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India now has a Chief of Defence Staff. What is the equivalent post in the US and UK?

The CDS is a high military office that will oversee and coordinate the working of the three Services, and offer seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the Prime Minister) on long-term defence planning and management.

Written by Om Marathe | New Delhi | Updated: December 31, 2019 11:27:34 pm
Several countries around the world have such a post. (Express Photo)

General Bipin Rawat was on Monday (December 30) appointed the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a newly created post meant to enhance the quality of military advice to the political leadership through integration of service inputs.

The CDS is a high military office that will oversee and coordinate the working of the three Services, and offer seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the Prime Minister) on long-term defence planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “jointsmanship” in operations.

Several countries around the world have such a post.

United States: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

According to the US Department of Defence website, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is the nation’s highest-ranking military officer and the principal military adviser to the President, the Secretary of Defence (equivalent to Minister for Defence in India) and the National Security Council.

The CJCS is part of, and heads, a high-ranking body called the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Apart from the CJCS, it consists of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VCJCS), the military service chiefs from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and the chief of the National Guard Bureau.

According to the JCS website, responsibilities as members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff take precedence over duties as the Chiefs of Military Services.

Other members of the JCS are also military advisers, and can communicate with the President, the Secretary of Defense, or the NSC through the CJCS.

Originally formed during World War II, the extent of the JCS’s powers is now provided by the Goldwater-Nichols DOD Reorganization Act of 1986.

The JCS has no executive authority to command combatant forces, and is mainly in charge of ensuring personnel readiness, policy, planning and training of the respective military services.

United Kingdom: Chief of the Defence Staff

The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) is the professional head of the Armed Forces and principal military adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence (equivalent to Minister for Defence in India) and the government.

The UK CDS reports to the Defence Secretary and the Prime Minister, according to the webpage of the UK Defence Ministry.

The post is based at the Ministry of Defence and works alongside the Permanent Under Secretary (also called Permanent Secretary), the senior civil servant in the Defence Ministry. The CDS is the main military voice on the Defence Board. As the military strategic commander, CDS is responsible for how operations are carried out.

The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS), is the CDS’s deputy.

The CDS chairs the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CSC) and is a member of the Defence Council. The CSC consists of the CDS, VCDS, the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, the Chief of the General Staff, and the Chief of the Air Staff.

The responsibilities of the CDS include leading defence (with the Permanent Secretary), setting strategy for defence, including future development of the Armed Forces (subject to ministers’ direction, and together with Permanent Secretary), the conduct of current operations (as strategic commander), and leading relationships with other countries’ Armed Forces.

Australia: Chief of the Defence Force

Australia has a diarchy system, under which the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) and the Secretary for the Department of Defence (a senior civilian public servant in the Ministry) jointly manage the Defence organisation, per the Department of Defence website.

They are co-chairpersons of the Defence Committee, which also includes the Vice Chief of the Defence Force (VCDF), the chiefs of the Navy, Army, Air Force among other posts.

The CDF has primary responsibility for the command of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and acts under the direction of the Minister of Defence.

The CDF is the principal military adviser to the Minister and provides advice on matters that relate to military activity, including military operations.

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