NATO CJTF Doctrine: The Naked Emperor


© 1998 Thomas Cooke

From Parameters, Winter 1998, pp. 124-36.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has become an entity in search of a mission. For almost 50 years, NATO members joked privately that the Alliance existed for three reasons: to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down. The Alliance had a clear mission, and developed, practiced, and maintained a collective defense capability whereby an attack against one was an attack against all.[1] But the rules have changed. Moscow has a voice in European affairs, the United States continues to debate the merits of maintaining a robust European presence, and the German economy will soon provide the backbone for a common European currency. NATO's traditional nemesis, the Warsaw Pact, is gone, and by all accounts no legitimate external threat exists to Western European security for the mid to long term. Collective defense rhetoric now rings hollow to some, and NATO policymakers are trying to justify a large and expensive military capability that some believe is irrelevant.

All its members agree that NATO provides a vital forum with which to discuss regional squabbles; without it, would Greece and Turkey be at war? But as the members sell their shares of the post-Cold War peace dividend, they face chronic high unemployment, ever-increasing social costs, and the uncertainties of regional government controlled by as yet untested organizations. NATO's military and political leaders know that unless they identify a valid threat against which the military can prepare, and articulate a strategic concept that involves all current and prospective members, some nations may be inclined to reduce their commitment to the Alliance. The paradox, of course, is that Eastern European states have been clamoring for admission to the Alliance even as the original members confront post-Cold War social, political, and economic changes on the continent.

Fortunately for NATO's planners, the breakup of the former Yugoslavia provided a new threat. The Bosnia-Herzegovina civil war clearly menaced regional security, and the large number of refugees fleeing the region was overburdening Western Europe's social systems. The situation dictated that someone "do something," and the UN responded. Lack of success prompted a response from NATO nations operating together as an alliance. NATO deployed forces out-of-area for the first time and established a presence in the Balkans to separate the warring parties and provide a modicum of stability. NATO used the concept of a Combined Joint Task Force as a model to conduct the deployment, and has since embraced the model as the likely means by which similar operations will be conducted in the future.

It is debatable, however, whether NATO can use its Bosnia experience as a bellwether of its ability to change fundamentally the way in which it conducts military operations. The joint task force concept, which originated within national armed forces, was never intended for international coalitions that must achieve unanimity before deciding to act. Unfortunately, NATO appears to have accepted the joint task force concept as the only method for conducting operations across the full spectrum of possible scenarios. There are simpler ways, but NATO's civilian leaders aren't listening. This article argues that because of national concerns and agendas, the consensus nature of NATO decisionmaking, and the requirement to retain a robust collective defense capability in Western Europe, NATO may be hard pressed to conduct an operation with a combined joint task force to meet strategic and operational objectives and timelines. There are alternatives to explore before embracing a doctrine that may well prove ineffective, costly, and potentially dangerous if ever implemented in a major conflict.

The Combined Joint Task Force Concept

Borrowing heavily from the US Joint Task Force concept,[2] NATO envisions a combined joint task force[3] as an ad hoc organization built from an existing headquarters to deal with a specific situation for a relatively short period (less than two years). Sufficient forces (equipment, personnel, logistics support, and related assets) would be dispatched from a military command to complete the mission. "Sending" organizations would retain adequate residual capabilities to ensure they could still perform their primary NATO defensive missions if necessary. Once the situation had been resolved, so the concept goes, the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) would disband and its assets would return to parent organizations.

Any military operation that combines different services is a challenge, and adding different nations to the process greatly increases the degree of difficulty. A combined joint task force operation would face several hurdles not common to unilateral or multilateral task forces. Nations that have unilaterally conducted operations with multinational support understand their intricacy and difficulty. The United States and other countries have collectively conducted several unilateral joint task force operations, many of which involved participation by other nations. To call them truly "combined," however, is a misnomer. In reality they were primarily unilateral actions with international support. Even Desert Shield and Desert Storm, considered by many a modern "CJTF" operation, was a US-dominated operation in which participating nations were first divided between regional and other forces in the command structure and then were assigned discrete operational sectors or lanes.[4]

The scenarios within which NATO anticipates deploying a Combined Joint Task Force range from humanitarian relief to peace enforcement. Through a series of command post exercises, NATO hopes to prove its theoretical ability to respond across the entire spectrum of potential operations. Its current draft out-of-area deployment doctrine appears relatively straightforward, with each functional role clearly outlined (operations, communications, logistics, intelligence). In reality, however, a CJTF deployment may be difficult to conduct. There is little doubt NATO will prove physically capable of deploying out of area. What is questionable is whether NATO can form, equip, and deploy a force out-of-area within the specified timelines.

