The ACO mission is to prepare for, plan and conduct military operations in order to meet Alliance political objectives. This not only means preparation, planning and conduct of current operations but also rising to the challenge of the next operation; whether this is collective defence, or to deal with the next crisis, either on the periphery of Alliance territory or at greater distance, which may directly affect the security of Alliance members.
There are a variety of tools available to the Alliance in order to provide an immediate response to the next operation, whether this is proactively when there is warning of an emerging crisis, or reactively in the event of a natural disaster, or surprise terrorist attack, in order to mitigate the consequences.
In the event that the challenge requires a short warning proactive or reactive complex joint response the crisis management instrument of choice would be the NATO Response Force (NRF). Should a purely maritime response be required, there are several standing maritime forces available under the command of the Allied Maritime Commands. A defensive or offensive air response could be provided through the NATO Integrated Air Defence System (NATIADS) or long-range aircraft respectively. There is also a specialist Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear response available as either a stand-alone capability or as part of the NRF.
Should there be sufficient warning of the requirement for forces, an alternative to use of one of the immediate response capabilities would be to force generate a tailored force for the specific mission from the capabilities nations were willing to make available from the NATO Force Structure.
In preparation for the next operation ACO assisted by ACT also provides the mechanism for standardisation and integration of the multinational forces, whether these belong to Alliance nations or partners, for either the immediate response capability or prior to force generation from the NATO Force Structure.