Defence minister

Defence minister

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A defence minister is a person in a cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

 position in charge of a Ministry of Defence, which regulates the armed forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

 in some sovereign nations. The minister
Minister (government)
A minister is a politician who holds significant public office in a national or regional government. Senior ministers are members of the cabinet....

 usually has a very important role in a cabinet.

When cabinets first started appearing in the late 18th century, they were often called "Ministers of War" (in the United States of America, "Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

"), who were in charge of the land forces of a nation. Since the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the change was made from war to defence, and also often involved putting a single defence minister in charge of all the armed forces. Another common reform which occurred at the end of World War II was to place the defence minister in a national security council
National Security Council
A National Security Council is usually an executive branch governmental body responsible for coordinating policy on national security issues and advising chief executives on matters related to national security...

 or kitchen cabinet
Kitchen Cabinet
The Kitchen Cabinet was a term used by political opponents of President of the United States Andrew Jackson to describe the collection of unofficial advisers he consulted in parallel to the United States Cabinet following his purge of the cabinet at the end of the Eaton affair and his break with...

 which allows the head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 or head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 to coordinate military, diplomatic and economic activities.

The Defence Ministry in some countries is a very important ministry, sometimes considered more important than the foreign minister
Foreign minister
A Minister of Foreign Affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the foreign policy of a sovereign state. The foreign minister is often regarded as the most senior ministerial position below that of the head of government . It is often granted to the deputy prime minister in...

. It is often assumed by the Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 if war is common for that nation (for example, no less than five Prime Ministers of Israel have held the Defence (Security) Ministry during their Premiership). In many nations, it is the very strong convention that the defence minister be a civilian to highlight civilian control over the military
Civilian control of the military
Civilian control of the military is a doctrine in military and political science that places ultimate responsibility for a country's strategic decision-making in the hands of the civilian political leadership, rather than professional military officers. One author, paraphrasing Samuel P...

. In less democratic countries, the minister is often a uniformed army official, and in several countries, he will also hold the position of the Armed Forces Commander.

In the United States of America, the term "Secretary" is used instead of "Minister" to refer to officers of the Cabinet and their deputies. The position of Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

 has existed since 1947, when the once separate Department of War
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 and Department of the Navy
United States Department of the Navy
The Department of the Navy of the United States of America was established by an Act of Congress on 30 April 1798, to provide a government organizational structure to the United States Navy and, from 1834 onwards, for the United States Marine Corps, and when directed by the President, of the...

 were merged into a Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 (though the Secretary of the Navy
United States Secretary of the Navy
The Secretary of the Navy of the United States of America is the head of the Department of the Navy, a component organization of the Department of Defense...

 exists to this day, it is no longer a cabinet-level position, being a subordinate to the Secretary of Defense and on par with the Secretary of the Army
United States Secretary of the Army
The Secretary of the Army is a civilian official within the Department of Defense of the United States of America with statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the United States Army: manpower, personnel, reserve affairs, installations, environmental issues, weapons systems and...

 and the Secretary of the Air Force
United States Secretary of the Air Force
The Secretary of the Air Force is the Head of the Department of the Air Force, a component organization within the Department of Defense of the United States of America. The Secretary of the Air Force is appointed from civilian life by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate...

, both new positions created in 1947). The chain of command
Chain of Command
Chain of Command may refer to:* Chain of command, in a military context, the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed* "Chain of Command" , the fifth episode of the first season of Beast Wars...

 goes from the President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 through the Secretary of Defense to the Combatant Commanders for operational purposes, or to the Secretaries of the Military Departments (mentioned above) for other non-operational purposes.

In the United Kingdom, the senior Defence Minister is called the Secretary of State for Defence
Secretary of State for Defence
The Secretary of State for Defence, popularly known as the Defence Secretary, is the senior Government of the United Kingdom minister in charge of the Ministry of Defence, chairing the Defence Council. It is a Cabinet position...

. In many countries, the formal title is Minister for Defence.

The People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 is very unusual in that the Minister of National Defence (who is usually a senior although not the highest ranking military officer) and the Ministry of National Defence are both very low ranking, relatively powerless groups which do not have command over the People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

. Command of the military belongs in the party and state Central Military Commission
Central Military Commission
A Central Military Commission or National Defense Commission is an organisation typical of Communist one-party states, responsible for supervising the nation's armed forces....

s, and the MND exists primarily as a liaison and protocol
Protocol (diplomacy)
In international politics, protocol is the etiquette of diplomacy and affairs of state.A protocol is a rule which guides how an activity should be performed, especially in the field of diplomacy. In diplomatic services and governmental fields of endeavor protocols are often unwritten guidelines...

 office to communicate with foreign militaries. Essentially, the MND exists only because most other nations have defence ministries and for protocol and liaison purposes, the PRC needs to have an institution corresponding with that of other governments.

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See also

  • Chief of Defence
    Chief of Defence
    The Chief of Defence is the highest ranked commissioned officer of a nation's armed forces. The term CHOD is in common use within NATO and the European Union as a generic term for the highest national military position within the NATO and EU member states, rather than the actual term used for...

  • Minister of National Defence
    Minister of National Defence
    *Minister of National Defence *Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China*Ministry of National Defense *Ministry of National Defense *Minister of National Defence *Minister of National Defence...

  • Department of Defence (disambiguation)