News | March 1, 2003

NATO Defense Science and Technology

By Donald C. Daniel and Leigh C. Caraher Defense Horizons 24


NATO Defense Science and TechnologyOverview

The accord establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 provided the framework for the greatest international mechanism ever in defense science and technology. From its earliest days, NATO involvement in science and technology has sought to build cooperation and promote security and stability. Today, the central element of the NATO defense science and technology program is the Research and Technology Organization (RTO), which provides the best basis for collaboration among the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Through this body, alliance nations plan and execute activities that cover the full spectrum of technologies vital to current and future security. 

RTO and its two predecessors, the Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development and the Defense Research Group, have a history of fostering long-term relationships among senior executives, scientists, and engineers; sharing information and research; and enhancing military capabilities. There is no international activity that rivals RTO in scope, magnitude, or potential. RTO can continue to build on these successes by emphasizing longevity of its highly qualified members, prioritizing areas of opportunity, integrating the seven newest NATO invitees, and building a closer relationship with Russia. This paper examines the origins of NATO defense science and technology, provides an overview of the Research and Technology Organization, and analyzes the elements that make RTO successful. The paper concludes with recommendations for enhancing RTO effectiveness in the 21st century.