Country Profile: The Netherlands


The CBNW Team presents an overview of the CBRN Capabilities of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: A leading nation in civil-military cooperation.

Security Overview

The Netherlands has been sharply increasing its spending in the field of security and defense, being one of the main supporters of a greater level of commitment in defense partnerships and of a more self-reliant Europe.

In its 2022 Defence White Paper, entitled “A stronger Netherlands, a safer Europe – Investing in a robust NATO and EU”, the Dutch Ministry of Defense (MOD) openly announced investments of around 15 billion euros between 2022 and 2025 in the field of security and defense in order to strengthen its military and civilian capabilities.

The “Defence Vision 2035 – Fighting for a safer future”, a document issued by the MOD, illustrates the action plan for the years ahead, based on three goals: technological development, a solid system of information and affirmation as a reliable partner.  

Among those actions, the Netherlands commits to accomplish some “National Tasks”, including the strengthening of counter CBRNe capabilities.  

The National Security Strategy issued in 2019, CBRN threats, more precisely CBRN proliferation and radiation accidents, were enlisted among the country’s security risks. This year the Strategy will be updated. 

CBRNe Foundations

The Dutch position towards the containment of CBRNe threats has always been clear and linear. It is party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the Partial Test Ban Treaty, Outer Space Treaty, and the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. 

It is part of all the four main multilateral export control regimes, namely the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group, and the Missile Technology Control Regime. 

Regarding its internal legal framework, the “Safety Regions Act” establishes 25 safety regions within the Dutch territory that mediate between the local civil protection bodies and the national one by organizing central emergency control rooms. These 25 regional management boards provide advice to fire brigades, police, and medical services in the event of CBRN incidents. 

Dutch counter CBRNe machinery is based on a multidisciplinary level, where entities from civil and military parts of different municipalities gather in case of crisis or emergencies. If an accident cannot be tackled at the regional level, the central government intervenes through the Netherlands’ National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism. 

This entity, part of the Ministry of Security and Justice, has the role of assessing threats, surveilling, and protecting people and critical infrastructures and increasing resilience. 

If possible, the organization closest to the public will be called to intervene in a crisis; if not, other municipal or regional bodies will be engaged before emergencies are dealt with at a national level. The whole process takes place under the purview of the Ministry of Interior. 

Overview of CBRNe and IED Stakeholders

The Netherlands possesses an extremely heterogenous CBRN defense system. Many entities such as the Ministry of Justice and Security, Ministry of Defence, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, security services, Police, Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection, and local government bodies cooperate daily to ensure protection against CBRNe threats. 

When it comes to CBRN incidents, Dutch law does not attribute exclusive responsibility to a particular ministry. CBRNe incidents in the Netherlands are considered no different than ordinary crises. In fact, there are no specific legal regulations that deal with these events. However, there are a key governmental civil institutions to keep in mind:  

Regarding first responders in case of CBRNe accidents, the Netherlands possesses a well-functioning machinery of civil and military members. 

Within the Dutch Police each team has a (more) specialized first responder able to analyze CBRN and EOD incidents, they can scale up or down the response required to CBRN and EOD Units from the Ministry of Defense. 

First aid in incidents is mainly provided by ambulance paramedics, able to react within a few minutes. At the local level, when it comes to disaster response, the Fire Service main responsibility lies in the hands of the fire chief – not only in charge of the operational management of the response efforts, but to also coordinate the work of the emergency services. The fire brigades comprise special HazMat teams to respond to incidents involving dangerous substances. While each firefighter receives basic “HazMat education” as part of the normal training course, certain officers take advanced courses where they learn how to operate with gas suits and manage complex chemicals incidents, although they are not trained to operate to when a CBRNe incident seems intentional. In that case, the armed forces will intervene via their CBRN response Unit.

