NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

Next Generation Command and Control

December 6, 2023

Future military commanders will operate in a complex and contested environment. Rapidly responding to changing conditions and the ability to command across the five operational domains, in all operating environments and dimensions, will be critical in order to outperform future adversaries. Against this backdrop, traditional methods of command will no longer be sufficient to succeed in a future Multi-Domain Operations scenario.

Current methods of command and control do not fully support efforts to become a Multi-Domain Operations-enabled Alliance, including the ability to plan, execute, and assess activities across all operational domains. There is a lack of cross-domain integration, survivability, and agility to operate in complex, dynamic, and contested environments, at scale and speed, and in collaboration with other instruments of power, partners and stakeholders.

To support the ambition to transform into a Multi-Domain Operations enabled Alliance with capabilities to deter and defeat adversaries across all five operational domains, in an orchestrated and synchronized manner, the Alliance’s Military Instrument of Power must evolve beyond the current commander-centric Joint Operations approach. NATO must review and, as necessary, adapt and advance current approaches to Command and Control from a Multi-Domain Operations perspective with equal emphasis on advancements in technology and innovations in doctrine, organizations, training, and leader development. The Alliance will need extended use of mission command and new approaches such as empowered cross-domain and multi-functional teams collaborating together based on a shared understanding of commander’s intent.

The Alliance’s approach to Cross-Domain Command will provide an agile framework of command principles, command culture elements, and command functions to address complex, dynamic, and contested conditions better and faster than that of NATO’s competitors. This will allow for a shift from a traditional way of command and control to an approach that emphasizes extended use of mission command and orchestration of activities across domains and at all levels to achieve converging effects.

But what is orchestration? What does it actually mean? Orchestration is the arrangement and coordination of military activities across domains – and affecting all levels – that align with the commanders’ intent to achieve converging effects in support of military objectives. Orchestration requires creativity and agility in planning and coordination, continuous development of shared understanding, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Technological advances are a given. The operational level and higher tactical levels of command will be connected via a common mission network. The corresponding tactical units will be connected via a “5G-like” network for mobile command posts and handheld devices. Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Data Analytics, and Autonomous capabilities will be effectively integrated into command networks. These new technological capabilities will impose new opportunities as well as challenges.

Moving towards a Cross-Domain Command approach will require a fundamental change of mind-set and organizational culture with less emphasis on control and more focus on orchestrating military activities.