NATO's New Defense Program:

Issues for Consideration

ID-79-4A: Published: Jul 9, 1979. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1979.

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NATO is recognized to be this country's single most important security arrangement. Its new plan, the Long-Term Defense Program (LTDP), reflects the alliance's most recent acknowledgement of, and effort to resolve, its well-known shortcomings and deficiencies in light of the buildup of the Warsaw Pact forces. The plan focuses on NATO's priority defense concerns, which are: readiness; reinforcement; reserve forces; maritime posture; air defense; command, control and communications; electronic warfare; standardization and interoperability; consumer logistics; and nuclear forces. The U.S. will spend an estimated $40.5 billion for forces committed to NATO in fiscal year 1979. The basic theme of the program is increased cooperation among alliance members. It calls for quantitative increases in forces, weapons, and equipment, and for more effective procedures and plans for multinational coordination and mutual support.

The plan is far from complete and some important and sensitive issues remain unresolved. To put the program into effect, nations may need to realign some national priorities, reallocate resources, and alter national defense plans. Similar past improvement efforts have been impaired by NATO's inability to overcome national concerns of its members. A 1970 study generated by NATO's own Defense Planning Committee identified critical deficiencies which would face the alliance during the 1970's. At that time, the Defense Ministers agreed to place higher priorities on these areas. Nearly a decade later, these same issues are addressed in the new program. Limitations of NATO's planning system are partly to blame. A review of U.S./NATO-related activities also identified many problems in the priority defense areas. Although it stresses collective action, national interests and issues will continue to influence NATO-related decisions made by sovereign nations. In considering legislative proposals to implement the U.S. share of the LTDP, the following issues will warrant attention: (1) the responsiveness of NATO allies in fulfilling their new program requirements; (2) the impact of the program on the U.S. defense costs; and (3) the potential expansion of NATO's role.

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