CBRN capacities of the Armed Forces of the Netherlands are under the Single Service Management of the Army. The Royal Netherlands Army comprises the following relevant units:  

  • The MOD CBRN Centre (DCBRNC) in Vught comprises a multi-disciplinary team of civil and military personnel. It provides high-level CBRN training and education available for national and international, military, and civil organizations involved in CBRN response. The DCBRNC consists of a National CBRN Training Centre and CBRN School, the CBRN Defense Expertise Centre (DEC) as well as its own CBRN Response Unit (RE). The CBRN RE advises and assists first responders in detecting, identifying, and monitoring CBRN threats. It responds within 5 minutes of a call. They are on call 24/7/365 and have the necessary tools to conduct detection and neutralization procedures.
  • The CBRN Companies of the 13 and 43 Army Brigades. These CBRN Companies can be tasked to support military missions abroad and within national borders. Within the national operations the companies guarantee decontamination capacity for vehicles and infrastructure to civil authorities.
  • The MOD Defence EOD Service (DEODS) detects, identifies and disposes IEDs, conventional explosives and UXOs.  Within DEODS there is 1 CBRN platoon able to dispose bombs in CBRN-related scenarios.

When it comes to governmental cooperation with the private sector, Dutch laboratories have been organized into a network responsible for coordinating analytical performances under the supervision of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. For example, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu, RIVM), collecting knowledge in collaboration with other institutions, has established a partnership with TNO aimed at improving the identification of rare or unknown pathogens.  


The Netherlands aims to invest more than 15 billion euros between 2022 and 2025 in the field of security and defense, where 3.5 billion euros were planned to be allocated in 2022, marking a 40% increase in the 2022 defense budget.  Dutch military spending was 1.42% of the country’s GDP in 2021, likely reaching 2% by 2024.

According to the last Report by the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and the Minister of Foreign Affairs issued in 2020, the Netherlands has exported over €700 million worth value of licenses in 2020, exporting mainly radar and C3 systems to Egypt, parts and components to German producers of military vehicles, and military aircraft manufacturers to the US. Overall, in 2020, 87% of Dutch military exports were components. 

In its 2022 White Paper, the MOD has set forth the investment distribution for the years 2022-2027, where CBRNe capabilities are extensively contemplated. Between 25-100 million will be invested in individual protection, between 25-100 million in detection, identification, and monitoring capacity (including the acquisition of FUCHS vehicles), and 10 million will be added to the structural budget annually.

Programs and Joint Operations/Exercises in the field of CBRNe

At a national level, the Netherlands makes use of its “Attack Resources and Modus Operandi” working group on CBRNE threats, a cross-government board with members with a strategic and tactical background. It is subdivided in three working groups: Knowledge, Training & Education, and Operations.

On an international scale, the Dutch government has pursued cross-border assistance agreements with Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and Norway. It joined NATO’s Combined Joint CBRN taskforce and is exploring cooperation opportunities with the CBRN branch of the German Army. Furthermore, several other agreements have been concluded with EU institutions to ensure the protection of critical infrastructure. The country is part of the EU CBRN Action Plan, which trains personnel and facilitates the exchange of knowledge and expertise. 

Another program worth mentioning is the CBRN Joint Investment Programme (JIP CBRN), a plan launched by the European Defense Agency (EDA), funded by all its members, including the Netherlands, aiming at boosting EU states’ military and civilian capabilities to act against CBRN incidents, increasing CBRN research and technologies (R&T). The Netherlands also participates in the EU MELODY and BULLSEYE programs (mostly via the DEC CBRN and RIVM), both focused on increasing CBRN awareness and responsiveness among civil first responders.

Additionally, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is headquartered in the country (The Hague), proposing policies for the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention to all its Member States, and ensuring and monitoring their compliance.  Moreover, in 2023 the Netherlands Defense CBRN Center will host the International CBRN Commandants and Commanders (ICCC) conference in Rotterdam. The ICCC is a community of CBRN Commanders and Commandants from allied countries meeting annually to discuss and exchange knowledge on CBRN matters at tactical and operational levels. 


The Dutch CBRN framework is decentralized and heterogenous, each involved body/entity has precise and defined tasks and responsibilities in CBRN events, which creates a well-functioning machinery based on cooperation. 

The country has established specialized institutions and organizations that work closely with industry partners and international organizations to ensure a comprehensive approach to CBRN defense. The Netherlands has also demonstrated leadership in promoting international cooperation and knowledge-sharing in CBRN defense. 

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