The mission of the Force Health Protection Branch (formerly Deployment Health Surveillance Capability) is to contribute to a better preparedness of the deployed NATO Forces against the threats of infectious disease and bioterrorist attacks. Therefore the DHSC is supporting the operational readiness of our soldiers in NATO deployments and strengthening the Force Health Protection efforts of the military medical services in NATO. The FHP Branch also offers learning opportunities, please click here to access those!
At the 2002 NATO Summit of the Heads of State and Government, held in Prague still under the impression of the terror attacks in the United States, decisive capability gaps were shown to exist within NATO. Among other issues, warnings were raised about the lack in capability for the near-real-time (NRT) detection of disease outbreaks and the determination of whether these outbreaks are to be attributed to the use of biological weaponry or to natural causes. This capability gap was considered to be of highest operational importance for NATO due to the fact, that CBRN threats have always to be expected in asymmetric warfare and that in the current NATO operations diseases and non-battle injuries (DNBI) still represent the highest cause for the hospitalization of soldiers. Since 2003, under the lead of NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT), existing capabilities and systems of NATO partners have therefore been identified and examined as to their suitability for operational use in NATO deployments. The French NRT-surveillance system “Alert et Surveillance en Temps Reel” (ASTER) was chosen because it had already been successfully tested and used for several years in French Guiana.
NATO ACT designated the Bundeswehr Medical Office in Munich, Germany as a “Central Analysis Center“ for a test-run of multinational NRT-disease surveillance in the spring of 2006 because of the Office’s internationally recognized performance abilities in the Preventive Medicine sector and its organic interdisciplinary technical and analytical capabilities (Public Health, Tropical Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, CBRN medical defense, etc). Following the successful completion of this multinational test-run for multinational Near-Real-Time Surveillance in 2006, NATO’s Force Health Protection Working Group (FHP WG) planned to conduct a multinational surveillance system exercise series in real NATO mission (Kosovo / KFOR) as a second development step. This exercise series in Kosovo was planned, prepared and conducted under German / French lead during 2008 - 2010. Other participating nations in Kosovo and at the Bundeswehr Medical Office in Munich included: USA, POL, CZE and AUT. Support was provided by NATO’s C3 Agency. Observer nations included GBR, SWE, NLD, ITA and CAN. This multinational exercise series, too, was rated as a success by all participants and observers.