and implements military Cooperative Security policy and is responsible for the military contacts and coordination of NATO’s military cooperation with established partners and other non-partner countries interested in conducting military activities with the Alliance. In addition, the Division is also responsible for the coordination of NATO’s interactions with international and non-governmental organisations, such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the African Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and others.

The Logistics and Resources (L&R) Division develops and defines policies and principles, plans and concepts on all matters concerning logistics, medical, civil preparedness, military personnel and civilian personnel functions, NATO medals and NATO common-funded resources. In addition, the Division is the IMS’ focal point for the three resource pillars: NATO infrastructure investment, military budget and personnel. The L&R Division acts as a facilitator with nations in the Logistics, Medical and Resource Committees.

Joint IS/IMS Bodies:

The Joint Intelligence and Security Division (JISD) provides intelligence support to all NATO Headquarters (HQ) elements, NATO member states and NATO Commands. It also provides strategic warning and situational awareness to all NATO HQ elements. The Division’s core activities are: developing a NATO Intelligence framework, architecture and intelligence capabilities; providing customer-oriented policies and NATO Agreed Intelligence Assessments; advising on intelligence-sharing matters and conducting intelligence liaison activities.

The NATO Headquarters C3 Staff (NHQC3S) supports the development of policy standards and provides analysis and advice to NATO in the Consultation, Command and Control (C3) domain. This Division has an integrated staff (IS/IMS) and reports to both the Director General of the IMS and the Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment while advising the NAC through the C3 Board and the MC on C3. The NHQC3S also works closely with the Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges and the Cyber Defence Committee in support of the Alliance in all cyber defence matters and provides the MC advice on its military aspects. Additionally, the NHQC3S supports the C3 domain in the coordination and the planning of C3 capabilities.

The NATO Situation Centre (SITCEN) is designed to provide situational awareness and alerting to the NAC and the MC in fulfilling their respective functions during peace, in periods of tension and crisis and for high-level exercises. This is achieved through the receipt, exchange and dissemination of information from all available internal and external sources. SITCEN also acts as the link with similar facilities of member countries and the Strategic Commands, including the SHAPE Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre (CCOMC), as well as selected international organisations, as appropriate.

The NATO Standardization Office (NSO) is a single, integrated body, composed of military and civilian staff with the authority to initiate, coordinate, support and administer standardization activities conducted under the authority of the Committee for Standardization. The NSO is the Military Committee’s lead agent for the development, coordination and assessment of operational standardization.