While Balkan operations were the focus of the attention of AFSOUTH planners and operators, the Headquarters could not lose sight of other important events which marked the year of NATO's 50th Anniversary. 1999 was indeed a year of great changes within the Alliance. New members were admitted and a new military command structure took shape.
AFSOUTH held an official Accession Ceremony of the new NATO members – the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland -- on 17 March 1999. With formal accession, Hungarian military personnel were integrated in the AFSOUTH staff, while Hungary became member of the Southern Region and part of AFSOUTH's area of responsibility. A few weeks later, another milestone was marked on the road towards adapting the NATO military arm to its new roles.
On May 27, 1999, NATO inaugurated the Mine Counter Measures Force Mediterranean (MCMFM), an operational mine countermeasures capability permanently available in the Mediterranean and poised for action in peacetime, crisis or conflict. This timely decision was demonstrated a few weeks later when the new force was detached to the Adriatic Sea to conduct Operation "Allied Harvest," to clear ordnance jettisoned during Operation "Allied Force." The operation began on 9 June1999. Search activities began three days later and lasted 73 days. In total, 93 pieces of ordnance were located and cleared in the nine areas searched by the NATO Forces, which encompassed 1,041 square nautical miles. The process of searching the sea floor and safely countermining ordnance was very difficult and challenging. On request by Italy, a second cleaning operation called Allied Harvest II was conducted from 9 June to 4 September 1999. No ordnance was found and no further NATO assistance was deemed necessary.
The real turning point was reached on 1 September 1999, when a new NATO military command structure was adopted. Under this new organisation, the Southern Region Commands comprise about 5000 military and civilian personnel provided by Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States A very significant increase if compared to the five nations contributing to AFSOUTH only a few years before. France continued to maintain a Military Mission at Regional HQ AFSOUTH, which also included a Partnership Staff Element comprising officers from Partner Nations (initially Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, eventually joined by a Ukrainian officer).
The activation of the new Command Structure marked a culminating point of over five years of work that began in September 1994 when the NATO Military Committee agreed to the Terms of Reference for establishment of a NATO Long Term Study. The study was generated in recognition of the fact that the integrated command structure needed to continue to adapt to not only the emerging new post-Cold War security environment in Europe; but also to the many ongoing NATO initiatives including the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) concept, the strengthening of the European Security and Defence Identity in the Alliance, NATO enlargement and the instabilities surrounding the southern European region.
The new Command Structure represented more than just new Headquarters and a new establishment. It represented many new ways of doing business. The new structure was "mission oriented." It provided NATO with the capability to better cope with the full range of the Alliance's roles and missions ranging from its traditional task of undertaking collective defence, to fulfilling new roles in changing circumstances, including "non-Article 5" missions such as Peace Support Operations. Furthermore, factors such as increased flexibility, force effectiveness, Alliance cohesion, the principles of multi-nationality and affordability all had been taken into account.
The new structure clearly recognised the significance of the Southern Region and constituted a major overhaul of the integrated military structure. This gave the Alliance an enhanced capacity to perform a whole new range of roles and missions, particularly the ones described in NATO's Strategic Concept approved by the Heads of State and Governments participating in the summit meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. on 24 April 1999.
The new structure was designed to be operationally effective and viable from both a political and military perspective. It facilitated the integration of new members of the Alliance and was meeting the requirements of an enhanced Partnership for Peace.
Under RHQ AFSOUTH (RHQ AFSOUTH), or Regional Command South under the new terminology, there are six subordinate commands, which operate at the third level of the NATO command structure; and a permanent regional Reaction Force HQ. Two of those are air and maritime Component Commands (CCs), covering region-wide component-specific responsibilities. The CCs are:
Allied Air Forces South (AIRSOUTH), Naples, Italy, responsible for air defence and planning throughout the region.
Allied Naval Forces South (NAVSOUTH), Naples, Italy, which exercises operational control of the NATO Maritime Immediate Reaction Forces (IRFs') – STANAVFORMED and MCMFORMED - and other assigned maritime forces in the area of responsibility and is responsible for their readiness and training. NAVSOUTH is also responsible for the preparation of maritime aspects of plans and the conduct of maritime exercises.
Additionally, RHQ AFSOUTH also exercises direct command and control of Striking Forces Southern Europe (STRIKFORSOUTH), which constitutes a permanent regional Reaction Force HQ in Naples, Italy.
There are four Joint Sub-Regional Commands (JSRCs), which provide a geographically dispersed joint military planning and command and control (C2) capability. Their responsibilities include: safeguarding lines of communication; contributing to planning for CJTF operations; exercising operational command for control, readiness, and training of all military units and personnel allocated to them; preparing war plans and conduct exercises to accomplish assigned missions. The joint subordinate commands are:
- Joint Command South (JCSOUTH), Verona, Italy.
- Joint Command Southcentre (JCSOUTHCENT), Larissa, Greece.
- Joint Command Southeast (JCSOUTHEAST), Izmir, Turkey.
- Joint Command Southwest (JCSOUTHWEST), Madrid, Spain.
The new military structure implied the closure of all NATO fourth level commands. Therefore, the most significant impacts on AFSOUTH by the reorganisation ncluded:
- The opening of new headquarters in Madrid (JCSOUTHWEST), on 30 September 1999) and Larissa (JCSOUTHCENT), on 5 October 1999;
- Increased area of responsibility (it includes: Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Turkey; plus the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, the whole of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic approaches to the Strait of Gibraltar, east of longitude 7º 23' 48" W, and an area around the Canary Islands; and associated airspace);
- Increased size and scope of responsibility for the two component commands, while STRIKFORSOUTH remains as a unique strategic regional asset;
- Assumption of responsibility as one of the two NATO Combined Joint Task Force nucleus headquarters;
- Effective 1 September 1999, disestablishment of two air commands (FIVEATAF and SIXATAF) and of four maritime commands (COMEDCENT, COMEDEAST, COMEDNOREAST, COMGIBMED) While COMSUBMED and COMARAIRMED were transformed in detachments of NAVSOUTH, as COMSUBSOUTH and COMMARAIRSOUTH;
- Eventual establishment of Combined Air Operation (CAOC) centres in each of the southern region nations. Interim CAOC (ICAOC) were established as ICAOC-5, at Poggio-Renatico, Italy; ICOC-6, at Eskisehir, Turkey; ICAOC-7, at Larissa, Greece; ICAOC-8, at Madrid, Spain; and ICAOC-10 at Lisbon, Portugal.
Together with the new structure, AFSOUTH adopted a new peacetime establishment with a new mix reflecting the increased number of contributing nations. In terms of top key positions, this included the assignment of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief position to Greece and Turkey (on a rotational basis; this position was previously assigned to Italy); the transfer of the Chief of Staff responsibilities from the U.S. to Italy; the transfer of the Deputy Chief of Staff duties from Italy to Spain; and the establishment of the new position of Director of Operational Management, assigned to Germany.