October 1997

Chapter 17: Standardization and Interoperability

The NATO Standardization Process

1709. The NATO standardization process encompasses the formulation and subsequent national agreement on SOs which are based on standardization requirements from MNCs and nations (top-down structure) and on standardization proposals, which are, in most cases, generated by the specialized NATO groups of experts (bottom-up structure). The process ends with the implementation of approved STANAGs, APs and/or bilateral/multilateral agreements developed from work in NATO fora.

1710. Nations are encouraged to ratify and implement NATO standards. Implementation of STANAGs and APs demonstrates the willingness of nations to strive for standardization.

NATO Standards

1711. NATO Standardization is a broad process which may be applied to any NATO activity. NATO standards are normally classified into one of three main areas as follows, although some standards may apply to more than one area:

  1. Operational standards are those standards which affect future and/or current military practice, procedures or formats. They may apply among other things, to such matters as concepts, doctrine, tactics, techniques, logistics, training, organizations, reports, forms, maps and charts.
  2. Materiel standards are those standards which affect the characteristics of future and/or current materiel to include telecommunications, data processing and distribution. They may cover production codes of practice as well as materiel specifications. Materiel includes complete systems, including command, control and communications systems, weapons systems, sub-systems, assemblies, components, spare parts and materials and consumables (including ammunition, fuel, supplies, stores and consumable spares).
  3. Administrative standards primarily concern terminology - which apply to both the "operational" and the "materiel" fields - but this category also includes standards which facilitate Alliance administration in fields without direct military application (e.g. reporting of economic statistics).

1712. In general operational standardization falls into the area of responsibility of MAS while materiel standardization falls into the area of responsibility of the CNAD. Other NATO bodies such as the NATO C3 Board (NC3B), the Senior NATO Logisticians' Conference (SNLC), the NPC, Research & Technology Board (R&TB) and the IMS Divisions also deal with standardization.

1713. Standardization of terminology is essential for a collective understanding of all documentation related to standardization activities. The NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions (AAP-6) is the key NATO reference document which provides official terms and definitions to be used. Additionally, NATO specialist Glossary of Terms and Definitions provide NATO approved terminology for specialized fields.

1714. Standardization must not hinder research and development for new armaments and/or communications equipment nor the pursuit of more efficient/appropriate processes and procedures. On the contrary, by considering standardization implications in the very early state of development, collaboration in equipment programmes will be considerably enhanced.

1715. Operational and materiel standardization are inter-dependent. Standardization in key operational areas, such as concepts, doctrine, procedures and mission needs, will greatly enhance prospects for standardization of materiel. In turn, new technology will often require the reformulation of doctrine and will almost always result in changes to operational procedures. The full benefits of increased materiel standardization may not be achieved unless there is extensive harmonization of operational aspects.

1716. Operational standardization strives for the use of common concepts, doctrines, procedures, practices or formats to enhance operational interoperability of Alliance and PfP forces. Objectives for materiel standardization strive for the development and procurement of compatible, interoperable, interchangeable or common materiel for Alliance and PfP forces, as required.

Steps Within the Process

1717. The general steps in the standardization process which fall under the direct responsibility of the TAs are defined in AAP-3, Procedures for the Development, Preparation, Production and the Updating of NATO Standardization Agreements (STANAGs) and Allied Publications (APs). Such responsibility includes the management and updating of all existing STANAGS and APs, the identification, validation and agreement on new standardization requirements, the achievement of nations' ratification and - directly under MAS responsibility - the promulgation of the agreed documents.

  1. Identifying Standardization Requirements/Deficiencies. Standardization requirements are derived from either the top-down or the bottom-up approaches as described earlier. They identify the capability to be achieved and the required level of standardization. Those that form part of the NATO Standardization Programme (NSP) are referred to as Alliance Standardization Requirements (ASRs).
  2. Formulating and Agreeing Priority Standardization Objectives. Based on the agreed requirement, priority standardization needs are identified and the standard-ization objectives (referred to SOs within the NSP) are formulated.
  3. Formulating or Updating of NATO Standards. The formulating or updating of NATO standards is inherently international in character and hence must be coordinated internationally in the applicable NATO bodies. In view of the wide range of Alliance activities for which standards are desirable, the formulation of proposed NATO standards will normally be decentralized. Formulation of NATO standards can best be accomplished by multinational bodies of national experts.
  4. Ratifying NATO Standards by Nations Individually. Specific proposed standards may not be relevant to all Alliance nations. A proposed standard may be ratified and designated a NATO Standard if several (not necessarily all) Alliance nations agree that it is acceptable as a goal for implementation. Likewise Partner nations can adopt NATO standards as a goal for implementation.
  5. Promulgating NATO Standards. After sufficient nations have ratified the proposed standard it will be promulgated by Chairman MAS.
  6. Implementing Agreed NATO Standards as a Matter of National Policy. Implementation of agreed NATO standards is a national responsibility. NATO strongly encourages implementation of ratified STANAGs, by observing, monitoring and reporting results on a nation-by-nation and case-by-case basis.
  7. Verifying and Validating the Implementation of Agreed NATO Standards. Verification of standardization may be carried out in PSOs, exercises and other operations. The verification should be carried out on the basis of a verification plan. Validation of verification information may result in the adaptation and/or deletion of certain STANAGs.

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