The principal policy and decision-making bodies of the Alliance are the North Atlantic Council, the Defence Planning Committee and the Nuclear Planning Group. Each of these plays a vital role in the consultative and decision-making processes that are the bedrock of the cooperation, joint planning and shared security. The principle of consensus decision-making is applied throughout the Alliance, reflecting the fact that it is the member countries that decide and each one of them is involved in the decision-making process.
The decisions taken by each of these bodies have the same status and represent the agreed policy of the member countries, irrespective of the level at which they are taken. Subordinate to these senior bodies are specialised committees also consisting of officials representing their countries. This committee structure provides the basic mechanism that gives the Alliance its consultation and decision-making capability, ensuring that each member country can be represented at every level and in all fields of NATO activity.
The North Atlantic Council is the only body within the Alliance which derives its authority explicitly from the North Atlantic Treaty. The Council itself was given responsibility under the Treaty for setting up subsidiary bodies. Many committees and planning groups have since been created to support the work of the Council or to assume responsibility in specific fields such as defence planning, nuclear planning and military matters.
The Military Committee is the senior military authority in NATO under the overall political authority of the Council. It is an integral part of the policy and decision-making apparatus of the Alliance and provides an essential link between the political decision-making process within the North Atlantic Council and the integrated command structures of NATO charged respectively with the conduct of military operations and the further military transformation of the Alliance.