Transforming NATO Command and Control for Future Missions

By Barry, Charles L. | Defense Horizons, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Transforming NATO Command and Control for Future Missions


Barry, Charles L., Defense Horizons


Overview

No military function is more critical to operational success than effective command and control ([C.sup.2]). There also is no more daunting military function to get right when it comes to the employment of complex multinational formations in the fast-paced arena of crisis response. Since the Cold War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)--unique as an alliance with a permanent standing [C.sup.2] structure--has ventured into a broader spectrum of missions and across a wider geographical area of operations, posing far greater [C.sup.2] challenges than the single- mission, fixed-territory defense of the past. Threats to NATO interests have increased, demanding military structures and capabilities that can be employed on shorter notice and further outside NATO territory. At the same time, more sophisticated information-based battle systems and technologies are driving the need for increasingly interoperable forces. A key factor for success in this new environment will be a more agile, flexible, and responsive NATO [C.sup.2] architecture for the 21st century.

The NATO summit at Prague in November 2002 was a major milestone in the evolution of alliance command structure and future military force posture. Prague decisions outlined a new arrangement that will take several years and significant investment by both NATO and each member state to put in place. Although many details must still be worked out, early momentum toward the Prague goals is strong and encouraging. Those efforts should not falter at a time of new and proximate threats to NATO member territory and citizens, or collective interests.

Alliance military commanders direct their organizations through the architecture of the distinctive NATO political-military process called consultation, command, and control ([C.sup.3]). Although [C.sup.3] is a single NATO process, consultation is focused on the political process of consensus decisionmaking among allies, while command and control ([C.sup.2]) is a military function achieved through the full array of NATO military command and force structures, doctrinal command relationships, and technical standards and interoperability agreements. NATO [C.sup.2] is also underpinned by a multifaceted communications and information system (CIS) that provides the connectivity and networks to conduct military operations. Related but separate NATO doctrines cover the functions of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

The Prague Summit

The Prague NATO summit decisions were major steps in moving NATO toward [C.sup.2] capabilities to accomplish the future military tasks of the alliance. NATO leaders agreed that a new military command structure, while still capable of Article 5 collective defense, is to be reorganized and optimized for the more immediate mission of crisis response. A far smaller command structure will be decided upon by June 2003, one that will also be more mobile, flexible, and prepared than the current 1997-era structure. NATO leaders also decided to create by October 2004 a NATO Response Force (NRF) of "technologically advanced, flexible, deployable, interoperable and sustainable force(s) ... to move quickly to wherever needed, as decided by the Council." In addition, NATO intends to accelerate its investment in common-funded communications and information systems that are essential to an operational, network-centric response force to be ready within 2 years.

What makes Prague more compelling than earlier post-Cold War summits at Washington, Madrid, Brussels, and Rome is that it was preceded by a genuine sense of transatlantic convergence on two points. First, members agreed on the need for a smaller military structure designed around minimum military requirements. Second, the allies foresaw that proximate future threats, such as terrorism, require the availability of a small but potent force capable of engaging in combat operations on short notice at far greater distances than before, perhaps well outside of Europe. …

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