In accordance with constitutional and statutory provisions, military command of, and all executive and administrative powers in relation to, the Defence Forces, including the power to delegate command and authority, are exercised by the Government and through and by the Minister for Defence. By law, the Department of Defence has civil and military branches and, with the serving Minister as head, ensures civil control of the armed forces of the State.
The Secretary General heads the civil element of my Department while the Chief of Staff heads the military element, known as Defence Forces Headquarters, which has an establishment of 327 military personnel. As such, the Secretary General is my principal policy adviser and the Chief of Staff is my principal military adviser. Both elements of the Department provide supports to me, as Minister, in the management of defence and have decision making authority. In this regard, as provided for in the Defence Acts 1954-2011, the Chief of Staff, as head of Defence Forces Headquarters, has a wide range of responsibilities which include the military effectiveness, efficiency, organisation, and economy of the Defence Forces. As provided for in the Acts, the Chief of Staff has, in turn, delegated responsibility for certain duties to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations) and to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support). Moreover, all officers in the rank of Brigadier General or equivalent commanding the various brigades and formations have direct and independent access to the Minister for Defence in connection with their areas of command.
The Strategic Management Committee (SMC) is a joint civil-military committee. As set out in the White Paper on Defence, it provides the central forum for management and oversight of civil and military matters and provides the means by which senior civil and military managers engage in policy development. The SMC members are the Secretary General, the Chief of Staff, the Assistant Secretary Generals, the Director, the Deputy Chiefs of Staff and the Assistant Chief of Staff. The General Officer Commanding the Air Corps and the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service also attend in respect of matters affecting their services. Close co-operation on all matters between civil and military elements are a priority and the SMC meets on a monthly basis.
Furthermore, a significant portion of the Defence budget, comprising the bulk of the non-pay element, is now delegated to the Chief of Staff to facilitate the exercise of his functions, particularly in the area of the procurement of goods and services. Where significant levels of expenditure are proposed, a joint civil-military High-Level Planning and Procurement Group is the sanctioning authority in accordance with the Public Spending Code and this meets on an almost monthly basis to progress equipment procurement and infrastructural development priorities.
The White Paper on Defence has established the policy framework out to 2025 and this was developed jointly by civil-military working groups and overseen by a joint Steering Group. Since publication, a joint civil-military White Paper Implementation Facilitation Team was established to oversee implementation of the White Paper across a total of 95 projects. All project teams are led by either a military or civil project lead, or are jointly lead depending on the subject matter of the project, and all teams have both civil and military membership. Furthermore, a White Paper Update is now very close to completion and this is also being led by a civil-military Steering Group and has involved participation by civil and military personnel from across the Defence Organisation.
The position, as described, provides just a summary of the wide range of on-going engagement in decision making processes that is undertaken on a daily basis by Defence Forces personnel. Members of the Defence Forces have operational decision-making autonomy and responsibility for associated outcomes within the foregoing arrangements.