About Defence

Defence Organisation

The headquarters of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is in Whitehall, London.

The organisation is described in more detail in "How Defence works - The Defence Framework" - see Related pages.

Organograms and supporting data sets detailing the organisation down to military one-star and civilian head of division level can also be found in "Transparency" - see Related pages.


Defence is headed by the Secretary of State for Defence, who is the Cabinet Minister charged with making and executing Defence policy and providing the means by which it is executed through the Armed Forces, and is accountable to Parliament for the resources used to do so. The Secretary of State is responsible ultimately for all elements of Defence and is supported by a number of subordinate Ministers who are assigned responsibilities for specific aspects of Defence business. The Secretary of State chairs the Defence Council.

Principal advisers

Ministers are supported by the top management of Defence, headed jointly by the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Permanent Secretary. They share responsibility for much of the Department's business and their roles reflect the importance of both military and civilian advice on political, financial, administrative and operational matters. Below them, military and civilian staff work together, in unified structures at all levels.

The Chief of the Defence Staff is the principal military adviser to the Secretary of State and the Government and the military strategic commander.

The Permanent Secretary is the principal civilian adviser on Defence and has the primary responsibility for policy, finance, management, administration  and is the Departmental Accounting Officer.

Defence Board and Chiefs of Staff Committee

The Chief of the Defence Staff and the Permanent Secretary are supported by the Defence Board and the Chiefs of Staff Committee, which include the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Chief of the Naval Staff, Chief of the General Staff, Chief of the Air Staff, 2nd Permanent Secretary, Chief Scientific Adviser, Chief of Defence Materiel and Director General Finance. The Defence Board and Chiefs of Staff Committee are in turn supported by a number of other senior boards and committees.

Command and management structure

Below the level of the Defence Board and the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the command and management structure of Defence comprises:

  • The Head Office, which is responsible for: advising Ministers on the development of the Defence contribution to Government policy and supporting Ministers and the Permanent Secretary in discharging their Parliamentary accountabilities; making policy and setting strategy; planning, setting objectives and allocating resources in the Defence Plan, and managing the performance of those with responsibility for delivering against it; and giving strategic direction to military operations

  • Top Level Budget holders, Process Owners and Senior Responsible Owners of major capability or business change programmes, who are responsible for delivering against the objectives set in the Defence Plan

Financial Structure

The financial structure of Defence comprises the Top Level Budget holders, among whom the operating costs of Defence are allocated, and who receive from the Permanent Secretary delegated authorities in a range of areas, including finance, personnel and commercial. Within Top Level Budgets, there are a number of Agencies, as well as lower level budget holders.

There are also Trading Fund Agencies, which are part of Defence, but are outside the Top Level Budget structure and are self-financing through the sale of goods and services to Defence and other customers.

Professional structure

The military professional structure is embodied in the three single Services (the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force), which exist as distinct organisations within Defence, each with its own ethos and traditions.

The Chief of the Defence Staff is the professional head of the Armed Forces across Defence and the single Service Chiefs of Staff are the professional heads of their respective Services. The Chiefs of Staff are all Top Level Budget holders in their own right, but have separate, wider responsibilities for maintaining professional standards and the effective and efficient administration of their Services as a whole.

Civilians within Defence are professionally part of the UK Civil Service. PUS is the professional head of the Civil Service in Defence.

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