Ministry of Defence
Or: Gets More Funding than Silly Walks
Protecting the United Kingdom with stiff upper lips and about between £20-30 billion a year is the Ministry of Defence or, if you can't decide whether to spell that with an 's' or a 'c', the MoD, headquartered in Whitehall, London.
Citizens may look to them for all their Navy, Army, and Air Force needs, both foreign and domestic.
Your Mission, etc., etc.
The purpose of the organization is perhaps best put in their own words, so as not to mistake it:
A fairly general statement that coves a lot of territory and leaves plenty of room for maneuvering, which is of course very important in military operations.
Old Habits Die Hard
The modern MoD has its origins in a number of old departments, long since integrated, consolidated, and upgraded. Forty years ago, the MoD's efforts were still collectively covered by the Admiralty, the War Office, the Air Ministry, the Ministry of Aviation, and an older version of itself by the same name.
The oldest of these offices, the Admiralty, dated back to Henry VIII's lifetime, while the Air Ministry was born in 1918, after World War I saw the first use of aircraft for military purposes.
It was only in 1971 that MoD finally took on all its current functions.
The MoD Squad--Who's Who in the Ministry
It's government, so it's bureaucracy. The structure of the MoD is very complex; by no means is it easily understood or summarized.
With that in mind, grossy simplified:
- Armed Forces Minster: Operations Issues
- Defence Procurement Minister: Equipment Issues
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Veterans Affairs: Civilian Personnel, Veteran, Environmental and having a hell of time putting that on a business card Issues.
This lot is all directly accountable to Parliament, which keeps an eye on things through debates amd Parliamentary Questions in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The former has subcommittees responsible for investigating usage--or misusage--of public monies, none of which anyone particulalry looks forward to having afternoon tea with.
Principal Advisers: Sharing equal clout, and helping out the Ministers.
The Defence Council: A much bigger party, and no doubt the forum for a great deal of bickering. Lots of ribbons, stripes, and badges in the same place at once.
- Chief of the Defence Staff: Career Soldier, and Military advisor to the Secretary of State
- Permanent Secretary: Civilian, responsible for policy, finance, administration, and gets to wear more comfortable clothes to the office.
The CDS is high up in the chain of command, distributing orders to commanders as they come in from above. But I wouldn't want his job any more than the PUS's--that's what the call it--who is personally answerable to Parliament for all matters money and has to keep the books balanced in ways that would make the average accountant shudder.
The Secretary of State for Defence leads the group, which is charged with the formal legal basis of defence conduct. The following have chairs at the table:
- The Secretary of State for Defence
- The Minister of State for the Armed Forces
- The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence Procurement
- The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Veterans' Affairs
- Chief of the Defence Staff
- Permanent Secretary
- 1st Sea Lord/Chief of the Naval Staff
- Chief of the General Staff
- Chief of the Air Staff
- Vice Chief of the Defence Staff
- 2nd Permanent Secretary
- Chief of Defence Procurement
- Chief of Defence Logistics
- Chief Scientific Adviser
One gets the feeling that these meetings, in addition to being long and stressful, are also very well catered.
When and if that lot come to a conclusion of some sort, the ten non-ministers among them get together to become the Defence Management Board, the Council's executive muscle.
Central Staff: Moving on down the line, here. The policy core, answering to the ministers for such things as image management, corporate planning, leasdership strategy, and resource allocation.
They further break down into areas seven.
- Policy Director: Just what it sounds like. Also in charge of the MoD's Corporate Image.
- Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Committments): Commits actual forces to various enterprises.
- The Finance Director: Again, just what you'd think.
- Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Equipment): Number two up there sent all these guys. Number four here sends all the guns.
- Science and Technology Director: Under the Chief Scientific Adviser, whom you met earlier. He scrutinizes the tech and equipment stuff in addition to making sure the War Room gets good reception.
- Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel): Reserve forces and training.
- Personnel Director: Watching them civilian staff members.
These folks work a great deal with sort of, sort of not MoD organizations like Intelligence and Medical Services.
And these are only the folks at the very, very top.
On the budgetary level, MoD is every bit as byzantine
as a great, big, byzantine thing. Despite their flowcharts and efficiency models, which make things a lot better than they could be, MoD still has to move billions of pounds around each year, and there are plenty of committees, boards, and agencies responsible for it. But I've gone as far with it as a non-British civilian can be asked.
At Their Command
The modern world is by and large--for the time being--not one of large-scale conventional warfare. The role of MoD has changed with the reduction of its size and mission following the end of the Cold War, when Western nations the world over were stuck with all these nuclear weapons and no one to point them at.
But they can still whoop some ass almost anywhere in the world. Here's how many will come, if you invite them:
Not all of that last group will show up if you want to have the party at your place. But those that do will Bring Their Own Bombs, certainly. The MoD commands a full spread of the most technologically advanced weaponry, from the simple sidearm to the advanced-ballistic-nuclear-missile-carrying submarine.
So you'd better put extra hotdogs on the grill.
Today's To Do List
Since the collapse of the Cold War, the MoD has seen a decrease in its expense budget, and an accordant decrease in its size. That does not, of course, mean that they're sitting about drumming their collective trigger-fingers.
Recent or on-going operations include:
Operation Veritas: Billed as the British contribution to the U.S.'s treacle-sounding, anti-terrorist Operation Enduring Freedom.
Operation Fingal: A.K.A International Security Assistance Force, which is doing its best to keep the interim authority in Afghanistan behind its desks instead of under them.
You will also have recently seen British forces in Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Iraq, and Mozambique, performing in various roles.
So That Covers It, Right?
Hardly. The MoD is a huge organization, operating on countless levels and in numerous ways. I have not even touched on home defense in this writeup, and encourage others to continue filling the subject heading. It's truly immense. Suffice to say that, as large as it is, the United Kingdom's ranks 5th--or did, in 1999--in the world for defense spending, writing checks for eight times less than the United States, which came in at 260,000,000,000 pounds.
So somewhere, there's a harder writeup than this to be done.