Adapting NATO's Military Structure to Meet Tomorrow's Missions
Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Johns KCB CBE LVO

As Commander-in-Chief of NATO's newest major subordinate command, it seems appropriate for me to provide you with some thoughts on adapting NATO's military structure to meet tomorrow's missions. In many ways, Allied Forces Northwestern Europe, created after the end of the Cold War, represents the face of the new NATO: my headquarters is a small, streamlined, multinational, joint organization that makes extensive use of modern technology to improve communications and reduce staff levels to the effective minimum. I have 150 staff officers and 140 support personnel drawn from 8 nations. And they are my staff for peace, crisis, and war--not a man or woman more.


The integrated military structure remains at the heart of the NATO Alliance. To keep that structure relevant in the post-Cold War world, we must adapt to political and economic realities and become smarter in how we do our military business. During the Cold War, our forces were heavy, static, and arrayed in echelons to counter a clearly defined threat. Now, the security environment is dramatically different, and NATO's new Strategic Concept calls for structures that provide the forces and capabilities needed to deal with a wide spectrum of risks and contingencies. This includes the capability to undertake crisis-management and peace-support operations while continuing to defend the security and territorial integrity of member-states.

In the new climate of multidirectional risks and fiscal restraint, we can no longer afford to dedicate standing forces "in place" to counter aggression across every NATO frontier simultaneously. Instead, we need a mix of capabilities, increasingly reliant on quick reaction and augmentation forces, with a command structure sufficiently adaptable to cope with a force mix tailored to individual tasks: a force mix, I should add, that quite conceivably might include assets from outside the integrated military structure. Thus today and for the foreseeable future we must be capable of dealing with the complete military spectrum, from humanitarian relief through low-intensity conflict to, if all else fails, high-intensity war.


In keeping with tomorrow's missions, the new NATO has become more flexible, mobile, and deployable. We have moved away from the old emphasis on in-place forces and created Rapid Reaction Forces that are better structured to the new business of crisis management. The ACE Rapid Reaction Corps, for example, contains trained and ready formations that can draw troops from up to 10 divisions and deploy them in any direction. The ACE Mobile Force, which could be thought of as a multinational "fire brigade," is kept at a high level of readiness by training together during exercises like the Major NATO Command Exercise STRONG RESOLVE, which took place in Norway's arduous winter conditions earlier this year; the exercise also tested the new ACE command structure with particular emphasis on Allied Forces Northwestern Europe (AFNW). Finally, at the heart of our redefined Main Defense Forces are our new Multinational Corps.

The Combined Joint Task Force, or CJTF Initiative, is another example of how NATO is engaging contemporary challenges with structural implications. The developing concept draws on NATO's existing military structures to build separable but not separate military capabilities that could be employed by NATO or the Western European Union as they attempt to head off or respond to crises. The operational requirements for a CJTF Headquarters are threefold. First, it must be capable of rapid formation when the probability of commitment is high. Second, it must be able to execute a myriad of tasks such as the Command and Control (C2) of land, air, and sea forces; the processing and dissemination of intelligence; and the reception and committal of reinforcements. Finally, a CJTF Headquarters must be capable of sustained operations in a hostile environment. From a personal viewpoint, I believe the development of the CJTF concept must be carried through to a successful conclusion before we can sensibly address the issue of further changes to the current military command structure.

In non-Article V operations, such as the one in and around the former Yugoslavia, military and political dimensions cannot be separated. We require a constant dialogue between the commander with operational control through the chain of command to the political leadership providing the direction. However, the Cold War legacy of large static headquarters with several subordinate levels is not ideally suited to this kind of crisis-management decision making. A CJTF, though, has the potential to provide a much larger measure of flexibility and adaptability.

There are a number of ways in which we can seek to improve and streamline our static headquarters staff structures to meet tomorrow's missions. We must evolve leaner, multinational, joint staff structures that are inherently more malleable and thus better able to accommodate changing circumstances. The achievement of this goal will place a high premium on the use of technology, particularly Automated Data Processing/Communications and Information Systems (ADP/CIS), to accommodate simultaneously routine peacetime staff activities and crisis-management tasks.

Reduced force levels and wider potential missions call not only for streamlined, flexible command structures but also for highly professional, well-trained servicemen with modern equipment. We need to ensure that the Alliance's forces can maintain their qualitative edge. A formation such as the U.K./Netherlands Amphibious Force is a good example of the kind of organization that has the flexibility needed for crisis management and other non-Article V operations. But one does not develop this flexibility by magic; one does it by providing good equipment and intensive training, and this costs money.

If we are to accomplish our multiple missions, we must continuously assess our goals and force requirements and seek to harmonize our missions and resources through military analysis and the development of contingency operation plans. I recognize that the question of sufficient and appropriate resources is ultimately one for our political leaders, but it falls to us, the military leaders, to define military requirements and to explain the risks we will incur if the Alliance fails to meet those requirements. It also falls to us to make the most efficient use of the resources the nations are prepared to assign to us.


The new NATO, I believe, is adapting well to the staggering changes of the past few years. We have traveled a long way in a relatively short while to adapt force structures and command and control arrangements to the new realities of the post-Cold War situation. The process of change, however, is far from over, and I believe the CJTF concept represents a most important key to the future development of NATO's military structure. Meanwhile, we must continue to strive to increase our flexibility and efficiency while being careful not to allow our military forces to drop below a level, both in numbers and expertise, that will undermine NATO's combat power; that power is the bedrock of the military structure. To this end, it is vitally important that we continue with an imaginative and vigorous exercise program.

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