NATO points to its current involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina as an example of its ability to mount, deploy, and sustain an out-of-area operation. After NATO accepted the CJTF concept at the January 1994 Brussels Heads of State Summit, it began planning for potential involvement in the Balkans. Use of the combined joint task force concept was undoubtedly fueled by the reality that the situation required immediate action, and NATO had no other doctrine to use for planning to deploy to the region. In December 1995, NATO began Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, replacing the United Nations Protection Force. The Implementation Force, with the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps from Germany coordinating land operations, was replaced in October 1996 by NATO's Central European land component command (LANDCENT), which assumed command of the follow-on Stabilization Force.

Parallels have been drawn between US combined and joint doctrine and NATO's intervention in Bosnia. Command and control elements were indeed developed and deployed from an established headquarters, and the mission was initially intended to last for a finite period. However, meaningful similarities between doctrine and NATO operations in the Balkans stop there. There are three substantial differences between NATO's operations in the Balkans and the doctrinal basis for creating a Combined Joint Task Force from the assets of an existing NATO headquarters. The doctrine requires the parent (or mounting) headquarters to retain sufficient capability for its primary mission. LANDCENT, however, has been effectively consumed by its Bosnian responsibilities. In addition, NATO took over responsibility from an established organization (the UN) rather than deploying as the initial force. Finally, because the length of the Bosnian deployment is now open-ended, continuing to use the term CJTF to describe NATO's role in the Balkans is inappropriate; a combined joint task force was intended to be an ad hoc solution to an immediate problem of relatively short duration. NATO's current open-ended involvement in the Balkans needs a different justification and designation.

NATO's Combined Joint Task Force Concept

The US joint task force concept is but the starting point for NATO doctrine related to the establishment and operation of a combined joint task force. NATO's unique political requirements place potential constraints on deployments that national operations would not encounter. First and most significant, NATO requires unanimity before even rudimentary deliberate planning can begin. While national debates might preclude actually deploying forces into a potential hotspot, national military staffs would be guilty of gross negligence if they did not initiate planning once an event hit CNN. In NATO, by contrast, before planning staffs (comprised of multinational staff officers) can begin meaningful deliberations, an official warning order must be issued from Brussels. Second, a NATO out-of-area operation would require substantial international augmentation. Unlike a national deployment, where planners have instant access to logistics and personnel data, NATO planners would have to rely on their counterparts in each member nation to identify assets that could be made available for the operation. To further complicate planning, non-NATO countries, with varying degrees of equipment compatibility and training, may participate. Finally, NATO planners must withhold sufficient military capability from their crisis operational planning to satisfy mutually agreed requirements for collective defense.

In addition to the specific conditions under which a NATO Combined Joint Task Force must operate, several key assumptions have been written into the draft doctrine, some driven by political rather than military requirements. The primary assumption concerns the issue of a parent headquarters. Three existing NATO organizations are currently nominated to serve as potential parent headquarters capable of mounting an operation through a combined joint task force. They are Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT) in Brunssum, the Netherlands; Allied Forces South (AFSOUTH) in Naples, Italy; and Supreme Allied Command Atlantic (SACLANT) in Norfolk, Virginia. Each of these headquarters has been tasked to identify and train a core nucleus staff capable of deploying within seven days of notification. This group, less than half of the personnel required to manage a robust intervention, would be expected to set up the basic combined joint staff elements in preparation for the arrival of the remaining staff.

