No. 1 - Jan. 1997
Vol. 45 - pp. 20-21

NATO's new Research and
Technology Organization

Dr. Keith L. Gardner,
Head of the Defence Research Section in NATO's Defence Support Division, and

Lt. Col Terry A. Franks,
Special Adviser for Acquisition & Research in the US Mission to NATO

The Alliance's new Research and Technology Organization (R&TO) came into being on 21 November 1996, to oversee the Alliance's proven cooperative defence research and technology (R&T) processes. An overview of the emerging new organization and its potential impact and benefits is provided below, along with a plea by the authors for the continuation of the networks of national experts which have been fostered and maintained within the NATO environment.

For the past three years, NATO's defence research and technology (R&T) community has been heavily involved in an initiative to fundamentally restructure cooperative defence R&T within the Alliance. Following North Atlantic Council approval in July 1996, this process reached an important milestone on 21 November 1996, with the creation of the new Research and Technology Organization (R&TO). The governing body of the R&TO is the R&T Board, which is the single integrating body within NATO for the direction and/or coordination of defence R&T.

Members of the new Research and Technology Board which was inaugurated by Deputy Secretary General Sergio Balanzino. The inaugural session was co-chaired by Assistant Secretary General for Defence Support Norman Ray and Lt. Gen. Jan Folmer, Director of the International Military Staff.
(NATO Photo 58Kb)
The R&T Board was formally established by the Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Sergio Balanzino, in an inaugural session co-chaired by Norman W. Ray, Assistant Secretary General for Defence Support, and Lt. General G.J. Folmer, Director of the International Military Staff.

The new R&T Board reports both to the Military Committee (MC) and to the Alliance's Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD). This single R&T Board has replaced the previously existing management boards of the Defence Research Group (DRG) and the Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development (AGARD). The R&T Board will ensure effective coordination among all NATO R&T bodies, and will guide and adapt the cooperative technical programmes of the former DRG and AGARD organizations.

A strong technology development capability is vital to the military strength of the Alliance. For the past several decades, AGARD and the DRG have contributed significantly to this needed capability. Before describing the new R&T Organization, a brief review of these two predecessors is helpful.

AGARD, originally founded as an Agency of the Military Committee, was set up in May 1952 with headquarters in Paris, France. As its name implies, AGARD's activities concentrated on information exchange in aerospace research. Recent examples of AGARD studies include such topics as non-lethal weapons, theatre ballistic missile defence, protection of large aircraft in peace support operations, and limiting collateral damage caused by air-delivered weapons. AGARD was also one of the first NATO organizations to cooperate with Russia in a mutual exchange of information dealing with flight safety.

The DRG has its roots in December 1957 with a Committee of Research Directors, spurred by the launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite. In 1966 the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) emerged from the original Committee of Research Directors, and the DRG was created as a Main Group under the CNAD.

The basic charter of the DRG was to exchange information on scientific research and technology which could have an impact on future defence equipment or operations. The DRG's remit covered the entire spectrum of non-nuclear defence research, while AGARD focused on aerospace issues.

The work of both AGARD and DRG was performed by Panels which carried out research collaboration in areas where nations wished to commit resources voluntarily. The Panels conducted technical conferences and initiated focused research projects dealing with specific defence technology topics, resourcing them with national experts, data, and equipment as appropriate.

A main benefit of both the DRG and AGARD has been the growth of their networks of national experts, which have proven to be an enabling factor for enhanced defence R&T development within and among the NATO nations. Both the DRG and AGARD have focused on the early pre-competitive stages of R&T development, which is the most fertile area for effective multilateral cooperation. Nations report a high, positive return on investment for their international collaboration in this domain.

The defence R&T community

The new R&T Organization has been created to better integrate the successful programmes of AGARD and the DRG and bring more visibility to this essential component of the Alliance. The customer base formerly served by the separate AGARD and DRG bodies will continue to be supported: the military commanders who employ technology to achieve specific capabilities needed to meet operational requirements, and the national defence technology communities that provide the technology base for meeting the Alliance's military needs.

