Command Structure

As a result of decisions taken at the 2010 Lisbon Summit, NATO leaders have agreed to far-reaching reforms of the NATO Command Structure (NCS) and the supporting agencies that provide essential capabilities and services to NATO. A range of initiatives are underway to ensure that the Alliance becomes more effective, more engaged and more efficient. The NATO Reform Programme will allow the Alliance to reduce costs and to invest in critical capability areas. NATO Reforms have already begun and they will extend beyond 2011.
NATO's current operational Military Command Structure
There are three tiers of command: strategic, operational, and the tactical level. The command structure is based on functionality rather than geography.

Strategic Level

At the first tier or strategic level, there is the Allied Command Operations (ACO) supported by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) as the single headquarters for operation, near Mons/Belgium and commanded by Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

Operational Level

Allied Joint Force Command (JFCs). Within ACO, the second tier or operational level of command is provided by three JFCs, providing joint operational HQs under the Deployable Joint Staff Element (DJSE) concept if required. JFCs Brunssum and Naples will each be structured and manned to command up to one major joint operation and two smaller joint operations. JFC Lisbon will be able to command up to two smaller joint operations. The Joint Force Command in Brunssum provides the headquarters for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and the Joint Force Command in Naples provides the headquarters for NATO operations in the Balkans, Iraq and Mediterranean. Lisbon provides the headquarters for counter-piracy operations and a focal point for support to the African Union in Somalia.

Deployable Joint Staff Elements (DJSEs). DJSEs are operational level HQ elements designed to be in theatre as the deployed joint staff for an operational level commander. Six DJSEs, at appropriate levels of readiness, are provided by the NATO Command Structure (four) and NATO Force Structure (two). Each DJSE consists of a Joint HQ Forward Element, a Joint Logistics Support Group (JLSG) HQ Element, and a Forward Support Element, in order to enable the required level of jointness and deployability. These elements can be tailored for specific operations and will be enabled with capability packages as required.

Tactical Level

The third tier or tactical level consists of six commands, which provide service-specific – land, maritime or air – headquarters to the operational level. Although these component commands are routinely subordinated to the joint force commanders, they can be allocated to operations under another commander as the need dictates.

Land. Allied Force Commands Heidelberg (Germany) and Madrid (Spain) are tasked, structured and manned to provide two DJSEs each for the ACO operational level. Within means and capabilities, the Allied Force Command HQs will be the land advocates within the NATO Command Structure. That why, Land Component Command HQs are normally provided by Graduated Readiness Forces (Land) HQs from the NATO Force Structure.

Air. Allied Air Commands Izmir (Turkey) and Ramstein (Germany) provide the capability to have Air Component Commands dedicated to meet NATO's level of ambition. These structures also provide the necessary command and control for air policing and the NATO Integrated Air Defence System (NATINADS) in the geographical northern and southern regions of NATO.

Supporting the Allied Air Commands are four static Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCCs) to direct NATO air operations – two static CAOCs in Finderup (Denmark) and Larissa (Greece); and two deployable CAOCs in Udem (Germany) and Poggio Renatico (Italy). If deployed, the parent CAOC will retain a residual capability to maintain standing peacetime functions.

Maritime. Allied Maritime Commands Naples and Northwood are each structured and manned to command and control the maritime components to meet NATO's level of ambition providing Joint Forces Maritime Component Command HQs from their peacetime location. Additionally, the two maritime commands are tasked to execute NATO's maritime standing functions, maritime security operations, military outreach, maritime situational awareness, and to act as the repository of Alliance maritime expertise and ACO's maritime advocates.

The new command structure simplifies command arrangements for NATO operations. While under the previous command structure, the Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina was commanded directly by SHAPE from Mons, under the new structure, operations are commanded from the operational level headquarters, with strategic direction from SHAPE. Thus, the Stabilisation Force (SFOR), which replaced IFOR in December 1996 (and was replaced by a European Union Force (EUFOR) in December 2004) was controlled operationally by the Joint Force Command in Naples and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan by the Joint Force Command in Brunssum.