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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

NATO Common Funds Burdensharing: Background and Current Issues


Carl Ek
Specialist in International Relations

For decades, Congress has maintained an interest in burdensharing arrangements with allies, particularly with those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The 28 NATO member states contribute to the activities of the alliance in several ways, the chief of which is through the deployment of their own armed forces, funded by their individual national budgets. Certain commonly conducted activities, however, are paid for out of three NATO-run budgets. These three accounts—the civil budget, the military budget, and the security investment program—are funded by individual contributions from the member states.

The countries’ percentage shares of the common funds are negotiated among the members, and are based upon per capita gross national income and several other factors. The U.S. shares for the three funds, which have fallen over the past three decades, currently range from about 22%-25%. In three waves, 12 central and eastern European nations were admitted into the alliance in 1999, 2004, and 2009. As NATO has expanded, it has incurred certain additional costs to address some of the force modernization needs of the new members. These costs are being shared by all, including the new countries. In 2005, members of the alliance adopted a new burdensharing agreement, under which the U.S. level was limited to its then-existing share. Further changes in the cost share formulas may be under review.

During a November 2010 summit in Lisbon, NATO member states agreed to the acquisition of a new capability: ballistic missile defense. Although the estimated commonly shared costs of the planned system are relatively modest, member states eventually will be encouraged to assume responsibility individually for deploying various elements of the system, such as radar, interceptor missiles, sensors, and Aegis-equipped naval vessels.

The 112th Congress may examine U.S. contributions to the NATO budgets. In the wake of the global financial crisis, most member states have been making or considering reductions in their defense budgets, prompting questions over their willingness and ability to contribute effectively to possible future alliance operations.



Date of Report: February 15, 2012
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RL30150
Price: $29.95

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