The Croatian national Deployable Communications Module to be integrated into the NATO Force Structure

Colonel Jasenko KROVINOVIĆ, head of the Communications and Information Systems Directorate of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces In late March 2014 we attended one of the events marking the 5th anniversary of the entry to NATO in late March 2014 – the […]
Colonel Jasenko KROVINOVIĆ, head of the Communications and Information Systems Directorate of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces

In late March 2014 we attended one of the events marking the 5th anniversary of the entry to NATO in late March 2014 – the ceremony of handover of the NATO DCM flag to Lt. Col. Eduard Špoljarić (later promoted to the rank of Colonel), the Head of the Signal Regiment, in the presence of the SACT, General Jean Paul Palomeros and the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, General Drago Lovrić. The Croatian Deployable Communicatons Module will be integrated into the NATO Force Structure. We spoke to Colonel Jasenko Krovinović, head of the Communications and Information Systems Directorate of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces who is responsible for the project, to find out more about the unique unit.

What can be said about the Deployable Communications Module and its role to a greater detail?
In order to present the notion and the role of DCM I would like to underline a few characteristics of the Module. The Deployable Communications Module is a modular unit established as an exemplary component of NCIS (NATO CIS Group) as a part of the NATO Command Structure. It is presently commanded by Major General Thomas Franz (DEU), composed of three battalions, each comprising six DCM units.
Translated in figures, each DCM is composed of 56 active duty personnel, commanded by an officer and manned by personnel of at least NCO rank. Of these, 48 are signal posts, and the rest are logistic. The unit manning request with NCOs, clearly stating the military occupational specialty, indicates the high level of expertise and experience required for the unit.
Each DCM, fully manned and equipped, trained and prepared is assigned with establishment, maintenance and management of communications and information systems of NATO’s deployable commands (maximum 250 members) in the theatre of operations, missions or military exercises..
Some of the DCMs are destined for NATO operations solely, while others, and among them the Croatian DCM, can be dispatched for national operations, such as military exercises, planning activities or disasters relief operations.
The possible engagement of the Croatian DCM in the national planning activities is regulated by the Memorandum of Understanding.
In simpler terms, DCM is a company-sized task force, manned by a single nation, stationed, equipped and trained by NATO and assigned with providing CIS support to main field commands within NATO and NATO-led operations. In certain cases some DCM are deployable for national purposes.The DCMs command is a responsibility of NATO CIS Group Commander, in line with his OPCOM.

What was the Croatia’s motive to apply for DCM? Do all NATO nations participate in DCM?
This question is probably the most important. Having thoroughly considered the possibilities for a  national contribution to NATO capablity building, the Republic of Croatia as a recent NATO member recognised its opportunity in this regard in the building of CIS battlefield capabilities. At the moment when Croatia prepared its application NATO CIS Group had one vacant DCM. Others had been established by the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Italy, the United States, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania and Turkey.
The project entailed the possibility of having a fix accomodation facility built by NATO for the purpose and equipped with to-date computer and communications systems in support to command at the operational and strategic levels, which was also of benefit to us.
Although it has been confirmed that NATO would fund the construction of an accomodation and working facility for the HRV DCM  worth over 3.5 mil EUR, through a Croatian construction contractor, the biggest value in establishing a DCM  will consist in the opportunity for the Croatian Armed Forces’s CIS NCOs and officers to acquire knowledge, skills and experience.
The Croatian Ministry of Defence will allocate 2 mil kuna (cca 265,832 EUR) annually for the urposes of training and practice of the DCM operators in NATO-led operations, while NATO’s expenses in locating, equipping, training, practice and deployment will exceed 80 mil HRK (10.633,283 EUR within the next decade. 
The national 20- mil HRK investment will therefore bring us 10.633,283 EUR from the Alliance to build operational CIS capabilities; and through 3-year rotations of the DCM personnel and the participation in NATO-led operations the Croatian Armed Forces will have over 100 highly trained and expert CIS NCOs and officers. The acquired knowledge and experience in a demanding international environment will then be passed on to the national users. You will agree that it is a highly valuable investment.

Could you elaborate the term “deployable“ in the DCM; where and how would the unit be deployed to if need arise?
The term „deployable“ denotes the unit’s ability to be dispatched to any location worldlwide within a short period of time, where it will provide CIS services and support. The cost of the deployment is a NATO responsibility. Based on that model and in accordance with the nationally accepted NATO capability targets we developed the concept of deployable Croatian Armed Forces signal unit capability for field command support .
What is the composition of the Control Group and the national DCM Set-up Project Team?
As you are familiar with, the Minister of Defence issued the respective Decision and upon the approval of the Croatian application by the North Atlantic Council, the Control Group and the Project Team were established. The Control Group was headed by the Assistant Minister for Defence Policy, Zoran Drča and its members were Rear admiral Robert Hranj, the Director of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, Major General Mladen Fuzul, Deputy Commander of the Army, Colonel Stanko Ćavar, Mrs Đurđa Hunjet and me, while the Project team comprised three working groups – a Group responsible for legal matters, primarily the  contracts between the Republic of Croatia and its Ministry of Defence and NATO, which is headed by Mrs Marina Jurić Matejčić of the Legal and Administrative Sector of the Ministry of Defence. The other group, headed by Slaven Jašić was responsible for the infrastructure and the third, headed by Colonel Eduard Špoljarić, was tasked with training and manning of the unit.
I definitely have to commend the contributions by Ms Rubčić, Colonel Tubić, Lieutenant Colonel Čular, Lieutenant Colonel Zorić and the Commander of the HRV DCM, Captain  Mario Lukežić.