The bulk of remaining staff personnel would come from other NATO staff elements, national organizations, or both. They could arrive as individuals or as part of a predetermined functional module (the doctrine remains vague on which is preferred[5]). In theory, individual augmentees would have been selected by job description in the functions where they normally served. They would know from the onset of their assignment their susceptibility for CJTF deployment. At least once every two years, the parent headquarters would bring the entire staff together (its own cadre and augmentees from other sources) for a command post exercise, ironing out procedures and affording participants the opportunity to work together at least once during their tour of duty (personnel normally serve three-year tours on a NATO staff).[6]

On paper, it all looks feasible. One of three pre-selected NATO headquarters receives a warning order to establish a temporary headquarters to deal with a specific short-term issue, ranging from a humanitarian relief operation to full combat footing. Within seven days, a trained cadre assembles and establishes the basis for a combined joint task force. The parent headquarters has identified the basic equipment needed; the collective logistics and manpower pool of NATO will provide the bulk of the equipment for the CJTF and up to 75 percent of the personnel. Within two weeks, the staff is to be established and coordinating whatever military operation is required.

Execution of the concept will be problematic at best. The question remains whether NATO can assemble and deploy such a staff in sufficient time and with sufficient capability to respond to a specific crisis scenario while retaining enough capability at home to mind the store. A close examination of the general categories within the draft doctrine illustrates many of the challenges NATO must overcome before a CJTF deployment could be conducted effectively.

Staff Size and Augmentation

Perhaps the most critical aspect of deploying a combined joint task force is the likely size and composition of the headquarters. Supporting a multinational military coalition will require a large and capable staff. Several nations will provide representatives from their respective services, all of whom will be required to be fully conversant in a myriad of functional areas. The CJTF doctrine specifically addresses staff composition through a "nucleus staff," a core cadre around which the complete staff would form. The parent headquarters should subsequently train its deployable cadre to a "worst-case scenario" standard to ensure that all potential contingencies are considered. Finally, after identifying the nucleus requirement, the parent headquarters must ensure that its organization has sufficient residual capability to perform its normal functions once the nucleus deploys.

The doctrine does not prescribe a size or joint service mix for the nucleus staff. When Allied Forces Central Europe conducted the first exercise of a CJTF operation in November 1997, its headquarters filled one-quarter (approximately 100) of the 400 required CJTF staff positions.[7] Whether 25 percent is sufficient to ensure continuity remains a matter of opinion, and one exercise offers only a limited sample for evaluation. Some officers expressed reservations regarding the small nucleus staff, and opined that based on their national JTF experiences, up to 70 percent of the staff should be provided by the parent headquarters. The problem is that providing that high a percentage of nucleus personnel would adversely affect the residual capabilities of the parent headquarters. A balance must be sought to ensure adequate staff representation in both the deployed task force and the parent headquarters.

Once the nucleus staff is identified, remaining staff positions must be identified. Augmentees garnered from NATO staffs and, if necessary, directly from the contributing nations will fill these positions, identified by job description and required expertise. During the force generation phase, the parent headquarters will offer these positions to other NATO staffs and the member nations--in essence, allowing them to "bid" on them for fill. Again, the doctrine anticipates that positions will be filled either by individual augmentees or by groups of individuals skilled in specific functional areas.

Experience shows that individual augmentation causes unique problems. Augmentees are often those personnel who could be spared by the providing organization, not necessarily those best qualified to fill the position. In addition, unless they are identified in advance, individual augmentees would almost certainly have little or no prior CJTF training, requiring significant training upon arrival. In many cases in Bosnia, augmentees have been selected as an available "warm body"; expertise, while desirable, has not always been insisted upon.

Modular augmentation would theoretically overcome the disadvantages of integrating individuals into a functioning staff section. Modules in theory would provide a core of trained personnel within a certain discipline--such as logistics, intelligence, or medical support--that could "hit the ground running" with minimal train-up required. The downside of modular augmentation lies in its singular focus. If an entire functional capability is provided as a module, the capability will be missing from the initial nucleus staff until the sending headquarters or nation releases the module for NATO use. In addition, since the module would be from an external source (another NATO headquarters or a national capability) it would likely not be available for the routine staff training that is common to any large operational headquarters. CJTF training for the module, if it were to be carried out at all, would therefore almost certainly fall to the sending organization, possibly interfering with that organization's own routine training and mission requirements.

