A Deployable Joint Headquarters for the NATO Response Force

By McGinnis, Michael L. | Joint Force Quarterly, July 2005 | Go to article overview

A Deployable Joint Headquarters for the NATO Response Force


McGinnis, Michael L., Joint Force Quarterly


At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit held in Prague in November 2002, the central topic was how to deal with threats from international terrorism, hostile regimes, and rogue states. Recognizing the need for a military force capable of responding quickly to crises outside NATO's traditional area of operations, the nations voted unanimously to create a standing, deployable joint task force.

In October 2003, the North Atlantic Council stood up the NATO Response Force (NRF), which will consist of 22,000 to 24,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and special operations personnel when fully operational in the fall of 2006. The NRF will provide a credible joint task force capable of deploying within 5 days of a North Atlantic Council decision to commit forces and conducting "standalone" operations for 30 days. NRF experimentation through certification in 2006 serves as a catalyst for transforming NATO into agile forces for new missions ranging from humanitarian relief to forced entry into a hostile environment.

This article focuses on two major aspects related to standing up a new headquarters for the NRF: transforming a traditional joint staff (J-staff) into a deployable, flexible organization capable of planning and assessing effects-based operations (EBO); and bridging the gap between EBO concepts and putting them into practice.

Command and Control

Command and control of the NRF will be accomplished through a small, deployable joint task force (DJTF) headquarters, commanded by a one- or two-star officer, and capable of planning and coordinating a relatively new application concept for conducting military operations called effects-based operations. Command will rotate yearly among three static parent headquarters: Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, Netherlands; JFC Naples, Italy; and a new three-star Joint Headquarters near Lisbon, Portugal.

The DJTF headquarters (HQS) will serve as the joint force commander's forward command post. The headquarters must meet the same deployment and sustainment standards as the NRF forces and cover the core J-staff functions (J-1 through J-9) of the parent headquarters. A generic NRF command structure illustrates how the parent headquarters is supported by a three-star advisory staff representing each service component-land, sea, and air--and the liaison relationships between the three-star advisory staffs and two-star component commands. The forces are generated from the two-star land component command, maritime component command, and air component command.

Operation Stavanger

Preliminary work to establish a deployable joint headquarters at JFC Naples involved weeks of home station planning that produced a draft document of staff responsibilities and standing operating procedures. This phase culminated with Brigadier General Rick Lynch, USA, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, and his staff planning a 7-day deployment exercise to build the headquarters team and conduct vignette-driven, effects-based staff training.

Key assumptions and operational factors important to DJTF HQS design were obtained from NATO documents and guidance from NATO leaders such as General James L. Jones, Jr., USMC, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Admiral Gregory G. Johnson, USN, combatant commander, Joint Force Command Naples.

* The NRF was to demonstrate initial operational capability by October 2004 and reach full capacity by October 2006.

* The DJTF headquarters is limited to about 90 personnel assigned to JFC Naples. Operational capabilities include deploying within S days of a decision by the North Atlantic Council; conducting self-sustained, 24-hour operations for 30 days; and covering the J-1 through J-9 staff functions of the parent headquarters.

On February 1, 2004, over 90 military personnel from 11 nations assigned to Joint Force Command Headquarters Naples, designated as NATO's first deployable joint task force headquarters, departed from Naples to Stavanger, Norway, under the command of General Lynch. …

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