Allied Command Transformation
Warfare development requires expert evaluation of trends and future threats, capability development, education, exercises, and the implementation of lessons learned. Allied Command Transformation (ACT) plays a central role in these unique missions, which aim to improve the readiness and credibility of NATO’s posture; they also contribute to allowing the NATO Command Structure (NCS) to efficiently command, control, and support current and future operations and provide a secure and stable transition to crisis and conflict, if need be.
- ACT is one of two Strategic Commands at the head of NATO’s military command structure. The other is Allied Command Operations (ACO), which is responsible for the planning and execution of all NATO military operations.
- ACT is headed by the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), who exercises his responsibilities from headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, the United States. It is the only NATO command in North America.
- SACT is responsible to the Military Committee for the transformation and development of the Alliance to ensure it is capable of meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow. The Military Committee is the senior military authority in NATO and is under the overall political authority of the North Atlantic Council (NAC).
- ACT directs various subordinate Joint Commands and has strong links with education and training facilities, as well as with ministries of defence.
- It also has links with the NATO Force Structure (NFS) in general, which consists of forces placed at the Alliance’s disposal by the member countries, along with their associated command and control structures.(1)
ACT together with ACO form what is called the NATO Command Structure (NCS), whose prime function is first and foremost to provide the command and control needed to address threats and, should deterrence fail, an armed attack against the territory of any of the European Allies.(2) Ultimately, the NCS plays an essential role in preserving cohesion and solidarity within the Alliance, maintaining and strengthening the vital link between Europe and North America, and promoting the principle of equitable sharing among Allies of the roles, risks and responsibilities, as well as the benefits of collective defence.
ACT’s role as warfare development command is two-fold: first, to enable ACO to efficiently conduct current operations; second, to prepare NATO’s future operations. In this context, ACT ensures that NATO’s warfare capabilities maintain future relevance, provides an indispensable understanding of the current and future security environment, contributes to the development of NATO doctrine, concepts and interoperability standards.
Achievement of a NATO Command Structure that is fit for purpose and fulfils NATO’s three core tasks – collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security – can only be done with the strategic military expertise and interoperability provided by ACT with leverage of its network of nations, Joint Commands, and Centres of Excellence.
ACT is organised around four principal functions:
- strategic thinking;
- development of capabilities;
- education, training and exercises; and
- cooperation and engagement.
These functions are reflected in the composition of ACT, which is comprised of the Norfolk Headquarters and three subordinate entities: one in Norway (Joint Warfare Centre), one in Poland (Joint Force Training Centre) and one in Portugal (Joint Analysis & Lessons Learned Centre). ACT also includes a SACT representative at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium and at the Pentagon outside Washington D.C., an ACT Staff Element at the ACO Headquarters – Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe or SHAPE – and a shared Military Partnership Directorate (MPD) with ACO, also located at SHAPE.
Additionally, NATO’s other education and training facilities and nationally-run entities, which are not part of the NCS, also coordinate with ACT. This includes the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy, the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany, the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre, Greece, and the nationally-run Centres of Excellence. NATO Agencies also interact with ACT on matters of common concern.
Strategic Plans and Policy
The main responsibility of Strategic Plans and Policy is three-fold: to develop and promote issues of strategic importance to transformation; articulate policies to direct Alliance transformation efforts; and support the development of NATO strategic-level concepts which clarify how transformation may be achieved.
This is a broad area which covers the entire capability development process, i.e., from the moment a need is identified to the production phase when a new capability is actually developed for the Alliance. Moreover, Capability Development provides a major contribution to the NATO Defence Planning Process improving interoperability, deployability and sustainability of Allied forces.
Joint Force Training
Joint Force Training directs and coordinates all ACT activities that are related to the conduct of individual and collective training and exercises. The aim is to continually provide the Alliance with improved capabilities and enable Allied forces to undertake the full spectrum of Alliance missions.
SACT Representative in Europe
The SACT Representative in Europe (SACTREPEUR) is located at NATO Headquarters in Brussels acting as SACT’s representative to the Military Committee and attending all relevant activities. SACTREPEUR has the coordinating authority for all ACT engagements with NATO Headquarters and maintains strong links with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) through his counterpart – the SACEUR Representative (SACEUREP) – also based at NATO Headquarters.
ACT Staff Element Europe
The ACT Staff Element Europe (SEE) is co-located with ACO in Mons. It deals primarily with defence and resource planning issues, as well as implementation.
ACT Liaison Office to the Pentagon
To help enhance NATO transformation, this office promotes effective links and direct coordination between ACT and the US Joint Staff and other departments in the US military headquarters (Pentagon), located outside Washington D.C.
Military Partnership Directorate
The Military Partnership Directorate (MPD) provides direction, control, coordination, support and assessment of military cooperation activities across the Alliance. It directs and oversees all non-NATO country involvement in military partnership programmes, events and activities, and coordinates and implements NATO plans and programmes in the area of partnership. The MPD is shared with ACO and is located at SHAPE in Mons with a Staff Element at the ACT headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.
Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway
The Joint Warfare Centre’s (JWC) main task is to train Allied forces at the operational level to ensure they remain interoperable and fully integrated. Its principal mission is the training of the NATO Response Force (NRF) Headquarters’ elements and NRF Component Headquarters’ elements. In addition, it performs collective staff training for partner countries and new NATO members.
The JWC also seeks to improve NATO’s capabilities and interoperability by promoting and conducting NATO’s joint and combined experimentation, analysis and doctrine development processes.(3)
Joint Force Training Centre in Bydgoszcz, Poland
The Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) focuses on joint and combined training of Allied and partner forces at the tactical level. It focuses, in particular, on the conduct of tactical training to achieve joint interoperability at key interfaces – a critically important area identified during military combat in Afghanistan.
As a priority, the JFTC provides expertise to help NATO Response Force (NRF) joint and component commanders ensure that each NRF rotation achieves a high level of interoperability, flexibility and extensive training so as to be combat-ready at the beginning of a cycle of duty.
The Centre cooperates with national training centres, including Partnership for Peace (PfP) Traini