Currently NATO proposes to select augmentees from NATO staffs and the contributing nations to fill Combined Joint Task Force staff positions. Not only would this approach ensure that a pool of personnel would be available in a crisis, it would also increase the probability that they could receive training in whatever skill they would be required to fill. This approach, however, has several potential pitfalls. It is currently an article of faith that nations will agree in advance to fill a CJTF staff position without knowing the type, location, and duration of the mission. Nations may be reluctant to fill NATO assignments knowing their personnel would be susceptible to deployment with as little as one week's notice. There is also no agreement on how to train these CJTF personnel or what percentage of training costs, including time away from the staff officer's assigned duty, should be borne by the providing organization. If the parent headquarters provides the training, the augmentees will be absent from their home stations when attending the training. If the supporting and sending organizations are responsible for Combined Joint Task Force training, the priority assigned to providing training to individuals in various locations throughout Europe will very likely be low.

Another potential pitfall is whether a CJTF commander will actually receive the promised augmentation. Some nations limit the way in which their personnel may deploy; political sensitivities could preclude some national personnel from deploying to a particular region or country. The Bosnia experience reveals that many positions remain vacant despite national assurances they would be filled. In essence, no CJTF commander would be certain how his staff would be populated or trained until after it was formed and deployed. The probability that a military staff so constituted could operate effectively upon arrival in an operational area is very low, even before taking into consideration the language, cultural, educational, and personality differences unique to a multinational headquarters.


Using both Bosnia and the November 1997 exercise Allied Effort as models, a worst-case joint task force scenario would require at least 300 computer terminals. This does not include the innumerable copiers, fax machines, overhead projectors, telephones (both secure and non-secure), and associated electronics essential to any headquarters. This equipment would be in addition to that already resident within the parent headquarters facility and represents a substantial funding commitment. Software to support the information systems must also be procured and licensed, and--most important--be compatible. There would be no guarantee that any substantial number of arriving staff personnel would be familiar with the hardware or the software unless a vigorous training program had been followed.

Any multinational deployments today would immediately run into compatibility problems with its "borrowed" automation assets. There is as yet no NATO standard for computer hardware and software,[8] and systems remain frustratingly diverse. Peacetime interoperability is currently problematic because while some headquarters have software upgrades, others still operate with older versions. In peacetime this situation is an annoyance; in an actual operation it could be catastrophic. The current plethora of systems could delay vital information transfers between headquarters in the early stages of a deployment. In some cases, the incompatibility is due to contractual obligations that preclude embracing new technologies even though the current standard is known to be inadequate.

Even if NATO collectively agreed on automation equipment systems--a daunting task in itself--the problem would remain. Support from non-NATO troop-contributing nations is anticipated in CJTF doctrine. Whether systems will be compatible will depend on which nations participate. Equipment routinely used by a non-NATO troop-contributing nation may differ from that employed by NATO troops and therefore be incompatible. A parent headquarters may have to provide complete equipment suites to certain participants just to ensure a minimal degree of compatibility. This would both increase logistical requirements and complicate pre-deployment planning since these requirements could not be foreseen. The lack of standardized equipment also poses unique training challenges. Augmentees must be trained to use equipment before arrival; therefore, they must be afforded the ability to practice in garrison.[9] The problem is exacerbated when participating nations do not have the equipment available for training.

Equipment problems can be solved, but the solution may be cost-prohibitive. It is a political decision whether NATO purchases (or at least obligates funds to lease) the equipment necessary to fully equip a deployed headquarters. Even if all 16 NATO nations (or 19 with the accession of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary) agree to a standard and allocate the funding to buy equipment, technology advances could quickly render the equipment obsolete. Also, if equipment is leased for a deployment, the contractor would have no assurance when it would be returned, in what condition it would return, or even if it would be returned, risks that would increase the cost of a lease. A proposed solution is to strip the parent headquarters and backfill the missing equipment by local acquisitions. This would solve the immediate deployment problem, but it is an expensive solution that would also place a considerable strain on the residual staff capability in the parent headquarters for at least the short term.

