Transatlantic Cooperation in Developing Weapon Systems for NATO--A European Perspective

PSAD-79-26: Published: Mar 21, 1979. Publicly Released: Mar 21, 1979.

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Interoperability and standardization in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are receiving strong emphasis in defense circles throughout the alliance. Both are seen as ways to improve performance on the battle field and to promote better management of defense budgets. Interoperability requires two or more weapon systems, used for the same military purposes, to be sufficiently similar to enable them to operate with common supplies such as fuel or ammunition. Standardization envisions even greater commonality.

In codevelopment all participants can derive economic and technological benefits from sharing the cost of development and the ensuing production. The formation of consortia to develop weapon systems entirely within the European community has been gathering momentum because of Europe's desire for technological advancement. If the United States and Europe continue to develop different weapons to meet common needs, the results could be serious setbacks for standardization. The European community still desires American participation in developing weapons for the European market to take advantage of American know-how. Europe has experienced some problems in its move toward multinational codevelopment of weapon systems. One of the most difficult stumbling blocks has been in getting a project started properly. The principal impediments Europeans see are: that the United States, because of its size, will tend to dominate in a joint venture relegating Europe to a junior partner status; U.S. arms export policies may restrict third country sales; government restrictions on technology transfer may impede or block the free flow of U.S. technology to Europe; and doubt as to whether the United States would be willing to compromise on some of its weapon system acquisition practices.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The President should establish a group drawn from government agencies and private industry to identify and propose any needed changes in policies and procurement practices which could facilitate transatlantic codevelopment. Whatever the group concludes as the level of codevelopment to be achieved, it will be necessary for it to address the following issues which impede these activites: (1) U.S. laws and procurement regulations which impede cooperative development programs; (2) U.S. arms export policies which restrict opportunites for greater U.S. involvement in codevelopment programs; and (3) policies which restrict technology transfer and the reasons for this restriction.

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