Situation Centre (SITCEN)
The NATO Situation Centre (SITCEN) alerts and provides situational awareness to the North Atlantic Council and to the Military Committee during times of peace, tension and crisis, and for high-level exercises. This support is achieved through the receipt, exchange and dissemination of information from all available internal and external resources. SITCEN also acts as the link with similar facilities in Allied countries and the Supreme Commands, including the Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), as well as selected international organisations.
- SITCEN alerts and provides situational awareness to NATO's top political decision-making body and senior military authority, the North Atlantic Council and the Military Committee respectively.
- Through its different sections, the Centre works 24/7 to alert and inform the leadership so it can make informed decisions.
- It was established in 1968 and has been restructured several times to adapt to evolving demands.
SITCEN’s prime responsibility is to process information in order to provide situational awareness to the Alliance. More specifically, the Centre enables the North Atlantic Council (NAC) and the Military Committee (MC) to make informed decisions. The NAC is NATO’s top political decision-making body and the MC is NATO’s senior military authority; the MC advises the NAC and the Nuclear Planning Group, and provides strategic direction to NATO’s Strategic Commanders.
Through its different sections, the Centre produces a seamless flow of information and provides leadership with access to expert knowledge in all areas of interest to the Alliance. It processes and distributes the most relevant and up-to-date information from internal and external resources, including classified and unclassified/open sources. It collaborates with multiple divisions at NATO Headquarters, including the Operations and Planning Division in the International Military Staff (IMS), the Operations Division, Public Diplomacy Division and Joint Intelligence and Security Division in the International Staff, as well as all Permanent Delegations and Military Delegations (also known as Military Representatives).
SITCEN’s structure and working mechanisms
SITCEN is uniquely positioned between the International Staff (i.e., civilian) and the International Military Staff (i.e. predominantly military) at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Its staff consists of both civilian and military personnel.
The NATO Secretary General is responsible – on behalf of the NAC – for the overall policy, general organisation and effective functioning of SITCEN.
The Assistant Secretary General for Operations is – on behalf of the Secretary General – the senior staff official responsible for the development and control of SITCEN.
Acting on behalf of the Military Committee, the Director General of the IMS is responsible for the coordination of SITCEN’s operations together with the Chief of SITCEN. For day-to-day operations, this role is performed for the Director General IMS by the Director Operations & Planning, IMS.
The SITCEN Watch provides to NATO Headquarters 24/7 situational awareness about incidents and worldwide developments. The Watch staff consists of a team of Watch Officers and Watch Assistants who take turns standing 12-hour shifts, 24/7. They monitor and distribute information and intelligence concerning the international, political, economic, military and terrorism situation, in particular those developments which might affect the Alliance.
The Watch alerts the appropriate military and/or civilian authorities at the Headquarters about significant events identified from both classified and open sources. This is accomplished through several methods, including the use of an automated call-out system, which can also be used to convene emergency NAC or MC meetings. Additional functions of the Watch include routine personal briefing of the IMS leadership during the Senior Leadership Meeting. It also monitors NATO’s ballistic missile defence early warning systems, partners with the Public Diplomacy Division to provide continuous press wires monitoring and wires collection services, supports crisis management organisations and task forces, and assists the NATO Office of Security with mission monitoring of deployed NATO HQ personnel abroad.
The SITCEN Watch can be contacted via unclassified email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via unclassified telephone at +32 2707 5109.
The Geospatial Section provides comprehensive geographic services to NATO Headquarters across the land, maritime, air and space domains. This ranges from rapid mapping to delivering the most updated Common Operational Picture for the NAC and the MC. It also includes the management of Geo Portals on various network domains, to building fictitious geographic scenarios for use during exercises.
In times of crisis, the Section can also develop geospatially enabled applications and strategic dashboards connected to geospatial content. This provides a set of 24/7 situational awareness tools for analysts and supports the decision-making process. Located at NATO Headquarters, the Geospatial Section plays a central role for any information requiring geospatial processing, analysis, representation and integration in NATO systems. Finally, the Section also provides general advice on all geospatial-related matters to the IMS, IS and, in particular, PDD for geospatial content published on NATO’s public digital platforms, and to NATO HQ leadership.
The Situational Awareness Integration Team (SAIT), set up in March 2020, seeks to develop a comprehensive common understanding of the global and regional security environment and its impact on the Alliance, Allies and partners. The Team contributes to the situational awareness process by connecting knowledge and expertise, and delivering analysis on current topics and issues relevant to the Alliance’s interests and mission. Among its many tasks, the main deliverable is the preparation, coordination and conduct of the Senior Staff Meeting, which brings together NATO HQ senior officials. The SAIT also conducts qualitative and quantitative research, and links stakeholders across the whole of NATO. It uses and applies the latest developments in the field of data science and data policy, as well as the cyber domain, for its research and coordination work.
SITCEN has an Administrative Support and Knowledge Management (AKM) office, which is the Centre’s central point for information management and control, training coordination and financial management.