National Agendas

There is no guarantee that national support would arrive at the task force headquarters as promised. "Tip" O'Neill's remark that "all politics is local" translates into every NATO language. Each sovereign NATO nation reserves the right of "first refusal" to requests such as those associated with forming a CJTF. Even though a nation agrees in advance to fill a specific augmentee position, there is no guarantee that national interests will not subsequently override NATO commitments. Political realities could result in a nation balking when asked to provide its personnel. Nations could agree to support a NATO-led CJTF and thereby allow the Alliance to proceed, yet refuse for national reasons to provide personnel or the associated materiel support. In addition, depending on the venue and scenario, a host nation might prohibit certain NATO members from entering its country due to long-standing historical or cultural animosities.

Finally, even if a nation has the political will to honor its commitment to a combined joint task force, there is no guarantee it will have the capability to provide support when called upon. For example, it is well known and accepted that any NATO deployment would rely heavily on US lift capability. If the United States were already engaged in military contingencies based on its own national interests, support for a NATO-led CJTF could receive lesser priority.

Residual Capability

At the heart of CJTF doctrine lies the ability to conduct an out-of-area operation and still conduct business more or less as usual at any of the three headquarters that could be directed to establish the task force. Each potential parent headquarters must determine whether it can truly deploy the personnel and equipment necessary to support a CJTF and simultaneously perform its residual collective defense requirements. These additional tasks could include more than just managing the planning for a collective defense mission. With personnel deployed in a CJTF environment, additional duties may arise, including such responsibilities as family support to deployed personnel, additional communications and logistics requirements, and potential personnel augmentation requirements.[10] Few NATO nations have the flexibility in such matters afforded the United States by the National Guard and service reserve forces.

Regardless of the level of interest in an out-of-area deployment, NATO's charter requires that the primary focus remain on collective defense. All major commands and headquarters must retain their ability to support operations "including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."[11] This is clearly outlined in the draft CJTF doctrine: collective defense requirements remain first priority. In fact, the doctrine states that in the event of a collective defense requirement, each headquarters can assume for planning purposes that the CJTF operation would be recalled. Therefore, no parent headquarters may organize, equip, and deploy a CJTF to the degree that it jeopardizes its own ability to conduct collective defense operations. If an organization must curtail its normal mission to provide and sustain a combined joint task force, it is by definition no longer a parent headquarters; de facto it has been deployed out-of-area to conduct another operation.

Each NATO organization is staffed with sufficient personnel to support its collective defense mission, but there is little redundancy within any NATO headquarters. Under current and anticipated manning, these staffs cannot simultaneously conduct routine activities and support a deployed headquarters without some degradation of residual capability. Therefore, unless NATO approves increased personnel strengths (unlikely in the current environment of fiscal constraints), each parent headquarters must identify and prioritize the tasks it anticipates during a CJTF deployment.

Some tasks normally conducted in peacetime will almost certainly have to be curtailed or suspended during the deployment of a combined joint task force. The parent headquarters staff will have little choice but to seek the commander's approval to make those adjustments, a command prerogative that cannot be delegated. Because additional tasks will emerge to support a CJTF deployment, the commander will require a careful delineation of all headquarters tasks, including a risk assessment regarding the effects of curtailed or suspended tasks. The parent headquarters might also require substantial temporary reorganization to ensure that vital missions are covered. The challenge will be to plan for these requirements in advance, based on an unknown scenario for which the planning staffs have little or no previous experience.


History has shown that national joint task force deployments are problematic. The NATO protocols compound those problems and add new ones. Each NATO nation conducts military operations upon approval from its own civilian government, while a NATO operation must secure the approval of all its members. A national JTF would have the benefit of common equipment and training, a proven logistics infrastructure, a reliable manpower pool, and unity of purpose. A NATO operation might have to deal with incompatible equipment, disparate training, language difficulties, widely divergent military standards and capabilities, individualized national logistical infrastructures, uncertain manning, and a contingency hedge to withhold a significant portion of the task force's planned military capability to support a higher priority mission. Under these conditions, any deployment decision must be carefully considered--a luxury NATO might not have in a crisis. These characteristics do not necessarily preclude success. In light of the additional constraints under which a NATO deployment would operate, however, it is prudent to consider alternative methods by which to conduct such operations.

