Monday, March 19, 2012

Continental Staff system

Continental Staff system

Most NATO countries have adopted the continental staff system (also known as the general staff system) in structuring their militaries' staff functions. In this system, which is based on one originally employed by the French Army in the 19th century, each staff position in a headquarters or unit is assigned a letter-prefix corresponding to the formation's element and one or more numbers specifying a role.

The staff numbers are assigned according to custom not hierarchy, traceable back to French practice; i.e., 1 is not "higher ranking" than 2. This list reflects the SHAPE structure[2]:

1, for personnel and administration
2, for intelligence and security
3, for operations
4, for logistics
5, for plans
6, for signal (i.e., communications or IT)[3]
7, for training
8, for finance and contracts. Also known as "resource management".
9, for Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) or 'civil affairs'.
Since the original continental staff system only covered branches 1 through 6, it is not uncommon to see 7 though 9 omitted or having various meanings.[4] Common variation include merging of 3 and 5 to 3, Operations and Plans; omitting the training branch and utilizing 7 for engineering (as seen in US Military Sealift Command[5] and Multinational Forces-Iraq (MNF-I)[6]) and replacing 9 with a legal-branch (making CIMIC a part of another branch, i.e. 2 or 4) as seen with the UK Permanent Joint Headquarters.[7]

Derived from the Prussian Grosse Generalstab (Great General Staff), traditionally these staff functions were prefixed by the simple "G", which is retained in place for modern army usage. But the increasing complexity of modern armies, not to speak of the spread of the "Staff" concept to naval and other elements, has demanded the addition of new prefixes. These element prefixes are:

A, for Air Force headquarters;
C, for combined headquarters (multiple nations) headquarters;
F, for certain forward or deployable headquarters;
G, for Army or Marines headquarters division level and above ("General" or "Ground");[8]
J, for Joint (multiple services) headquarters;
N, for Navy headquarters; and
S, for staff roles within headquarters of organizations commanded by an executive officer with the rank of major or above (e.g., divisional brigades, regiments, groups, battalions, and squadrons; not used by all countries).
On some occasions the letter E can also be observed, though it is not an official term. In that case it is for element and it will be used to identify a small independent element, that is a part of a non-staff organization, i.e. an E3 is a operational element on a logistics site or a E4 is a logistics element on a forward medical support site.

Thus, the personnel officer of a naval headquarters would be referred to as N1. In reality, in large organizations each of these staff functions will require the support of its own large staff, so N1 refers both to the office and the officer in charge of it. The continental staff system can be carried down to the next level: J1.3 (or J13—sometimes the dot-separator is omitted) is thus the operations officer of the personnel office of a joint headquarters, but the exact definition of the roles at this level may vary. Below this, numbers can be attached following a hyphen, but these are usually only positional numbers assigned arbitrarily to identify individuals (G2.3-2 could be the budget officer in the operations section of the intelligence department; A1.1-1-1 might simply be a receptionist).

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