Updated: 12-Nov-2007 Issues

1 Oct. 2007
Eng. / Fr.

Military Committee Executive Brief

Election of the Chairman of the Military Committee (CMC)

From the event
Bullet 13-14 Nov 2007 - NATO
Meeting of NATO and Partner Chiefs of Defence
Bullet 9 Nov 2007 - IMS
NATO and Partner Chiefs of Defence to meet at NATO Headquarters

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)

2005 - Gen. Ray Henault Canada Air Force
2002 - 2005 Gen. Harald Kujat Germany Air Force
1999 - 2002 Adm. Guido Venturoni Italy Navy
1996 - 1999 Gen. Klaus Naumann Germany Army
1993 - 1996 Field Marshal Sir Richard Vincent United Kingdom Army
1989 - 1993 Gen. Vigleik Eide Norway Army
1986 - 1989 Gen. Wolfgang Altenburg Germany Army
1983 - 1986 Gen. Cornelis De Jager the Netherlands Army
1980 - 1983 Adm. Robert H. Falls Canada Navy
1977 - 1980 Gen. Herman F. Zeiner Gundersen Norway Army
1974 - 1977 Adm. of the Fleet Sir Peter Hill-Norton United Kingdom Navy
1971 - 1974 Gen. Johannes Steinhoff Germany Air Force
1968 - 1971 Adm. Sir Nigel Henderson United Kingdom Navy
1964 - 1968 Lt.Gen. C.P. de Cumont Belgium Army
1963 - 1964 Gen. Adolf Heusinger Germany Army

(From 1963, the post of CMC in Permanent Session also became CMC in Chiefs of Staff Session, and became a full-time, elected position).

1962 - 1963 Lt.Gen C.P. de Cumont Belgium Army
1961 - 1962 Gen Lyman L. Lemnitzer United States Army
1960 - 1961 Adm of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma United Kingdom Navy
1960 Gen. Rustu Erdelhun Turkey Army
1959 - 1960 Gen. J.A. Beleza Ferraz Portugal Army
1958 - 1959 Lt.Gen. Bjarne Øen Norway Air Force
1957 - 1958 Gen. B. Hasselman the Netherlands Army
1956 - 1957 Gen. Giuseppe Mancinelli Italy Army
1955 - 1956 Lt.Gen. Stylianos Pallis Greece Army
1954 - 1955 Gen. Augustin Guillaume France Army
1953 - 1954 Adm. E.J.C. Quistgaard Denmark Navy
1952 - 1953 Lt.Gen. Charles Foulkes Canada Army
1951 - 1952 Lt.Gen. Etienne Baele Belgium Army
1949 - 1950 Gen. Omar Bradley United States Army


Go to Homepage Go to Index