Chief of the Defence Staff
|Chief of the Defence Staff|
Ministry of Defence Tri Service Seal
Flag of the
Chief of the Defence Staff
|Ministry of Defence|
|Member of||Defence Counci|
Chiefs of Staff Committee
|Reports to||Secretary of State for Defence|
|Nominator||Secretary of State for Defence|
on advice of the Prime Minister
|Formation||1 January 1959|
|First holder||Marshal of the RAF Sir William Dickson|
|Deputy||Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff|
The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) is the professional head of the British Armed Forces and the most senior uniformed military adviser to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The Chief of the Defence Staff is based at the Ministry of Defence and works alongside the Permanent Under Secretary, the ministry's senior civil servant. The Chief of the Defence Staff is the British equivalent position of what in NATO and the European Union is known as the Chief of Defence.
Constitutionally, the Queen Elizabeth II is the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces. However, in practice, the Government of the United Kingdom exercises the royal prerogative and provides direction of the Armed Forces through the Ministry of Defence's Defence Council, of which the Chief of the Defence Staff is a member.
The current Chief of the Defence Staff is General Sir Nick Carter, who succeeded Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peachin June 2018. Chiefs of the Defence Staff are appointed on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Defence to the Prime Minister, before being approved by the Queen.
The office was created in 1959 to reflect the new concept of joint operations that had come to the fore in the Second World War. The first incumbent was Marshal of the RAF Sir William Dickson. Prior to the creation of the post, he had served as the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, from 1956 onward. Before 1956, although no permanent post of chairman existed, the three service chiefs took it in turn to act as chairman at meetings. From the post's inception until the mid-to-late 1970s, CDS appointments were granted on a strict rotational basis between the three services. The first break in rotational order was precipitated by the death of Marshal of the RAF Sir Andrew Humphrey.
From the creation of the post until 1997, the Chief of the Defence Staff was appointed to the highest rank in the respective branch of the British armed forces to which he belonged, being an Admiral of the Fleet, a Field Marshal or Marshal of the Royal Air Force. However, with the post- Cold War reduction in the manpower strength of the British Armed Forces and the additional reasoning that no new 5-star appointments are to be made in peacetime, since 1997 the Chief of the Defence Staff has kept the rank of Admiral, General or Air Chief Marshal, (NATO OF-9), which he invariably already holds. However, during the 2010s Guthrie, Boyce, Walker and Stirrup were honorarily promoted to their respective services' senior ranks, sometime after they had each stepped down as CDS. Although there is no policy against a Royal Marines officer being appointed, few officers in the Corps attain a high enough rank to be considered for the post. However, in 2016, Gordon Messenger was promoted to the four star rank of general and appointed as Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff.