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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

FACT SHEET: U.S. Contributions to NATO Capabilities

The United States and our 27 allies are strongly committed to NATO’s three core tasks of collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security.  In pursuit of these tasks, NATO seeks a range of capabilities and other resources from allies.  These capabilities are provided mostly from allied national inventories, but also in the form of military personnel assigned to the NATO Command Structure and a range of common-funded communications, command, control and intelligence capabilities to support that NATO Command Structure.

Like all allies, the United States does not actually transfer forces to NATO until the Supreme Allied Commander Europe requests them for a particular NATO-led operation that has been authorized by NATO’s North Atlantic Council.  For purposes of coherently planning for future capabilities, NATO asks each allied nation, through the assignment of various “capability targets,” to develop or maintain in its inventory a fair share of the total capabilities that may be required by NATO.  Allied defense ministers undertake to pursue these capability targets in their national defense plans.

For most allies, certain high-end conventional U.S. military capabilities, and an independent strategic-level nuclear deterrent, would be out of reach, due to cost or level of technology.  Examples include large deck aircraft carrier battle forces, upper layer ballistic missile defense interceptor capability, advanced stand-off electronic warfare capability, and large-scale, globally-deployable logistics capabilities.  The Alliance depends mainly on the United States for these long-range power projection-related capabilities that have high conventional deterrence value.  Some allies have some of these capabilities, in limited quantities, but if they were not able to operate as part of a multinational force that includes predominantly U.S. enabling capabilities, most allies would not be able to mount an effective deterrent, nor conduct high intensity or large-scale, long duration operations.  Therefore, declaring these enabling capabilities to be available to NATO, for planning purposes, can be an effective force multiplier for the United States, recognizing that additional allied forces include nearly two million military personnel equipped and potentially available for joint operations.  At the same time, NATO has undertaken to reduce its over-reliance on the United States by asking other allies to develop more of these enabling capabilities.  The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will introduce fifth generation fighter capability to several allied air forces, is a prime example.

The United States also funds about 22 percent of the relatively small NATO Common Funded budgets (approximately $685 million out of NATO’s $2.8 billion per year) which finance shared capabilities that benefit all allies.  This shared funding accounts for just 0.03 percent of the allied nations’ aggregate defense spending, yet every $22 the United States contributes leverages $100 worth of Alliance capability.  Common Funding supports, among other things, certain Alliance operational costs (such as in Afghanistan or Kosovo); NATO AWACS (see below); training and exercises; joint facilities and infrastructure; common communications; the NATO headquarters and staff; and NATO’s unparalleled multinational integrated military command structure. 

For that NATO Command Structure, the United States and other allies contribute military personnel (around 8,950 total) to staff the NATO Command Structure headquarters that command and control NATO operations.  The United States provides around 930 personnel, or about 10 percent of the requirement, and hosts the headquarters of NATO’s Allied Command Transformation as part of the community of military installations in and around Norfolk, Virginia.

The United States also contributes, with other allies, to certain multinational projects that achieve economies of scale in developing collective capabilities to support critical NATO operational requirements:

  • NATO Ballistic Missile Defense.  In September 2009, the President announced the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) which provides missile defense to Europe.  EPAA is a phased plan to provide regional ballistic missile defense (BMD) to protect Europe, including forward deployed U.S. forces.  This system is neither capable against nor directed at Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent, but focuses instead on ballistic missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area. At the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, allied heads of state and government agreed to develop a NATO regional missile defense capability and welcomed the EPAA as the U.S. contributions to NATO BMD.  During the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, allies declared NATO BMD interim capability, which consisted of a deployed AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey, one Aegis ship deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, and a Command and Control Battle Management and Communication node at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.  All three elements are under NATO command and control.  EPAA Phase II began when the fourth U.S. BMD-capable Aegis ship forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System (AAMDS) in Romania marked its operational certification on May 12, 2016.  We anticipate an associated NATO milestone will be announced by allies at the Warsaw Summit.  On May 13, 2016, the United States and allies also broke ground on construction of the AAMDS in Poland.  When construction ends by December 2018, and the system is operationally certified, the third and final phase of EPAA will be complete.
  • NATO Airborne Early Warning Control (NAEW&C – “NATO AWACS”).  The NAEW&C consists of 16 E-3A AWACS aircraft based in Geilenkirchen, Germany.  The aircraft have had an important presence in NATO campaigns in Afghanistan, Libya, Kosovo, and the Mediterranean, as well as recently in assurance measures in the East and in Turkey.  Sixteen nations contribute funding for modernization programs and certain operational costs related to the NAEW&C force, and the UK makes contributions-in-kind from its national inventory of 6 E-3D AWACS aircraft based in Waddington, UK.  The two largest contributors are the U.S. (with a 40 percent cost share) and Germany (27 percent).  The 16 Allied participants in the program are currently reviewing a $1 billion life-extension program that will keep the fleet operational through 2035.  Simultaneously, NATO is in the initial stages of studying options for a follow-on Alliance Future Surveillance and Control capability after 2035.
  • Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system.  AGS system capabilities will enable the Alliance to perform persistent high-altitude, long-endurance, and unmanned surveillance from aerial platforms with very advanced sensors.  AGS includes five Global Hawk Block 40 unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as a ground and support segment. In September 2014, the AGS Force officially began to stand up at Sigonella Air Base, Italy, to prepare for the arrival of the first aircraft in late 2016.  By the end of 2017, the AGS program will provide NATO five Global Hawks, with related ground-based systems.  Fifteen NATO allies are together acquiring AGS for a total of €1.3B, with the U.S. paying a 42 percent acquisition cost share for this critical requirement, as well as 28 percent of the operations costs which are shared across 26 nations.
  • NATO Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR).  NATO’s Chicago Summit endorsed a JISR capabilities initiative to create a network-centric capability that integrates disparate national and multinational ISR capabilities (such as AGS and NATO AWACs) and provides dedicated ISR command and control and training.  In February 2016, NATO defense ministers declared that JISR had achieved initial operating capability, following improvements in NATO’s JISR doctrine and procedures, training, and network architecture.  The United States contributes to this network through NATO common funding and smaller multinational programs.  Allies are now considering a longer-term, iterative capability-development strategy to advance this key enabling capability area. 
  • C-17 Strategic Airlift Command (SAC).  Ten NATO allies plus two Partnership for Peace countries work under a Memorandum of Understanding to operate three Boeing C-17 strategic transport aircraft out of Papa Air Base, Hungary.  The participating nations each control a proportional share of the available fight hours, based on their respective acquisition cost shares, and may choose to make their hours available to support operations led by nations, by NATO or by the European Union.  The U.S. acquisition cost share was 33 percent (for which the United States provided one C-17 aircraft as its contribution).  The U.S. annual operations cost share is 31 percent (of a total annual cost of $153 million).
  • Precision-Guided Munitions (PGM).  A multinational project, launched at the Wales Summit to address requirements for air-to-ground Precision-Guided Munitions (PGM), has grown to include eight allied nations.  Now the participants are pursuing multinational procurement of U.S.-manufactured PGMs using the NATO Lead Nation Procurement Initiative, an innovative U.S. arrangement that allows a single lead nation from a multinational group to acquire U.S. systems through Foreign Military Sales and then transfer a portion of those systems to other participating nations without additional retransfer requests.  The NATO Support and Procurement Agency has submitted Letter of Request documentation designed to enable several of these nations to acquire substantial numbers of PGMs.  Implementation efforts are ongoing, and the initial procurement details should be finalized in the coming months.