A truly combined joint staff has never rapidly deployed into an immature theater as the lead element to coordinate military operations. Even in Bosnia, the Stabilization Force replaced the Intervention Force, which itself was the follow-on to the UN Protection Force. In an immature theatre where success is uncertain, planning is rudimentary, and the infrastructure is "come as you are," the best advice might be to apply the "KISS" principle--"Keep It Simple, Soldier."

One solution would be for NATO to organize, equip, train, and sustain a rapid response headquarters staff. Nations would agree in advance to provide trained personnel with specialized capabilities and talents to billets specifically allocated for deployment out-of-area. Certain redundancies could be built into the structure to provide replacements if political sensitivities precluded certain nationalities from deploying into specific areas. The organization would report directly to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, thereby relieving other major headquarters of the responsibility to serve as a parent organization. There would be little train-up period in a crisis, as all members of the headquarters would be familiar with the equipment and protocols. Best of all, no other headquarters would suffer the loss of key personnel.

The problem with this option is cost in both personnel and equipment. NATO can ill afford to add billets to its already substantial manning, and would likely be unwilling to establish a new headquarters so soon after consolidating and eliminating much of its Cold War headquarters structure. In addition, the Alliance probably would be reluctant to buy equipment that could conceivably sit on the shelf unused until it became obsolete. Feasible deployment options should therefore be developed from existing capabilities.

While existing headquarters cannot afford to deploy a combined joint task force with their current staffs and equipment, NATO has demonstrated its ability to adapt to an existing structure and assume command and control of the mission. Out-of-area expeditionary operations clearly reflect the inherent danger in trying to mesh dissimilar elements into a coordinated operation. In instances where military operations were launched in response to a rapidly unfolding crisis (e.g., Grenada, Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Albania), without exception a lead nation deployed an initial core staff that was later augmented with other nations' contributions. The number of countries participating, and the size of their augmentations, were on an "as-available" basis, determined in no small part by their respective national priorities. As a consequence, from Operations Torch and Overlord in World War II to Grenada, Somalia, and the Persian Gulf, one characteristic was common to all combined joint operations: one nation dominated. The "lead nation" concept may be the best and simplest solution to NATO's search for a way to manage out-of-area operations.

The recent Italian-led deployment into Albania provides a contemporary example of how NATO forces could respond to an out-of-area crisis. In 1997 Italy led a multinational force into Albania to restore order and stem the flow of refugees across the Adriatic Sea. While international debate centered on whether the Albanian crisis could escalate the troubles within the Balkans, the Italians acted unilaterally and provided the backbone for a multinational task force (which included personnel from some other NATO nations) into the country. Swift reaction by this "coalition of the willing" stabilized the country, and within a few months the troops were able to withdraw.

The "lead nation" concept could provide the rapid crisis-response capability NATO lacks. If politicians could not decide in a timely manner to support an out-of-area deployment, troops from a NATO nation could be dispatched rapidly to support whatever contingency arose. Each NATO nation, unencumbered by the requirement to await consensus before acting, could provide support as its national interests dictated without violating its NATO responsibilities. When (or if) NATO reached agreement to provide military support to the developing situation, a NATO headquarters could be formed around the lead nation's headquarters. Once NATO had an infrastructure in place, the lead nation could reduce its national assets to its proportional share and turn over responsibility to NATO. Basic intelligence data, a command and control network, and a familiar logistical infrastructure would be the legacy from the lead nation. Interoperability problems, while they will always be present in a combined operation, would be minimized.

With the "lead nation" concept, NATO would not have to establish cadre positions within its existing headquarters. Since several countries already possess rapid deployment forces, there would be no reason to maintain certain staff positions at a high state of readiness. Also, regardless of which nations participated, the initial headquarters elements would be operating with NATO-compatible equipment. There would be no concerns regarding personnel shortages because one nation would initially provide whatever personnel were needed for the mission. Similarly, logistics would be greatly simplified because a single nation would be using its organic materiel. Where capabilities were found lacking, bilateral or multilateral arrangements between several nations could serve until NATO assumed full responsibility for the deployment.


