News | July 1, 2004

NATO Technology: from Gap to Divergence?

By Donald C. Daniel Defense Horizons 42


NATO TechnologyOverview

A widening technology gap between the United States and other NATO members will challenge the ability of NATO to function as a cohesive, multinational force. Over several decades, great disparities in the funding of defense research and technology by NATO members has produced a widening technological gap that threatens to become a divergence - a condition from which the Alliance may not be able to recover. The technology gap, in turn, is creating a capabilities gap that undercuts the operational effectiveness of NATO forces, including the new NATO Response Force.

With only slight modifications (not additions) to current total defense expenditures, and using funds that will be available as they restructure their forces, European members could not only double their current investment but take significant strides to ensure that they are not left behind in a world dominated by technology.

In addition, and of equal importance, the United States much share more of its fundamental basic and applied research with NATO partners, tae a greater role of leadership in NATO's Research and Technology Organization (RTO), and increase participation across all technical areas in the RTO. These primary actions, coupled with other actions by all NATO nations and the Allied Command Transformation, offer the potential to dramatically improve a situation that very much needs immediate attention. It is a relatively straightforward matter now. NATO has both a capabilities gap and a technology gap. Immediate attention to the latter, with a commitment by every NATO nation to invest three percent of its military budget in research and technology, may, over time, significantly reduce the capability gap.