With regard to the former, the NATO Military Authorities (NMAs) participate in NATO defence R&T activities by generating requirements documents, assisting in decision-making on technical programme definition and supporting technology assessments. The military's interest ranges from satisfying short-term needs, through evaluating medium-term technology implications for force structures and capabilities, to providing focus for R&T investments for the long-term. In all cases, an important concern for the NMAs is ensuring that defence science and technology bodies make standardization and interoperability a priority concern.

Although the military is the primary customer, the vehicle for responding to their needs is an effective and accessible international defence technology community, which constitutes another customer base. Maintaining this community will be a fundamental purpose of the R&T Board. In fact, the majority of the R&T Board's activities will be directed towards enabling collaborative work within the international defence technology community. Since participation in NATO technology activity is voluntary, the participants must see a positive return on their investment of time, resources, knowledge and energy, or they will not participate

As far as this other customer base is concerned, the national defence technology communities include three components: government defence science, industry, and academia. In terms of return on investment, nations expect to see more efficient employment of their limited resources through sharing of knowledge and resources. The overall process also enhances trust and understanding, which facilitates bilateral and multilateral cooperative arrangements. On a broader scope, such contacts contribute to a healthy defence technology environment.

Industrial representatives bring practical know-how and understanding of the state of the art to NATO defence activities. In return, industry receives insight into military needs which supports informed corporate business planning decisions. Academia brings a broader and independent perspective and, in return, receives insight into operational needs and perspectives which add relevance to their professional work. All participants expect to enhance their own effectiveness through the establishment of trusted, quality contacts with their international counterparts: the "network" effect.

It is the coupling of these three national elements that prompted the decision to invite each to be represented on the R&T Board. However, each nation will have only one voice in critical R&T Board decisions.

The emerging R&T Organization

The new Research and Technology Organization has two major elements:

  1. the R&T Board and its substructure of groups of national experts resulting from the merger of the DRG and AGARD; and

  2. a Research and Technology Agency (R&TA) responsible for supporting the R&TO and implementing its work programme, resulting from the integration of the two support staffs.

The first meeting of the R&T Board took place on 21 November 1996, at which time Dr. M. Yarymovych (US) was elected as its Chairman, and Dr. E.A. van Hoek (Netherlands) was nominated as the Director of the R&TA (effective 1 July 1997).

Coordination with the other bodies involved in defence R&T development will be a key responsibility of the R&T Board. The most important of these are NATO's new Consultation, Command and Control (C3) Agency (NC3A), and the SACLANT(1) Undersea Research Centre (SACLANTCEN). These linkages will be facilitated by the continuing preparation and publication of the annual Technology Coordination Report (TCR), which was initiated during 1995 as part of the NATO R&T restructuring process. This document compares the programmes of work of all the NATO defence R&T development organizations, noting areas of common interest and making recommendations concerning the coordination of their work.

The R&T Board includes participation by key leaders of the NATO technical centres, as well as by the Major NATO Commands.

Discussions are now underway for finalizing the Charter for the R&TO, defining the target structure for the R&T Board's technical organization, and setting up the operating procedures and policy for the new organization and its agency.

The benefits of the creation of the R&T Organization include:

  1. increased visibility of the R&T community and accessibility by its customers;
  2. an increased level of national representation;
  3. opportunities for streamlining and harmonization of national participation; and
  4. the creation of a single focal point for conducting cooperative defence R&T in the Alliance and for coordination with the other NATO technology bodies.

The network imperative

It is the firm belief of the authors that the networks of national experts constitute the primary benefit of NATO defence R&T cooperation. These networks are an "enabling factor" both for maintaining the effectiveness of the technology base and for exploring new directions for progress. It is therefore essential that these networks be protected during the turbulence which accompanies any restructuring.

This is especially important because the national experts are truly "volunteers" whose continued participation depends on a positive return on the investment of their personal time and effort.


  1. Supreme Allied Command Atlantic

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