Allied Command Operations

As in the previous NATO Military Command Structure, there are three tiers of command: Strategic, Operational, and the Tactical or Component level. At the first tier or Strategic level, there is now only one Headquarters with a “Strategic” function; Headquarters Allied Command Operations based at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), near Mons/Belgium commanded by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Strategic Command is the science or art of using all of the forces available to the Alliance to execute plans as effectively as possible during peace and war. Headquarters Allied Command Operations performs the Strategic duties previously undertaken by Allied Command Europe (ACE) and Allied Command Atlantic (ACLANT). The latter has now become Allied Command Transformation (ACT).

The command structure beneath SHAPE has been significantly streamlined, with a reduction in the number of headquarters from 32 Command Centres down to 9.

Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE)

 SHAPE is organised using the “J-Structure” organizational approach, this is the same system as used by the majority of Alliance Armed Forces and all the NATO subordinate commands. The J- Elements cover all of the Combat Operating and Support areas. “J” stands for “joint” and means within NATO that people from the 3 core services Army, Air Force and Navy are working together planning and conducting “joint” (land, maritime and air) operations and missions. There are nine Joint-staff branches:

  • J-1 Manpower & Personnel
  • J-2 Intelligence
  • J-3 Operations
  • J-4 Logistics
  • J-5 Plans& Policy
  • J-6 Communication & Information Systems (CIS)
  • J-7 Training & Exercises
  • J-8 Budget & Finance
  • J-9 Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC)

At the top of the ACO structure are the posts of Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) supported by the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR) and the Chief of Staff (COS); all are 4 Star Generals. SACEUR’s position is always assigned to the United States of America , while DSACEUR and COS posts are now permanently assigned to the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany respectively. SACEUR is also the commander of the US European Command (USEUCOM) with its Headquarters located in Stuttgart , Germany . The DSCAEUR is also the European Operational Commander once EU avails herself of NATO assets and capabilities under arrangements known as the “Berlin Plus Agreement”.

A significant change within the Strategic Headquarters is the recent addition of two Deputy Chief of Staff posts, one focusing on Operations and the other concentrating on Support areas. These posts were added to the Headquarters as part of a continuous assessment and monitoring programme that constantly seeks to improve the effectiveness of NATO’s Command and Control structure.