Capability Development Plan

Sunset from the air, looking ahead

EDA is capability-driven and its programmes, projects and other activities have to contribute to improving the military capabilities needed for Common Security and Defence Policy operations in the future. The Capability Development Plan (CDP) is the ‘driver’ for the work of all the Agency’s Directorates. Thus, the CDP is the ‘overall strategic tool’ in the package of the four long-term strategies. It defines future capability needs from the short to longer term.

The CDP is not a ‘Plan’ in the traditional sense, describing the number of units or the amount of equipment Member States should have at their disposal. Rather it provides a view of future capability needs, taking into account the impact of future security challenges, technological development and other trends. It assists the Member States in their national defence planning and programmes. The CDP is an important element in a comprehensive capability development process, and it provides the basis of the Agency’s capability-driven approach.

Development of the CDP

The CDP was developed collectively with the participating Member States, the Council Secretariat and the EU Military Committee, supported by the EU Military Staff. EDA’s Steering Board provides the guidance and endorsed the CDP in July 2008.

The content of the initial CDP was derived from several sources, all involving inputs from the participating Member States.

  • Shorter term elements were taken from the Headline Goal 2010 and the subsequent Progress Catalogue 2007;
  • Shorter term elements were also taken from Lessons Learned collected from crisis management operations;
  • Medium term elements were collected from a Collaborative Database, which was established to cover ongoing and planned projects and programmes;
  • Longer term elements were derived from a comprehensive analysis of potential future trends for the 2025+ timeframe, including strategic drivers, threats, science & technology. The Agency's early work on a Long Term Vision for defence provided much of the background for this.

From this picture, a series of conclusions were drawn and priority actions selected to fill the foreseen requirements. Currently there are 10 priority actions selected by the Steering Board.

Overarching principles of the CDP

There are certain overarching principles which have guided the preparation of the CDP.

  • The CDP intends to inform national plans and programmes, but is not a supranational plan.
  • It is also a tool to bring out opportunities to pool and collaborate.
  • It is a key tool and catalyst for a capability-based approach to force and capability planning.
  • It is a framework to assess the fundamental character of current and future operations. 
  • It supports conceptual development.
  • It supports a coherent integration of technology into military capabilities. 
  • It supports the development of appropriate strategies to implement the concepts. 
  • It is a living document, which will be updated as appropriate, in close cooperation with participating Member States and other EU bodies.

Operational Conclusions

When the CDP was compiled, a number of operational conclusions were drawn, cutting across a large number of military tasks. They have relevance over the entire time frame studied. Several of the operational conclusions underline the fact that while armaments and new technology play an important role, capability development must take place in all lines of development, and few challenges can be solved by technology alone. 

The following operational conclusions are highlighted in the CDP:

  • Concepts and doctrine: Appropriate concepts and doctrine need to be developed to underpin other developments, and need to be fundamentally joint, multinational and inter-agency in nature.
  • Persistent intelligence and knowledge-based operations: The exploitation of knowledge is fundamental in operations, and need to be based on wide-area surveillance, full spectrum intelligence and robust early warning capacity.
  • Comprehensive and co-ordinated actions: Operational challenges need to be addressed by using a multi-agency concept based on seamless civilian-military structures and procedures.
  • Maintaining the initiative: EU forces need constantly to maintain the initiative and the ability to manoeuvre in all operational dimensions when facing adversaries who are unconstrained in their actions.
  • Achieving agility and adaptability: There is a need for greater flexibility, agility, responsiveness, tactical manoeuvre and a discriminate force usage.
  • The human factor: People remain the most critical requirement. Future operational demands of deployed forces will require even higher-quality personnel and training.

While the full CDP is a classified document, much of the longer term elements are unclassified. Some of the central documents forming this element of the CDP have been assembled into a brochure.

Contents of the CDP

The CDP consists of both detailed contents and overall conclusions. The detailed contents of the CDP is structured by military task (from a list of generic military tasks) and by time period, listing key issues, task significance and trends per task per time period, thus bringing the results of the CDP’s four elements together into one common format.  

Three time periods are used – shorter, medium and longer term – which in the initial CDP published in 2008 corresponds to 2008-2012, 2013-2018 and 2025 and beyond.

Priorities under the CDP

Under the framework of the CDP, the Steering Board has approved in March 2011, a set of 10 prioritised actions that will be focal points for the Agency’s activities in the years to come. The CDP Top 10 Priorities are:

  • Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED);
  • Medical Support;
  • Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance;
  • Increased Availability of Helicopters; 
  • Cyber Defence;
  • Multinational Logistic Support;
  • CSDP Information Exchange;
  • Strategic and Tactical Airlift Management;
  • Fuel and Energy;
  • Mobility Assurance.


The CDP is not a static document. The CDP has recently been refreshed via an update that was presented to the Steering Board in March 2011.

A review of the CDP is under preparation for 2013, five years after the Initial CDP was presented, and at a stage where a comprehensive approach for EU civil-military capability development will have developed significantly. This work will address the substance as well as the structure of the CDP. Member States and other stakeholders are being consulted, in order to take into account their experiences of the Initial CDP.


Brochure CDP

Participating Member States

  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech
  • Germany
  • Estonia
  • Ireland
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • France
  • Croatia
  • Italy
  • Cyprus
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Hungary
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovenia
  • Slovakia
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • UK