ACT was created as part of a reorganisation of NATO's Command Structure in 2002. This was the first time in NATO's history that a strategic command was solely dedicated to "transformation", demonstrating the importance placed by the NATO Nations on the roles of transformation and development as continuous and essential drivers for change – that will ensure the relevance of the Alliance in a rapidly evolving global security environment.
ACT is organised around four principal functions:
- Strategic thinking;
- Development of capabilities;
- Education, training and exercises; and
- Co-operation and Engagement.
These functions are reflected in the composition of ACT which is comprised of the Norfolk Headquarters and three subordinate entities: One in Norway (Joint Warfare Centre), one in Poland (Joint Force Training Centre) and one in Portugal (Joint Analysis & Lessons Learned Centre). ACT also includes a SACT representative at NATO Headquarters in Brussels and at the Pentagon outside Washington D.C., an ACT Staff Element at the Allied Command Operations Headquarters, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) and a shared Military Partnership Directorate (MPD) with ACO – also located at SHAPE.
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Additionally, NATO's other education and training facilities and nationally-run entities (which are not part of the NCS) also co-ordinate with ACT. This includes the NATO Defense College in Italy, the NATO School in Germany, the NATO Communications and Information Systems School (NCIS) in Portugal (from 2016 or 2017 – currently located in Italy), and the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC) in Greece, as well as the nationally-run Centres of Excellence. Other NATO Agencies also interact regularly with ACT on matters of common concern.
Responsibilities of ACT Entities
Strategic Plans & Policy (SPP)
The main responsibility of Strategic Plans & Policy is threefold: To develop and promote issues of strategic importance to transformation; articulate policies to direct Alliance transformation efforts; and support the development of NATO strategic-level concepts which clarify how transformation may be achieved.
Capability Development (CapDev)
This is a broad area which covers the entire capability development process, i.e. from the moment a need is identified to the production phase when a new capability is actually developed for the Alliance. Moreover, CapDev provides a major contribution to the NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP) improving interoperability, deployability and sustainability of Alliance forces. The Directorate focusses on science & technology and maintains collaboration with industry to infuse innovative ideas and transformative principles into NATO capability development processes and products. In addition, CapDev establishes and maintains a transformation network and constitutes a hub within the NATO organisation and between the Member Nations to promote continuous reform of NATO forces, structures and processes.
Joint Force Training (JFT) directs and co-ordinates all ACT activities that conduct individual and collective training and exercises to continually provide the Alliance with improved capabilities and enable its forces to undertake the full spectrum of Alliance missions.
SACT's Representative in Europe in Brussels, Belgium
The SACT Representative in Europe (SACTREPEUR) is located at NATO Headquarters (NATO HQ) in Brussels, Belgium. As the name indicates, the SACTREPEUR represents SACT at NATO HQ, acting as SACT's representative to the Military Committee and attending all relevant meetings in committees, working groups and other strategic-level assemblies. SACTREPEUR has the co-ordinating authority for all ACT engagements with NATO HQ and maintains strong links with the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) through his counterpart - the SACEUR Representative (SACEUREP) - also based at NATO HQ.
ACT Staff Element Europe in Mons, Belgium
ACT Staff Element Europe (SEE) is co-located with the ACO Headquarters SHAPE in Mons, Belgium. It deals primarily with defence and resource planning issues and its implementation. In doing so, it interacts with different NATO entities: The International Military Staff (IMS) and the International Staff (IS) at NATO HQ, ACO, other NATO bodies and agencies, as well as individual Allies.
ACT Liaison Office to the Pentagon, outside Washington D.C., USA
To help enhance NATO transformation, this office promotes effective links and direct co-ordination between ACT and the US Joint Staff and other departments in the US military Headquarters (Pentagon) outside Washington D.C. Through strong links with US military entities, the office establishes and maintains working relations with other governmental and non-governmental bodies in and around D.C.
Military Partnership Directorate in Mons, Belgium and Norfolk, USA
The Military Partnership Directorate (MPD) provides direction, control, co-ordination, support and assessment of military co-operation activities across the Alliance. It directs and oversees all non-NATO country involvement in military partnership programmes, events and activities – and co-ordinates and implements NATO plans and programmes in the area of partnership. The MPD is shared with ACO, and is located at SHAPE in Mons, Belgium with a Staff Element at HQ SACT in Norfolk, Virginia.