Are there any other formal and legal agreements to be concluded between the Republic of Croata and NATO regarding the DCM?
So far, the Memorandum of Understanding has been agreed between SHAPE and the Croatian Ministry of Defence to enable normal functioning of the HRV DCM with the national resources. Furthermore, an Agreement on Garrison Support is to be signed soon, based on which the Croatian Armed Forces and NATO will provide administrative and logistic support to the national DCM in the respective barracks. Once approved and signed, the Agreement on Garrison Support will require the drafting of four operational documents, namely the Local Administrative Agreement, the Agreement on Protection and Security of Forces, the Joint Coordination Group for Garrison Support Job Description and the Security Board for Garrison Support Job Description:  
In addition to these agreements, we still need to coordinate the Annex to Paris Protocol on the legal status and commodities/services relieved from taxes (VAT) among the various departments as the Protocol falls within the responsibilities of several ministries. I have to underline that the Annex to the Protocol applies not only to the DCM but to all other NATO units and commands likely to sojourn in the territory of the Republic of Croatia for extended periods.   

Full operational capability is expected by late 2017.  What are the prospects at the moment?
So far everything is going as planned. The commanders of the services of the Croatian Armed Forces (the DCM is manned from all the services) and the employees of the General Staff ‘s directorates in charge of personnel and training have contributed a lot to the set up of a DCm. Some project problems and shortfalls that occured during that phase caused delays in construction, but were resolved, the credit for which goes to the members of the DCM Set up Project Team as well as other key personnel of the Ministry and the Croatian Armed Forces. The Plan envisages Initial Operational capability achieved by the end of 2015, as a pre-condition for full operational capability by late 2017. Based on the information we receive from the NATO CIS Group, the FOC achievement timeline will be coordinated with the unit equipment plan, which is a responsibility of NATO CIS Agency. Anyway, the successful fulfilment of the training objectives in the forthcoming NATO exercises will constitute the main criteria for the IOC and FOC of the HRV DCM. The Republic of Croatia will fulfill its national obligations.

What special technical assets and the infrastructure are required for the HRV DCM?
Speaking of the requirements for the functioning of the HRV DCM,  it has to be underlined that the rules are strict but are also clear and well-defined. NATO DCM facility has to be detached from the rest of the barracks and implement technical and physical protection requirements in order to meet the set standards. I need to stress here that the cost of the construction of the facility will be entirely covered by NATO. As I mentioned before, the cost totals some 3.5 mil HRK (cca 464,834 EUR).The Croatian Armed Forces have assumed the responsibility to arrange interim accomodation for DCM, which will enter the Croatian Army inventory once the new or NATO facility is built. 

What funding arrangement is in place between the Republic of Croatia and NATO?
As I said earlier, the new facility for the HRV DCM will entirely be funded by NATO, which is exempt from the VAT. For the rest of the expenses, the Republic of Croatia as Host Nation is responsible for the salaries, per diems and accomodation expenses, in line with the national legislation. NATO is responsible for the equipping of the national DCM with signal equipment and other necessary resources. For daily operation purposes NATO will cover the fees for the necessary courses and training programmes that are not administered for national purposes. The distribution of the daily operation expenses with respect to utilities (running water, heating, electricity) is still to be defined by implementation and other agreements following the signature of the Agreement on Garrison Support.

What is the profile of the personnel in the Croatian company?
The organisation was defined by the NATO CIS Group, with minor oscillations allowed. The overall structure comprises 56 members, and the rank composition of the HRV DCM  is two officers and 54 NCOs. The original proposal from the NCISG however stated one officer and 55 NCOs. As the majority of the nations did, Croatia also decided to convert the deputy commander post from NCO into an officer post. All members have to have minimally STANAG 2222. Other preferred skills depend on the individual posts within the structure, it may be truck driving skills, and to put it humorously, we may end with having a soldier, an IT expert and a driver in a single person, but it does reflect the demanding nature of the project. Furthermore, the main officials of the NATO CIS Battalion and the NATO CIS Group expressed satisfaction over the selection of DCM personnel, as well as over the training and practice demonstrated so far. The members of the HRV DCM are highly motivated, responsible and expert individuals, who are expected to demonstrate their competence in NATO-led operations but also to pass their knowledge and their prospective experience on to their home units or other CIS elements of the Croatian Armed Forces upon their deployment. 

In view of the required IOC, is DCM already operational and in what way?
The IOC in the case of the DCM implies a defined number of personnel trained for autonomous operating in the theatres of operation. The personnel has been trained mostly in the NATO CIS School in Latina, Italy, and underwent some training and courses in their own units. Bearing in mind that HRV DCM is of recent date, and we had a number of members to train, we arranged the instructors come over to Croatia to minimise the training expenses. Upon completion of the trainining the personnel has been sent to take part in NATO exercises (either individually or in teams) to test the acquired skills. Based on the demonstrated skills and knowledge the DCM Commander determines the readiness of individual members for the deployment in the theatre of operations. As we have over the past period completed individual training of the members of the HRV DCM F and many have performed successfully in the exercises, it has been decide to send some of the members to Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan within the next calendar year. The deployment of the HRV DCM F members in the operations can be considered as the IOC.

Any other thing that You would like to say in conclusion?
I would take the opportunity to extend appreciation to the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, General Drago Lovrić and the Defence Minister, Ante Kotromanović for the wholehearted support to the implementation of the HRV DCM F, their communication of the Croatian official application for DCM before the NATO officials as well as the support and understanding in the past two years of the DCM project implementation.

Author: Domagoj VLAHOVIĆ
Photos by Tomislav Brandt