American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Armies’ Program
“Optimizing Coalition Interoperability”
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As a means of continuing to foster and capitalize on the close cooperation between the Allies during World War II, the Plan to Effect Standardization was initiated in 1947 between the Armies of the United States, Britain and Canada – the ABC Armies. In 1954, the Basic Standardization Concept replaced this Plan.

In 1963, Australia joined the organization. With the ratification of the Basic Standardization Agreement 1964 (BSA 64) on 10 October 1964 by the Armies of the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Canada (CA) and Australia (AS), the current ABCA Armies’ Program was formally established as the American, British, Canadian, Australian Armies’ Standardization Program. By the invitation of the ABCA Armies, New Zealand (NZ) was granted observer status in the Program under the sponsorship of AS in 1965.

In 2004, the US Army signed an MOU with the US Marine Corps that formalized their increasing participation in the Program. As a result, the US is currently represented by a single national position, typically through the senior US Army representative. Since over the years, the UK has elected to include the Royal Marines within its delegation, the Program now embraces all the Land Forces of the member nations.

New Zealand was officially accepted as a full member in March 2006 but the title remained unchanged as the ABCA Armies’ Program.

The ABCA Program is a vibrant, proactive and evolving organization that reflects and pursues the shared national values and defense goals of its member countries. In June 2002, the ABCA Executive Council [called the TEAL (Tripartite Equipment and Logistics) HODs (Heads of Delegation) at the time], concerned with the impact of the “post-9/11” security environment,   created by terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York City and on the Pentagon in Virginia, USA that resulted in over 3,000 fatalities, established a Special Working Party (SWP) to conduct a Program Review. The SWP’s report on transformation was approved by the Council in May 2003 and implemented over the following year. The Program Review not only addressed the changing security environment but sought to improve the Program’s responsiveness, relevance and focus. The resulting transformation changed the decentralized, engagement-oriented, process-heavy Program into one that is centralized, production-oriented and less bureaucratic. The first Annual Meeting of the newly transformed Program took place in Washington in June 2004.

Today, the focus of the Program is on interoperability, defined as: the ability of Alliance Forces, and when appropriate, forces of Partner and other Nations, to train, exercise and operate effectively together in the execution of assigned missions and tasks.

Member countries acknowledge that future operations are likely to be in coalition with ABCA and other willing nations. Methods of improving, testing and enhancing coalition processes, procedures and systems in peacetime are likely to optimize coalition interoperability on operations.


The aims of the Program drafted in BSA 64 are:

  • to ensure the fullest cooperation and collaboration among the ABCA Armies.
  • to achieve the highest possible degree of interoperability among the signatory Armies through materiel and non-materiel standardization.
  • to obtain the greatest possible economy by the use of combined resources and effort.

While these underlying aims remain the intent of the Program, the means to achieve them have developed considerably from those detailed in BSA 64 as a result of the Program Review. Today, the aim of the ABCA Program is achieved through its Vision, Mission and Goals, which were endorsed in May 2003.


The ABCA Program will achieve the effective integration of the capabilities necessary to enable ABCA Armies to conduct the full spectrum of coalition land operations successfully in a Joint environment, now and into the future.


To optimize ABCA Armies’ interoperability in order to deliver success on coalition operations.


In all Program activities, the Program seeks to achieve the following goals:

  • Relevance and Responsiveness.
  • Standardization, Integration and Interoperability.
  • Mutual Understanding.
  • Knowledge Sharing.
  • Efficiency and Effectiveness.

In addition, the Program Review identified a number of overarching Program Priorities and Coalition Critical Integrators, which are discussed in detail in the Program’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).


To help define Program execution, the ABCA Executive Council agreed in principle to:

  • Acknowledge the primacy of Lead Nation doctrine at the operational level.
  • Adopt NATO terms for the definition of the levels of standardization being ‘Interchangeability, Compatibility and Commonality’ (NATO AAP–6).


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