The purpose of security and defence planning, particularly long-term defence planning is to define the means, including the future force structure, which would allow defence and security sector institutions to deal effectively with likely future challenges. Security sector and defence planning is an integral component of security and defence policymaking.[1]

What is Defence Planning?

Security and Defence Planning encompasses the planning of armaments, logistics, command, control, communications, resources, civil-military emergencies, and in some cases, nuclear planning. Force planning is considered a central process in security sector planning that synchronises all other planning disciplines.[2] Security and Defence Planning is done in the framework of security and defence policies and in accordance with national security objectives. Security and Defence Planning represents the process via which security objectives translate into security and defence capabilities.planning-1

Why is it important?

Security and Defence planning is an important area for building integrity (BI) and good governance. It is crucial that defence planning is done in an accountable and transparent manner in order to avoid corruption. Spending public resources in a planned, responsible and strategic manner allows for an effective and efficient defence capability. Planning also allows for an optimal resource-distribution, essential for the democratic and economic development of a country. Defence planning should be done in coherence with defence policy and in line with national defence and security objectives. There must be control and oversight mechanisms in place to ensure that the process of defence and security planning complies with those objectives as well as with international standards of BI and good governance in defence.

How does it work?

In most mature defence and security management systems, it is possible to distinguish three planning horizons and their respective processes:

  • Long-term planning
  • Mid-term planning, often designated as programming
  • Short-term planning

Long-term defence and security planning strives to foresee future defence and security requirements by analysing trends in the evolution of the security environment, including threats and challenges, the role of alliances and their policies, and security and defence strategies. Additionally, technological trends are also taken into account. On this basis, a future force model is defined by its number of manoeuvre brigades and battalions, air and naval squadrons. In this process, the main steps of transitioning towards this future force model are defined. Both future force structure and the transition to it need to be realistic and to consider financial, technological, demographic, and other important constraints. Long-term planning usually covers a period of 10 to 15 years. However, some countries choose to look further into the future, 25 to 30 years. [3]

The main purpose of the mid-term planning process is to guarantee that the actual security and defence management activities (reorganisation, recruitment, procurement, training, spending, etc.) serve to achieve defence and security policy objectives and build the future force and required security capabilities. The horizon of mid-term planning is usually four to eight years. A mid-term plan is often referred to as a “programme” and the process of mid-term planning, is known as “programming”. The programme has a well-developed hierarchical structure. Here, a transition from current to future force has to be determined clearly and thoroughly. A mid-term plan, especially in its first years, is designed strictly within the expected resources and defence budget forecast.[4]

Short-term planning serves to detail the first one or two years of the mid-term plan, often in capability component plans (plans of recruitment, education, training, procurement, construction, etc., and the respective budget). Short-term plans are designed strictly within the limits of the budget forecast. Here, all defence-management activities are coordinated and lead towards the achievement of security and defence policy objectives.[5]

According to United Nations SSR task force’s Security Sector Reform Integrated Technical Guidance Notes, defence and security planning should outline specific changes (development/reform/transformation) required in response to the needs of, threats to, and vision and objectives for national defence, articulated in the national security and defence policies/strategies. Ideally, plans should also contain clear goals and indicators, to encourage the measurement of impact and contribute to public communication campaigns outlining the progress of specific reforms.[6]

According to Todor Tagarev, effective security and defence policies are based on disciplined approaches to the creation of force structure/model and force development plans that share the following steps:

  • Definition of security and defence objectives, missions, and ambitions
  • Design and agreement on plausible scenarios, or environments, in which these missions will be carried out (often including development of adequate operational concepts and selection of “course of action”)
  • Decomposition of scenario activities into tasks and definition of “mission essential task lists”
  • Definition of capabilities needed to accomplish the tasks. This step includes a number of sub-steps:
    • Definition of needed types of capabilities
    • Assessment of planning risks
    • Design of a cost-effective force package that would provide capability levels needed to accomplish the tasks with acceptable risk
  • Design of force structure/model appropriate for all anticipated missions and scenarios

planing-2Who is involved?

Security and Defence planning encompasses a wide range of actors. From the executive which analyses security and defence needs and establishes national policies and priorities; the legislative which debates and approves budgets and provides a legal framework; civil and military personnel of the security sector which provide expertise, in-depth planning, and implementation; civil society, media, ombudsmen, and external and internal audit mechanisms that ensure effective oversight of the process; down to private and public companies which provide for the most basic needs of the security sector personnel on a daily basis.


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Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector: Guides to Good Governance

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DCAF (2009), Police Reform. Backgrounder

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New editions of the DCAF SSR Backgrounder Series

[1] Source: Todor Tagarev et al. (eds.) Defence Management: An Introduction. Security and Defence Management Series No. 1. DCAF (2009) p. 48.

[2] Hari Bucur-Marcu, Philipp Fluri, Todor Tagarev (eds.) Defence Management: An Introduction. Security and Defence Management Series No. 1. DCAF (2009) p. 48.

[3] Ibid. p. 49.

[4] Ibid. p. 51.

[5] Ibid.

[6] United Nations SSR Task Force, Security Sector Reform Integrated Technical Guidance Notes. 2012. p. 124.

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