Updated: 16-Jun-2003 June 2003

12-13 June 2003


New command structure and capabilities for NATO

Meeting in Brussels, NATO Defence Ministers approved a historic reform of NATO’s command structure and plans for a robust, rapidly deployable NATO Response Force.

Defence officials from NATO and partner countries met at Alliance Headquarters on 12 and 13 June to review and decide on reforms launched at the landmark Prague Summit last year.

New tools for new missions

Decisions focused on re-tooling NATO with the capabilities it needs to meet today’s security threats.

Ministers approved a new military command structure for NATO, which reflects the Alliance’s new missions and transition to smaller, flexible forces that can be rapidly deployed to crisis and conflict areas. The number of commands will be reduced from 20 to 11, and responsibilities redefined.

Instead of NATO’s operations being run by either the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) or Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT), all operational commands will be under the control of the new Allied Command Operations, based at SHAPE in Mons, Belgium, while SACLANT will cease to exist. Instead, a new command, Allied Command Transformation, will be established to specifically oversee the transformation of NATO's military capabilities. It will be based in Norfolk, United States, the same location as the former SACLANT.

The meeting also paved the way for the creation of a key new tool, with Ministers approving a concept for the NATO Response Force. This will be a robust rapid reaction fighting force that can be quickly deployed anywhere in the world. It could have an early operational capability by autumn this year said NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson.

Ministers also reviewed the progress achieved in improving the Alliance’s operational capabilities, the Prague Capabilities Commitment. In a special ceremony, several nations signed up to two multinational projects designed to give NATO key air and sealift capabilities.

NATO refashioned

This is a new NATO. A NATO transformed in Prague Summit. A NATO able to meet its commitments when times get tough, from the Straits of Gibraltar through the Balkans to southern Turkey. A NATO now preparing to take on a demanding stabilisation mission in the Afghan capital. In short, a NATO transforming its membership, its relationships, its capabilities and its missions,” said Lord Robertson.

Ministers also met with their counterparts from partner countries in the NATO-Russia Council, the NATO-Ukraine Commission and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.

Regular meetings of NATO Defence Ministers are held twice a year to review current developments, the Alliance’s activities and take appropriate decisions.

Additional information: