NATO ON COVID-19: Alliance scientists respond to the challenge

Scientists across 
Allied and Partner Nations
 have responded to the challenge set 
by the NATO Chief Scientist 
to identify solutions to some 
of the most pressing scientific 
challenges posed by COVID-19.

Over 40 responses to the Challenge were received. Amongst the most impactful of the responses that are being taken forward in NATO’s collaborative programme of Science & Technology are those that are investigating:

  • Better understanding disinformation about the pandemic, and how to counter it;
  • Keeping Armed Forces healthy during a pandemic relief operation;
  • Applying NATO scientists’ analytic tools to planning for future pandemics;
  • Improved use of technology to train military leaders in pandemic relief operations;
  • Lessons learnt from COVID-19 for National Defence Systems;
  • The ethical dimension of military support to pandemic relief operations.

Many of the studies are due to deliver results within months.

NATO Chief Scientist, Dr Bryan Wells said: “This is a tremendous response from the Alliance network of scientists, showing how they are responding rapidly to the challenges of COVID-19 and bringing their scientific expertise to bear on this vital task”.

Other scientific responses to the pandemic are in preparation already or will be investigated, including using the expertise of NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE).

The challenge was set to the Alliance network of 6,000 scientists – the largest such network in the world – and to NATO’s own laboratory in La Spezia. The challenge focused on solutions for virus detection, improved situational awareness, resilience and the post-COVID-19 future.

Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services in NATO

The Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services in NATO (COMEDS) is the senior committee for medical care within the Organization. It acts as the central point for the development and coordination of military medical matters and for providing medical advice to the NATO Military Committee.

The military medical community plays a key enabling role within NATO and, more specifically, within NATO’s defence planning process. The military medical community not only provides medical care, but also preventive health care, veterinary support and psychological support for deployed troops. It provides essential combat service support, making it one of the key planning domains for operations, along with armaments, logistics, air traffic management and other areas of specialization.
COMEDS makes recommendations concerning the development and assessment of NATO military medical policy and procedures for medical support. It seeks to improve existing arrangements between member countries in the fields of co-ordination, standardization and interoperability. It also helps to improve the exchange of information between countries so, for instance, advances made by one member state are available to all. Additionally, COMEDS undertakes studies of general and particular interest such as preventive medicine, dental service, food hygiene and military psychiatry. For this purpose, it has several subordinate working groups and expert panels to which subject matter experts contribute.
The meetings of the chiefs of Military Medical Services are conducted bi-annually and include participants from member and partner countries.

Roles and responsibilities
As explained above, COMEDS advises the Military Committee on military medical matters affecting NATO. It also acts as the coordinating body for the Military Committee regarding all military medical policies, procedures and techniques within NATO. In recent years, COMEDS has come to represent the medical community at NATO HQ, in the NATO Standardization Organization, as well as in specific areas such as defence planning and the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) field.
COMEDS’ objectives include improving and expanding arrangements between member countries for coordination, standardization and interoperability in the medical field and improving the exchange of information relating to organizational, operational and procedural aspects of military medical services in NATO and Partner countries.

The military medical support system
COMEDS is a key component of the Alliance’s military medical support system, principally in the preparation phase of an operation. It facilitates the development of medical capabilities in individual countries and helps to improve the quality and interoperability of capabilities between them.
Generally speaking, the military medical support system contributes to preserving the “fighting strength” and meeting the increasing public expectation of an individual’s right to health and high quality treatment outcomes. Medical services make a major contribution to force protection and sustainability. Effectively, health is a key force multiplier of fighting power.
Countries that allocate forces to NATO retain responsibility for the provision of medical support to their own forces. However, upon Transfer of Authority, the NATO commander shares the responsibility for their health and will determine the medical support requirements. Multinational arrangements usually require more responsibility of the NATO commander.

Working mechanisms

  1. Frequency of meetings –  COMEDS meets biannually in plenary session and reports annually to the Military Committee.
  2. Composition –  The chairman is elected by the committee in plenary session for a three year term. The country of origin of the chairman is also responsible for providing a Liaison Officer to NATO HQ. He/she is the point of contact for military medical matters for NATO HQ and individual countries. For practical reasons, this Liaison Officer cooperates closely with the medical branch of the International Military Staff, which also supports his/her work. COMEDS also cooperates closely with the medical branch of Allied Command Operations (ACO) and Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in developments regarding defence planning, capability development, standardization needs, training and education and certification.
    In December 2009, the chairmanship of COMEDS was transferred from Germany to the Netherlands.
  3. COMEDS is composed of:
    • the Chiefs of the military medical services of all member countries;
    • the International Military Staff medical staff officer; and
    • the medical advisors of the two strategic commands – ACO and ACT.
    Its meetings in plenary session, as well as its activities benefit from the participation of the following observers:
    • the Chiefs of the military medical services from all Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative countries;
    • the Chairman of the Joint Medical Committee;
    • a representative of the NATO Standardization Agency, the Military Committee, the Senior NATO Logisticians Committee, the NATO Military Medical Centre of Excellence, the Human Factors and Medicine Panel of the NATO Research and Technology Agency, the Health and Societal Dimensions Panel of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Committee, and the CIOMR, the organization of military medical reserve officers.
    COMEDS can also invite partners from “Contact countries”, non-NATO troop-contributing countries and organizations.
  4. Subordinate working groups
    To assist in carrying out its tasks and in addition to the bodies referred to above, COMEDS has a number of subordinate working groups which meet at least annually and address the following topics: military medical structures, operations and procedures (including planning and capability development); military preventive medicine (force health protection); military healthcare; standardization; CBRN issues; emergency medicine; military psychiatry; dental services; medical materiel and military pharmacy; food and water hygiene and veterinary medicine; medical training; mental healthcare; medical naval issues; and medical information management systems.
  5. Evolution
    Historically, medical matters within NATO were regarded strictly as a national responsibility. Consequently, for the greatest part of the Alliance’s existence, there was not a high-level military medical authority within NATO.
    New NATO missions and concepts of operations have placed increased emphasis on joint military operations, enhancing the importance of coordination of medical support in peacekeeping, disaster relief and humanitarian operations.
    COMEDS was established in 1994 for that purpose.
    Today, COMEDS is very active in developing new concepts of medical support for operations, with emphasis on multinational health care, modularity of medical treatment facilities, and partnerships. Increasingly, the developed doctrines are open to non-NATO countries and are sometimes released on the internet.
    In 2011, COMEDS established the Dominique-Jean Larrey Award in recognition of a significant and lasting contribution to NATO multinationality and/ or interoperability within military medical support or healthcare developments in NATO operations and missions ¹. The award is named after the French surgeon general of the Napoleanic imperial forces, who invented amongst other things the field ambulance, which helped to significantly improve medical care in the field.

1. Any individual belonging to the military medical service may be nominated to receive the COMEDS Dominique-Jean Larrey Award. In exceptional circumstances, the award may be given to more than one individual where it is clearly demonstrated that the nominees have individually and collectively met the selection criteria. This includes a military medical organisation and/ or structure. The Award is granted no more than once a year.

From NATO Website

NATO Coalition Warrior Interoperability Event Held In Poland For First Time

For the first time in its history, the NATO Coalition Warrior Interoperability exploration, experimentation and examination exercise (CWIX) was held at the Joint Forces Training Centre (JFTC) in Bydgoszcz, Poland from 30 May to 16 June 2011.
CWIX 2011 is the largest event JFTC has hosted to date and the intense coordination between the ACT CWIX Team, JFTC, the local NCSA team and Host Nation Poland led to a flawless execution.

During the execution period, about 900 participants representing seventeen NATO nations, three Partnership for Peace Nations, one contact nation, seven NATO Agencies and one Centre of Excellence (CoE) worked on improving the interoperability of NATO and National Command AND Control (C2) Systems. During peak days, about 650 people were present at JFTC to participate in or observe interoperability testing.
NATO CWIX 2011 attracted 104 C2 systems (an increase from 96 systems in 2010) and conducted 4316 tests over a two week period. The Coalition Information Assurance Team (CIAT) noted that there were more than 900 network hosts on the exercise network.

NATO CWIX broke ground in several areas this year. A few accomplishments in these areas are mentioned below:

  • Afghan Mission Network (AMN) related testing: One of the current AMN testing objectives is to make it possible for forces in Afghanistan to plan and do the targeting of missions without delays caused by manual transfer of data between systems. While further testing is still required, NATO CWIX successfully demonstrated that it is technically possible to exchange data between complex systems and disparate databases. The Joint Fires Focus Area significantly improved the capability to automate the one-way exchange of target data from USA systems to NATO systems. In addition to targeting, 23 AMN-related systems were tested for battle space management interoperability. All of the results will be forwarded to the appropriate working group in order to be certified and validated.
  • Cross Component Interactions: For the first time Cross Component interactions (e.g. Air Task Orders, Close Air Support etc.) were conducted to avoid the traditional Air/Land/Maritime stove piped focus.
  • Geospatial: NATO CWIX Geospatial testing continues to expand. The goal for this year was to have a single source location for all geospatial data using an enterprise service bus. This capability allows all users to access all geospatial data without having to query different national systems. This capability proved to be a big success and it showed that technically this can be done.
  • Logistics / Movement & Transportation (M&T) / Medical: For the first time, Logistics, M&T and Medical interoperability was tested at NATO CWIX from an Information/data exchange point of view. HQ SACT sponsored the involvement of NC3A developed logistics and medical prototype software tools and their availability acted as a hub around Nations and NATO could construct test cases for the exchange of data. At CIWC 2011 it was proven that automatic data transfer from 3 National Systems to the NATO Operational Logistic Chain Management prototype and then to the Joint Common Operational Picture was possible.

    NATO CWIX is crucial for NATO and Nations to test systems before deploying them in real operations and to get ready for NRF certification