It brings together the top national officials responsible for defence procurement in NATO member and Partner countries to consider the political, economic and technical aspects of the development and procurement of equipment for NATO forces.
The CNAD reports directly to the North Atlantic Council – NATO’s principal decision-making body. It is tasked with identifying collaborative opportunities for research, development and production of military equipment and weapons systems. It is responsible for a number of cooperative armaments projects that aim to equip NATO forces with cutting-edge capabilities. Ongoing projects include the Alliance Ground Surveillance Programme (AGS) and the Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence Programme (ALTBMD).
The CNAD also plays a key role in the promotion of essential battlefield interoperability and in the harmonization of military requirements on an Alliance-wide basis. Identifying and pursuing collaborative opportunities, furthermore, it promotes transatlantic defence industrial cooperation.
All 28 NATO member countries are represented in the CNAD and some meetings of the Conference are also open to Partners.
The CNAD meets twice a year at the level of National Armaments Directors (NADs) under the chairmanship of the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment. During these biannual meetings, the CNAD sets the direction of the Conference’s work and oversees that of the CNAD subordinate structure.
Overall guidance is provided through the annual CNAD Management Plan. The Management Plan translates NATO’s strategic objectives into specific objectives for the armaments community and defines priorities for day-to-day cooperation.
Regular meetings at the level of the in-house Representatives of the National Armaments Directors (NADREPs) ensure the day-to-day implementation of the CNAD’s objectives.
The work of the CNAD is prepared and supported by over 50 subordinate committees that comprise the ‘CNAD family’.
The Army, Air Force and Naval Main Armaments Groups (MAGs) and their respective sub-groups support the work of the Conference and are responsible to it for all activities in their respective fields. The Research and Technology Board (RTB) provides advice and assistance to the CNAD in the area of defence research and technological development. Assistance on industrial matters is provided by the NATO Industrial Advisory Group (NIAG), enabling the CNAD to benefit from industry’s advice on how to foster government-to-industry and industry-to-industry cooperation. NIAG also assists the Conference in exploring opportunities for international collaboration. Other groups under the CNAD are active in fields such as ammunition safety, system life cycle management, acquisition practices, codification, and quality assurance.
The work of the CNAD and its subordinate groups is supported by the International Staff in the Defence Investment Division.
Working and ad hoc groups are established in order to promote cooperation in certain fields to meet high priority requirements. Taken together, the CNAD provides member and in some cases Partner countries opportunities to cooperate on equipment and research projects. At the same time, it facilitates exchange of information on national programmes to the benefit of individual countries and to NATO as a whole.
Forty years ago in 1966, CNAD was created to provide a flexible and open framework for armaments cooperation within the Alliance. With changing security environments, and in light of NATO’s overall transformation and reform efforts, the CNAD is proving its flexibility and adaptability. A number of CNAD subgroups, for example, will be merged with related working groups from the Military Committee as a further step towards a more capabilities-based approach to armaments cooperation in the Alliance.