Defence policy is part of a broader concept of National Security Policy or National Security Strategy. Defence policy encompasses defence planning and management, which are consecutive steps towards practical implementation of that policy, down to actual command and control. The lines that divide all these concepts or phases are often blurred in practice. In general, defence policy covers everything from ends to ways and means of achieving national defence objectives and is guided by codes and principles that are embedded in National Security Policy.

What is Defence Policy?

Defence policy is a series of guidelines, principles and frameworks that link theory (National Security Policy) to action (Defence Planning, Management and Implementation). Just like an instruction manual, the purpose of defence policy is to ensure things are done in a certain manner in order to attain certain objectives all the while respecting certain rules. Building Integrity measures and good governance principles are crucial in this phase.

Why is it important?

Defence policy is an important step in the realisation of National Security Policy and its objectives. National defence is the core element of the national security system. This means that a functioning and effective defence sector is vital to national safety and security. Defence is also a major part of overall public spending. Therefore, ensuring budgets are spent in an efficient and responsible manner is crucial. Formulation of defence policy represents the perfect opportunity to introduce Security Sector Reforms and Building Integrity measures, which is why it is important that appropriate actors, resources and efforts are committed to this phase.

How does it work?

Defence policy will dictate how things will be done in the defence sector. Therefore it is essential that it is thought through in great detail and that it fulfils its function of linking theory to practice. Defence policy should take into account the particularities of a given context and possible variations thereof; set attainable and realistic objectives that strive towards the overall national security objectives; and do so under the umbrella of national and international principles, standards and good practices. A defence policy should foresee all the steps of the policy process, with special attention being given to planning and management phases. Here is where means will be associated to ends. Defence policy is a public policy. Therefore, it should be made available to the wider society including civil society, auditing and monitoring organisations and other interested parties in order to ensure transparency and accountability.


Who is involved?

Typically, the Ministry of Defence or a similar authority issues the Defence Policy document, which can take the form of White Paper on Defence and similar, as well as, a series of statements and publications on defence by the Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and similar. The process of policy formulation is usually initiated by the legislative authorities and will ideally include all government actors that deal with the defence sector. In order to encompass all the possible threats and factors that may affect defence policy, civil society, private groups and international organisations should also be included in the process.


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