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NATO Ministers Okay Sweeping Command Changes

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 12, 2003 – NATO defense ministers approved the most extensive command structure revision in the history of the alliance today.

Under the plan, the number of NATO headquarters will drop from 20 to 11 and will place the alliance firmly on the road to counter the threats of the 21st century, NATO officials said.

U.S. officials are pleased with the changes. A senior defense official speaking on background said this will leave NATO forces better organized to conduct joint combined operations. There will be two new strategic commands: Allied Command-Europe will become Allied Command- Operations; Allied Command-Atlantic changes to Allied Command-Transformation.

U.S. Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr. has been nominated as the Supreme Allied Commander-Transformation, which will be headquartered in Norfolk, Va. U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Jones will remain Supreme Allied Commander-Europe; his headquarters will remain the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, but his NATO command will be Allied Command-Operations. Jones' geographic area of operations will also expand.

Below the supreme allied command level will be three joint force commands: Naples, Italy; Brunssum, the Netherlands; and Lisbon, Portugal.

Under the Brunssum headquarters will be three component commanders: the Component Commander-Air will be at Ramstein; CC-Maritime at Northwood, England; and CC-Land at Heidelberg, Germany.

Under the Naples command, the CC-Air will be in Izmir, Turkey; CC-Maritime in Naples; and CC-Land in Madrid, Spain. The Lisbon command will be primarily maritime and will add other components if needed.

Giambastiani also heads U.S. Joint Forces Command, also headquartered in Norfolk. That command leads the U.S. military's push toward transformation and officials expect a lot of synergy from the grouping of the NATO and U.S. commands.

Officials said Allied Command-Transformation will have a significant European footprint. NATO will establish a Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway. The alliance will also build a Joint Force Training Center in Bydgoscz, Poland. An element of the command will be located here as liaison to the Allied Command-Operations.

Officials said there are also prospects for countries to develop centers of excellence in areas such as maritime capabilities and chemical and biological warfare defense capabilities.

NATO officials said the change mirrors developments in the U.S. military.

U.S. officials said the changes finally configure NATO to fight the war on terror and not on its old nemesis, the Soviet Union.

The NATO command structure was originally set up to provide defense for Western Europe in the event of an attack by the Soviet Union. Heavy infantry and armor units were the formations of choice to counter a Soviet land attack. These formations were based near the area they were to defend.

The United States, for example, had 300,000 service members permanently based in Europe at the height of the Cold War. Yearly, the U.S. military practiced deploying heavy divisions from the United States to Europe.

This command structure was fine as long as there was one known enemy poised on the border of Western Europe, officials said.

But times changed. The Soviet Union imploded and the Warsaw Pact broke up. "The NATO command arrangement survived longer than the Soviet Union," quipped one NATO official.

The emphasis is now on creating lethal and highly deployable forces that can be sustained in remote areas. During the Warsaw NATO meeting in 2001, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld proposed creating a NATO Reaction Force. NATO leaders officially adopted the idea at the Prague Summit in November 2002.

Deployability will challenge the NATO members. Allies must invest in strategic and tactical airlift capabilities, said U.S. officials. Fast-sealift capabilities must also be developed and acquired. American officials said they have seen encouraging signs that the NATO allies are investing in these capabilities.

Allies will not need the mass armies of the past, and personnel are expensive. U.S. officials said the allies can finance many needed capabilities enhancements by shifting funds from personnel costs.

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