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Rapid Strategic Assessment for NATO Special Operations Headquarters

Last updated November 25, 2010

The NATO SOF Coordination Centre (NSCC) was established at NATO’s 2006 Riga Summit as the central feature of the NATO Special Operations Force (SOF) Transformation Initiative (NSTI). Its purpose is to provide an Alliance framework for enhancing the capacity of Special Operations Forces from twenty contributing nations to work together on the battlefield by establishing common training and education programs and by fostering interoperability among the Special Operations Forces of Alliance members. The NSCC has grown rapidly as a result of the heightened importance of Special Operations Forces in the twenty-first-century security setting, in particular in Afghanistan. As a result, on the advice of NATO’s Military Committee (MC), the North Atlantic Council (NAC) in late 2009 approved the transition of the NSCC into the NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ), with official re-designation occurring on March 1, 2010.

To support NSCC/NSHQ taskings and institutional development, the Senior Steering Group (SSG) was established. IFPA played an important role in the SSG’s development, and continues to support its efforts through the identification and selection of members, development of meetings, and working with NSHQ leadership to meet new and emerging challenges to NATO and SOF planning. Dr. Jacquelyn K. Davis, executive vice-president at IFPA, chairs the SSG, which includes distinguished membership from the United States and other NATO member countries.

  • SSG Meetings
  • SSG Membership

SSG Meetings

To date, IFPA has organized six SSG meetings in cooperation with the NSHQ leadership. The first meeting was convened in Brussels and Mons, Belgium, on June 16–17, 2009. At this first meeting, SSG members were introduced to the NSHQ, given briefings about its capabilities, personnel, mission-taskings, and its role in operational planning for Afghanistan.

The second SSG meeting was held in Rome, Italy, on September 9–11, 2009, in conjunction with a larger NATO SOF Symposium entitled "NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) – Key to Mission Success at the Strategic Level." At this second meeting, SSG members discussed implications of the new NATO Strategic Concept for SOF employment and mission planning, as well as opportunities for enhanced intelligence sharing and the operational development of Alliance SOF.

The third SSG meeting was held in Brussels and Mons, Belgium, on March 10–11, 2010. At this meeting, SSG members discussed models for the creation of a NATO SOF aviation element and considered new mission areas for which NATO SOF capabilities might be tasked.

The fourth SSG meeting was held on November 21–23, 2010,in conjunction with the a NATO SOF commanders' conference and the formal activation ceremony of the NATO SOF Headquarters. At this meeting, held in Mons, Belgiium, the site of the NATO SOF education and training campus, Dr. Jamie Shea, then of the Secretary General's Private Office, reported on the results of NATO's Lisbon Summit and highlighted the creation of a new NATO directorate focused on emerging security challenges (where he will now work as its Deputy Assistant Secretary General). The SSG also considered ways to boost support for SOF forces, planning, and capabilities in national capitals and discussed new mission areas, emanating from NATO's New Strategic Concept, for NATO SOF.

The fifth SSG meeting took place in Krakow, Poland, on May 24–26, 2011, in conjunction with the NATO SOF Commanders' Conference and the dedication of the new Polish SOF Headquarters. The NATO SOF Commanders' Conference featured a panel presentation by four SSG members, focusing on lessons-learned from Afghanistan and recent operations. The four SSG members who participated on this panel—Dr. Jacquelyn K. Davis, Dr. Rob de Wijk, Commodore Lars Wille-Jorgensen, and Dr. Andrzej Karkoszka—had each traveled to Afghanistan with members of the NSHQ and met with ISAF and national SOF teams to hear their perspectives on lessons-learned and the way ahead for NATO SOF planning, training and education, and capabilities development. This meeting also featured the participation of senior Polish defense officials and leaders from U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), including Admiral Eric Olson.

A sixth meeting is scheduled for September 27–28, 2011, in Mons, Belgium, at the NSHQ and at Chievres air base. The meeting will focus on the implications of the New NATO Strategic Concept for SOF and delve into issues associated with Afghanistan, Libya, and NATO partner engagement.

SSG Membership

The SSG membership includes representation from the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, France, Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Romania, and Germany:

  • Dr. Jacquelyn K. Davis, Chair, Executive Vice-President, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis of Cambridge, MA, and Washington, D.C.
  • Mr. David Hobbs, Secretary General, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Brussels, Belgium
  • General Sir John McColl, Governor of Jersey and former Deputy Commander, Supreme Allied Command Operations
  • Dr. Rob de Wijk, Director, the Hague Center for Strategic Studies, the Netherlands
  • Vice-Admiral Jean Betermier, President of the Forum of the Future, France, and former French Fleet Commander
  • General Klaus Naumann, former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee and former Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, Germany
  • Commodore Lars Wille-Jorgensen, Research Fellow, Centre for Military History, Danish Defence College
  • Lord Peter Inge, Member of the House of Lords, U.K., and former Chief of Defense
  • Commodore Lars Wille-Jorgensen, former Deputy MILREP at NATO and former member of the Policy Directorate, Danish Defense Command
  • Dr. Andrzej Karkoszka, Managing Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Poland, and former Deputy Defense Minister, Poland
  • Vice-Admiral Gregg  Maddison, Canada, former Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Canada
  • Dr. Stephen Flanagan, Senior Vice President, CSIS, and former Clinton administration NSC official
  • General Sergiu Medar, Head of Military Intelligence of Romania and former National Security Advisor to the President of Romania