The combined joint task force concept simply has too many moving parts for it to be a workable option for a political entity such as NATO. If one element of the concept fails to materialize (political will, personnel, equipment, rapid decisionmaking), the entire mission could fail. The "lead nation" concept deserves closer NATO scrutiny, not only because it has proved effective in the past, but also because NATO has already done it. In Bosnia, the IFOR headquarters relieved the elements of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps that had deployed early--which while multinational, was in reality a UK lead nation force--on a one-for-one basis through a relatively seamless process. While the Bosnia experience has provided military planners many useful lessons that could apply to combined joint task forces, it is probably prudent to identify the differences between the Bosnia experience and the emerging combined joint task force doctrine before concluding that the concept is both necessary and sufficient to meet NATO's out-of-area requirements.

Without alternatives to the combined joint task force concept, in the event of a true crisis NATO could find itself at a serious disadvantage. NATO doctrine for the concept contains many unanswered questions and has a long way to go before it could be considered a valid option for out-of-area deployment.

The CJTF emperor has begun to parade through the town square. Perhaps he is resplendent in his attire and his subjects are correct to cheer as he passes by. But if he is naked, it is incumbent upon us to tell him so.


1. Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty states in part, "If an armed attack [against one or more of the Parties] occurs, each of [the Parties] . . . will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually, and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area." North Atlantic Treaty, 24 August 1949.

2. A Joint Task Force is "a joint force . . . [which] may be established on a geographical area or functional basis when the mission has a specific limited objective." Joint Pub 0-2, 25 February 1995, p. xvi. Emphasis added.

3. For the purpose of this article, the primary difference between JTF and CJTF operations is the latter's multinational composition, which justifies the addition of the word "combined."

4. In reality, Desert Shield/Storm does not meet NATO criteria as a CJTF. The command and control element was not part of a larger parent headquarters, and no attempt was made to maintain a residual capability within CENTCOM, the "parent" headquarters. However, because of multinational participation there is a tendency to categorize the force that won the Gulf War as a Combined Joint Task Force.

5. Recent recommendations to the draft doctrine by senior policymakers state a preference for the module concept. That concept, however, has not yet been subjected to trials in any exercises and therefore remains unproven.

6. Supporting a two-year training cycle for each of the three nominated parent headquarters creates a massive augmentation requirement. To ease the operational tempo and the augmentation burden, NATO is proposing a provisional four-year training cycle for each CJTF deployment exercise. However, since NATO staff officers normally serve three-year tours, this change in current exercise policy would result in up to a third of each headquarters staff never participating in a CJTF deployment exercise.

7. Coincidentally, this figure consumed approximately 25 percent of available personnel within AFCENT, which called into question the headquarters' ability to adequate satisfy its residual Article V capability. During exercise Allied Effort, the decision was made to focus on supporting the deployed CJTF rather than on the potential residual requirements.

8. NATO uses the Standardization Agreement (STANAG) to ensure conformity between nations.

9. In the case of intelligence, for example, the Linked Operations Intelligence Centers Europe (LOCE) is the backbone system for transferring data between headquarters. However, the software is particularly system-unique; if analysts do not routinely use LOCE, their skills rapidly atrophy.

10. Because augmentation would be a NATO-wide responsibility, the parent headquarters could be called upon to provide personnel from its residual staff.

11. NATO Handbook, 1989 edition, p. 14.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Cooke is a Military Intelligence officer currently serving as an intelligence staff officer at NATO's Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT) headquarters, in Brunssum, the Netherlands. Lieutenant Colonel Cooke is a graduate of St. John's University (New York), holds an M.S. in strategic intelligence from the Defense Intelligence College in Washington, D.C., and is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College. He has held intelligence staff assignments with the 5th Infantry Division at Fort Polk, La., with Atlantic Command, at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and with XVIII Airborne Corps (G-2) during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As with all Parameters articles, the views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the US Army, NATO, AFCENT, or any other government agency.

Reviewed 6 November 1998. Please send comments or corrections to