The NPG was founded in December 1966, when the Defence Planning Committee in Ministerial Session accepted the recommendation of the Special Committee of Defence Ministers, chaired by Robert McNamara of the United States, to establish a consultative process on nuclear doctrine within NATO.
Ministers implemented these recommendations by creating the Nuclear Defence Affairs Committee (NDAC), which included all NATO members, and the NPG, which was restricted to nations participating in NATO’s integrated military structure, and was mandated to carry out detailed work on nuclear issues.
In order to facilitate the NPG’s work, only seven nations sat on the Group at any one time. The United States, United Kingdom, Italy and West Germany were permanent members, while appointments to the other three NPG seats lasted for one year, and rotated amongst the eligible nations. The NDAC met once per year at ministerial level, meeting for the last time in 1973. The Portuguese Cárnation Revolution in 1974, raised some security concerns, which led to the cancellation of the planned NDAC. Thereafter no meeting of the NDAC has convened.
Even though the NDAC has never been formally abolished, its work was taken over by the NPG, which then became the only formal NATO body dealing with nuclear affairs.
The rotational membership of the NPG was ended in 1979 in recognition of the increasing importance to all members of NATO’s nuclear policy and posture.