• Last updated: 26 Jul. 2011 11:15

The ability to work together is more important than ever for the Alliance. States need to share a common set of standards, especially among military forces, to carry out multinational operations. By helping to achieve interoperability – the ability of diverse systems and organizations to work together – among NATO’s forces, as well as with those of its partners, standardization allows for more efficient use of resources. It therefore greatly increases the effectiveness of the Alliance’s defence capabilities.

NATO standardization bodies are grouped together under the NATO Standardization Organization (NSO). The NSO includes the Committee for Standardization (CS), which, under the authority of the North Atlantic Council, issues policy and guidance for all NATO standardization activities. The NSO also comprises the NATO Standardization Agency, its executive arm.

  • Definitions


    NATO standardization is the development and implementation of concepts, doctrines and procedures to achieve and maintain the required levels of compatibility, interchangeability or commonality needed to achieve interoperability.

    Standardization affects the operational, procedural, material and administrative fields. This includes common doctrine for planning a campaign, standard procedures for transferring supplies between ships at sea, and interoperable material such as fuel connections at airfields. It permits the many NATO countries to work together, as well as with their partners, preventing duplication and promoting better use of economic resources.

    Military Operational Standardization

    The development and implementation of standards in the area of military operations helps multinational forces work more effectively and efficiently together.


    Document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.
    Note: Standards should be based on the consolidated results of science, technology and experience, and aimed at the promotion of optimum community benefits.(AAP-42)

    NATO standardization agreement

    A standardization agreement (STANAG) is a NATO standardization document that specifies the agreement of member Nations to implement a standard, in whole or in part, with or without reservation, in order to meet an interoperability requirement.(AAP-03J)

    Allied publication

    The name given to both standards and standards-related documents published by NATO. (AAP-42)

  • NATO standardization bodies

    Committee for Standardization (CS)

    The Committee for Standardization (CS) is the senior NATO committee for Alliance standardization and operates under the authority of the North Atlantic Council. It issues policy and guidance for all NATO standardization activities.

    The CS is chaired by the Secretary General, normally represented by two permanent Co-Chairmen, namely the Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment and the Director General of the International Military Staff.

    Since September 2000, Partner countries have become actively involved in the Committee’s activities.

    The CS meets in full format twice a year and comprises 28 NATO countries and more than 30 Partner countries. It is assisted by National Representatives (CSREPS) with delegated authority, who meet four times a year.

    The work of the CSREPs focuses on harmonizing standardization activities between NATO and national bodies and promoting interaction between them in all fields of standardization.

    The Committee is the Board of Directors of the NATO Standardization Agency, directing and managing the latter’s work in accordance with its Terms of Reference.

    The NATO Standardization Organization (NSO)

    The NATO Standardization Organization (NSO) is a NATO subsidiary body responsible for harmonizing and coordinating all standardization activities of the member states of the Alliance, NATO’s Strategic Commands and principal committees, and its Partner countries.

    The NSO operates under the authority of the North Atlantic Council (NAC), which established the NSO in 1995 by agreeing on a founding charter describing NSO tasks and responsibilities. Each NATO member state is responsible, to the extent that it is capable, to support the NSO’s work.

    The NSO has two main functional elements: the Committee for Standardization and the NATO Standardization Agency.

    The Tasking Authorities are senior NATO committees that can task subordinate groups to produce Standardization Agreements and Allied Publications. They are therefore deeply involved in NSO activities within their respective fields of standardization.

    The NATO Standardization Agency (NSA)

    A single, integrated body, the NATO Standardization Agency (NSA) has the authority to initiate, co-ordinate, support and administer standardization activities conducted under the authority of the Committee for Standardization. It is composed of military and civilian staff.

    In addition, it especially supports the Military Committee (MC) Joint, Maritime,  Land, Air and Medical Standardization Boards through four military operational oriented branches within the NSA. Each of these boards acts as a Delegate Tasking Authority for operational standardization, including doctrine, as delegated by the MC.

    The Director of the NSA is the principal advisor to the MC on operational standardization and to the Secretary General on overall standardization matters. He or she is selected by the CS, endorsed by the MC and appointed by the Secretary General, normally for a three-year period. The authority to promulgate NATO Standardization Agreements and Allied Publications is vested in the Director.

    NATO Standardization Staff Group (NSSG)

    The NATO Standardization Staff Group (NSSG) assists the Director, NSA. Its principal task is to harmonize standardization policies and procedures and to coordinate all NATO standardization activities at the staff level. It is responsible for liaising with staff and preparing documentation that contributes to the formulation of standardization requirements for NATO’s military commands and standardization objectives for the NATO Standardization Programme.

  • Civil standards within NATO

    It is NATO policy to use suitable civil standards to the greatest extent practical. This includes adopting existing civil standards and transferring NATO standards to civil Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs). The aim is to convert the latter into civil standards and re-adopt them, taking into account Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). NATO’s IPR Policy was approved by NATO member states in 2008.

    Technical Cooperation Agreements form the legal basis for the relationship between NATO and civil SDOs. Since 2004, the NSA has established such agreements with 10 SDOs.

  • Achievements and Products

    The NATO Standardization Agency (NSA) administers the NATO Standardization Program (NSP), a classified database that prioritizes Alliance standardization requirements as a result of the Force Planning process to achieve interoperability. Force planning aims to promote the availability of national forces and capabilities for the full range of Allied missions.

    NATO terminology is stored and managed by means of the NATO Terminology Database, which contains more than ten thousand definitions of NATO terms, helping to promote common understanding.

    Combined Operations, reinforced by the forces of NATO partner and other states, cannot be efficient without common standards. Partners’ force contributions to NATO-led operations can only succeed by using the Alliances’ proven portfolio of standards in all standardization fields – operational, procedural, material and administrative.

    The products of the NSA ensure that the armed forces of the Alliance and their force-contributing partners can operate efficiently and effectively together.

    STANAGs and APs promulgated by the NSA are essential for the Tactical Evaluation programme of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). The programme provides SACEUR with a statement describing a unit’s capability to execute its assigned mission. Furthermore, NSA-supported standards are needed to certify units that are selected to become part of the NATO Response Force.