Nuclear Planning Group (NPG)
The Nuclear Planning Group acts as the senior body on nuclear matters in the Alliance and discusses specific policy issues associated with nuclear forces. The Alliance's nuclear policy is kept under constant review, and is modified and adapted in light of new developments.
- The Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) reviews and sets the Alliance's nuclear policy in light of the ever-changing security environment.
- While the North Atlantic Council is the ultimate authority within NATO, the NPG acts as the senior body on nuclear matters in the Alliance.
- The NPG discusses specific policy issues associated with nuclear forces and wider issues such as nuclear arms control and nuclear proliferation.
- Irrespective of whether or not they have nuclear weapons, all Allies are members of the NPG with the exception of France, which has decided not to participate.
- This body was founded in December 1966 to provide a consultative process on nuclear doctrine within NATO.
NATO’s senior body on nuclear policy issues
NATO Allies retain political control of all aspects of nuclear decision-making.
While the North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the ultimate authority within NATO, the NPG acts as the senior body on nuclear matters. Its discussions cover a broad range of nuclear policy matters, including the overall effectiveness of NATO’s nuclear deterrent, the safety, security and survivability of nuclear weapons, and communications and information systems.
The role of the NPG is to review the Alliance's nuclear policy in light of the ever-changing security challenges of the international environment and to adapt it if necessary. The NPG also adjusts planning and consultation procedures accordingly.
It provides a forum in which NATO member countries can participate in the development of the Alliance's nuclear policy and in decisions on NATO's nuclear posture, irrespective of whether or not they themselves maintain nuclear weapons. The policies that are agreed upon therefore represent the common position of all the participating countries. Decisions within the NPG are taken by consensus, as is the case for all NATO committees.
All member countries are part of the consultative process in the NPG with the exception of France, which has decided not to participate.
The Nuclear Planning Group is chaired by the NATO Secretary General and generally meets at the level of defence ministers.
The work of the NPG is prepared by the NPG Staff Group. This group is composed of members of the national delegations of all participating member countries. The Staff Group carries out detailed work on behalf of NPG Permanent Representatives (or Ambassadors) at the head of national delegations.
The senior advisory body to the NPG on nuclear policy and planning issues is the NPG High Level Group (HLG). In 1998-1999, the HLG also took over the functions and responsibilities of the former Senior Level Weapons Protection Group (SLWPG), which was charged with overseeing nuclear weapons safety, security and survivability matters. The HLG is chaired by the United States and is composed of national policy makers (at policy director level) and experts from Allied capitals. Together they discuss aspects of NATO's nuclear policy, planning and force posture, and matters concerning the safety, security and effectiveness of NATO’s nuclear deterrent.
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 issues within NATO.
Ministers implemented the recommendation by creating two ministerial bodies: the Nuclear Defence Affairs Committee (NDAC), which was open to 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.
Initially, 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 among the eligible nations. Until 1973, the NDAC met once per year at ministerial level to review and provide formal approval for the proposals of the NPG.
Since then, even though the NDAC was never formally abolished, its work has been taken over by the NPG, which then became the only formal NATO body dealing with nuclear affairs. The rotational membership of the NPG ended in 1979 in recognition of the increasing importance to all members of NATO’s nuclear policy and posture.