The Joint Warfare Centre's (JWC) main task is to train NATO forces at the operational level to ensure they remain interoperable and fully integrated. Its principal mission is the training of the NATO Response Force (NRF) Headquarters' elements and NRF Component Headquarters' elements.
The JWC also seeks to improve NATO's capabilities and interoperability by promoting and conducting NATO's joint and combined experimentation, analysis and doctrine development processes.
The JWC assists ACT's work with new technologies, modelling and simulation. It also conducts training on, as well as works on the development of new concepts and doctrine for joint and combined staffs. In addition, it performs collective staff training for partner countries and new NATO members. JWC assists ACO in evaluating joint force training and has formal links with both Strategic Commands as well as national and multinational training centres.
The Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) focuses on joint and combined training of NATO forces at the tactical level. It particularly focuses on the conduct of tactical training to achieve joint interoperability at key interfaces - a critically important area identified during military combat in Afghanistan. The Centre provides support and expertise in the training of Alliance and partner nations' forces, runs courses, conducts training and provides advice to a variety of audiences. It co-operates with national training centres, including Partnership for Peace (PfP) Training Centres and Centres of Excellence to ensure the application of NATO standards and doctrine in combined and joint fields. As a priority, JFTC provides expertise to help NRF joint and component commanders ensure that each NRF rotation achieves a high level of interoperability, flexibility and extensive training – to be combat ready at the beginning of a cycle of duty.
The main role of the Joint Analysis & Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) is to reinforce the process of continuous improvement of concepts, doctrine and capabilities within NATO – through the transformation process – based on lessons learned from operations, training, exercises and experimentation. As such, JALLC conducts the analysis of real-world military operations, training, exercises and NATO Concept Development and Experimentation (CD&E) collective experiments – and is responsible for establishing and maintaining a lessons learned database. It ensures that key factors and lessons identified are characterised and appropriate action is proposed. The JALLC therefore contributes directly to improving operations, through the identification of shortfalls in capabilities, by delivering relevant, timely and useable lessons learned products.
ACT and other entities
There are direct linkages between ACT and entities which are not part of the NATO Command Structure, such as NATO educational facilities and agencies.
NATO's educational and training facilities
At the political-strategic level, the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy is NATO's foremost academic institution. It contributes to Alliance objectives by assuming its role as a major centre of education, study and research on transatlantic security issues. Founded in 1951, the NATO Defense College has seen several thousand senior officers, diplomats and other officials pass through its doors. The college's main tasks are to help prepare both civilian and military leaders for senior appointments within NATO, conduct outreach activities directed at partner countries and provide fresh perspectives to NATO decision-makers. It also provides an annual venue, through the Conference of Commandants of Defence Academies, for an exchange of views on best practices across the Alliance and beyond.
The NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany operates under the auspices of ACT, but also supplies training support to operations. It is NATO's key operational-level training facility, providing short-term, multidisciplinary individual training – tailored to military and civilian personnel from NATO, PfP, Mediterranean Dialogue and other, so called "global" partners. As part of its support to NATO operations, the NATO School has hosted personnel from non-NATO countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, it serves as a facilitator for the harmonisation of programmes with the Partnership Training and Education Centres.
Currently located in Latina, Italy (moving to Oeiras near Lisbon, Portugal in 2016/17), the NATO Communications and Information Systems School (NCISS) is one of the Alliance's key training institutions. It provides advanced training to civilian and military personnel from NATO and non-NATO countries in the operation and maintenance of the Alliance's communications and information systems. Like the NATO School, NCISS falls under the guidance of ACT and provides support to NATO-led operations.
The NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC) in Souda Bay, Greece is a multi-nationally manned facility. It conducts combined training for NATO forces to execute surface, sub-surface and aerial surveillance, and special operations activities in support of maritime interdiction operations.
The role of these Centres is to provide high quality education and training to the Euro-Atlantic community. The Centres are accredited by NATO but funded nationally or multi-nationally outside of the organisation's command structure. Their relationship with the organisation is formalised through memoranda of understanding (MOUs). The first Centres of Excellence to be fully accredited by NATO were the Joint Air Power Competence Centre in Germany and the Defence Against Terrorism Centre of Excellence in Turkey. Many more have been established since then.