The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces.
The MOD states that its principal objectives are to defend the United Kingdom and its interests and to strengthen international peace and stability. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the MOD does not foresee any short-term conventional military threat; rather, it has identified weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism, and failed and failing states as the overriding threats to the UK’s interests. The MOD also manages day-to-day running of the armed forces, contingency planning and defence procurement.
During the 1920s and 1930s, British civil servants and politicians, looking back at the performance of the state during World War I, concluded that there was a need for greater co-ordination between the three Services that made up the armed forces of the United Kingdom—the British Army, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force. The formation of a united ministry of defence was rejected by Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s coalition government in 1921; but the Chiefs of Staff Committee was formed in 1923, for the purposes of inter-Service co-ordination. As rearmament became a concern during the 1930s, Stanley Baldwin created the position of Minister for Coordination of Defence. Lord Chatfield held the post until the fall of Neville Chamberlain’s government in 1940; his success was limited by his lack of control over the existing Service departments and his limited political influence.
Winston Churchill, on forming his government in 1940, created the office of Minister of Defence to exercise ministerial control over the Chiefs of Staff Committee and to co-ordinate defence matters. The post was held by the Prime Minister of the day until Clement Attlee’s government introduced the Ministry of Defence Act of 1946. The new ministry was headed by a Minister of Defence who possessed a seat in the Cabinet. The three existing service Ministers — the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State for Air — remained in direct operational control of their respective services, but ceased to attend Cabinet.
From 1946 to 1964 five Departments of State did the work of the modern Ministry of Defence: the Admiralty, the War Office, the Air Ministry, the Ministry of Aviation, and an earlier form of the Ministry of Defence. These departments merged in 1964; the defence functions of the Ministry of Aviation Supply merged into the Ministry of Defence in 1971.
The 1998 Strategic Defence Review and the 2003 Delivering Security in a Changing World White Paper outlined the following posture for the British Armed Forces:
The ability to support three simultaneous small- to medium-scale operations, with at least one as an enduring peace-keeping mission (e.g. Kosovo). These forces must be capable of representing the UK as lead nation in any coalition operations.
The ability, at longer notice, to deploy forces in a large-scale operation while running a concurrent small-scale operation.
The MOD has since been regarded as a leader in elaborating the post-Cold War organising concept of “Defence Diplomacy”.
In November 2010, the MOD released its first ever business plan.
Perceived current threats
Following the end of the cold war, the perceived threat of direct conventional military confrontation with other states has been replaced by terrorism – Sir Richard Dannatt predicted British forces to be involved in combating “predatory non-state actors” for the foreseeable future, in what he called an “era of persistent conflict”. He told the prestigious think tank Chatham House that the fight against al-Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups was “probably the fight of our generation”.
Sir Richard Dannatt criticised a remnant “Cold War mentality”, with military expenditures based on retaining a capability against a direct conventional strategic threat; He said currently only 10% of the MoD’s equipment programme budget between 2003 and 2018 was to be invested in the “land environment” – at a time when Britain was engaged in land-based wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Defence Committee – Third Report “Defence Equipment 2009″ cites an article from the Financial Times website stating that the Chief of Defence Materiel — General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue had instructed staff within Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) through an internal memorandum to reprioritize the approvals process to focus on supporting current operations over the next three years; deterrence related programmes; those that reflect defence obligations both contractual or international; and those where production contracts are already signed. The report also cites concerns over potential cuts in the defence science and technology research budget; implications of inappropriate estimation of Defence Inflation within budgetary processes; underfunding in the Equipment Programme; and a general concern over striking the appropriate balance over a short-term focus (Current Operations) and long-term consequences of failure to invest in the delivery of future UK defence capabilities on future combatants and campaigns. The then Secretary of State for Defence — The Rt Hon. Bob Ainsworth, MP reinforced this reprioritization of focus on current operations and had not ruled out “major shifts” in defence spending. In the same article the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff — Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, Royal Navy, acknowledged that there was not enough money within the defence budget and it is preparing itself for tough decisions and the potential for cutbacks. According to figures published by the London Evening Standard the defence budget for 2009 is “more than 10% overspent” (figures cannot be verified) and the paper states that this had caused Gordon Brown to say that the defence spending must be cut. The MOD has been investing in IT  to cut costs and improve services for its personnel.