Key Responsibilities of the Chief of NATO

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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) top civil servant is the organization's secretary general. The position is held by a foreign diplomat who is in charge of directing NATO's international staff, presiding over meetings of the North Atlantic Council and the majority of the alliance's major committees, with the notable exception of the NATO Military Committee, and serving as NATO's spokesperson. Political, military, and strategic choices are ultimately made by the member states; the secretary general does not have a command role in the armed forces. The incumbent is one of the top representatives in NATO, along with the Chair of the NATO Military Committee and the Supreme Allied Commander.

Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, was appointed secretary general on October 1 of 2014. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg was given a second four-year term in office, keeping him in that position through September 30, 2022. However, his term was prolonged by an additional year as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), commonly known as the Chief of NATO, is in charge of overseeing the organization's armed forces and assuring the collective defence of its member nations.

Several of the top NATO decision-making organisations are presided over by the secretary general of NATO. Along with the North Atlantic Council, he also serves as chair of the Nuclear Planning Committee and the Defence Planning Committee, two of NATO's key military bodies. The secretary general also serves as joint chairman of the Permanent Joint Council and the NATO-Ukraine Commission, as well as the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Mediterranean Cooperation Group.

The secretary general also serves as the head of NATO's staff. He is in charge of the organization's International Staff as well as the Secretary General's Office. Additionally, the secretary general runs their own Private Office. Since manpower for all of these organisations comes from all NATO nations, the secretary general must carefully coordinate. The organisation also appoints a deputy for the secretary general to help him in carrying out his duties.

The Chief of NATO's primary duties include the following:

Military Command: The Chief of NATO is in charge of organising and carrying out military drills and activities. To maintain the preparedness and effectiveness of NATO troops, they establish strategies, evaluate threats, and coordinate military operations.

Alliance Leadership: The NATO military command organisation is led and advised by the Chief of NATO. In order to formulate military strategies, set priorities, and ensure the strategic direction of the alliance, they collaborate closely with other NATO authorities and the political leadership of member nations.

Collective Defense: The collective defence of NATO member states is crucially dependent on the Chief of NATO. They keep an eye on prospective threats, maintain situational awareness, and create measures to thwart and counteract any attack against NATO countries.

Strategic Planning: The creation of NATO's long-term strategic plans and programmes is a responsibility of the Chief of NATO. In order to improve NATO's capacity to counter both present and potential threats, they evaluate new security concerns, pinpoint capability gaps, and offer military guidance.

Partnership and Cooperation: The head of NATO interacts with allies in order to improve collaboration and interoperability. They encourage cooperation to address shared security concerns, facilitate joint training and exercises, and support military relationships.

Crisis Management: In times of emergency or hostilities, the Chief of NATO directs NATO's military forces. In order to manage and resolve crises, they supervise the deployment of forces, plan military actions, and provide efficient command and control.

Resource Management: The NATO Chief takes part in budgeting, force development, and capability development decisions related to resource management. They push for sufficient funding to meet NATO's military needs and guarantee the alliance's military capabilities are preserved and enhanced.

International Engagement: In relations with other global institutions like the United Nations and the European Union, the NATO Chief represents the alliance. They promote communication, coordination, and collaboration to address issues of global security.


The North Atlantic Treaty's Article 9 mandates that NATO members "establish a Council, on which each of them shall be represented." The North Atlantic Council was established as a result. The Council initially met once a year and was made up of the foreign ministers of NATO nations. In May 1950, Council delegates were appointed to monitor the organization's operations permanently located in London in order to achieve more frequent cooperation on a day-to-day basis. Within the North Atlantic Council, deputies were given complete decision-making authority, but their work was complemented by sporadic sessions of the NATO foreign ministers. The "for directing the organisation and its work," including all of its civilian agencies, was delegated to the chairman of the deputies.

On July 25, 1950, the Council deputies convened for the first time, electing Charles Spofford, the deputy from the United States, as their leader. The appointment of Council representatives was rapidly followed by a number of significant organisational reforms, chief among them the creation of a single supreme Allied commander and a united military command. Due to the rapid development of the organization's institutions as a result of this unification and the increasing issues it faced, NATO underwent a reorganisation in 1951 to decentralise and simplify its bureaucracy. The Council deputies' right to represent their governments in all topics, including those pertaining to defence and finance, as well as solely foreign affairs, significantly increased their authority and significance.

NATO established the Temporary Council Committee, headed by W. Averell Harriman, as the number of deputies and their authority grew. To oversee the NATO bureaucracy, this organisation established an official office in Paris. The committee also stressed the necessity for a different individual to take over as the senior head of the alliance, saying that "the agencies of NATO needed to be strengthened and coordinated." The North Atlantic Council subsequently created the office of secretary general in February 1952 to oversee all of the organization's civilian agencies, manage its civilian workforce, and assist the North Atlantic Council.

Overall, the Chief of NATO is in charge of overseeing the alliance's military operations, assuring the collective defence of its members, and fostering peace and security both within and outside of the Euro-Atlantic region.

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