Defensie / Ministry of Defence

The Dutch armed forces have three main tasks: the defence of national and allied territory, including the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba; promoting the international rule of law and stability; and supporting and assisting civilian authorities in maintaining law and order, providing disaster relief and humanitarian aid, on a national as well as an international scale. The Netherlands aims to have smaller but high-quality and fully deployable armed forces. The means with which the Defence organisation intends to carry out its missions are based on the current international security situation and inspired by the nature of the desired military action. In this respect the knowledge and experience that have been gained during crisis management operations play an important role. There are - and will be - large investments in new equipment, whereby quality takes preference over quantity. Together, the navy, army and air force already form flexible, combat-ready armed forces, which can be deployed anywhere in the world.

The Netherlands has a sophisticated military apparatus directed by skilled leaders/planners. The Ministerie van Defensie (MOD) operates under well-defined guidelines, has definite plans and objectives, and is acutely aware of current fiscal constraints. All military programs are closely scrutinized and a careful analysis is made in establishing priorities, which are predicated on achieving higher degrees of task specialization, standardization, and rationalization.

The Royal Netherlands Armed Forces are well organized, well led, and, for the most part, well-equipped. A force modernization program embarked upon in 1974 and reaffirmed in the 1984 Defense White Paper and in the 1989 ten-year plan (1989-1998) continued once the Cold War ended. During the 1980s the overall quality of the Dutch armed forces increased significantly during a period when major reorganizational measures, including a reduction in personnel strength, were accomplished. The guiding principle was to put quality before quantity, and there was additional emphasis on continuity and renewal. Continuity found expression in maintaining the nature of the Dutch contribution to the common defense of the NATO Alliance by each of the Services, and in the completion and continuation of equipment programs. Renewal was evident in the replacement of obsolete weapon systems, the continued upgrading of existing weapon systems, and the introduction of procedures and automated systems to improve management. These policies should enable The Netherlands to maintain well-equipped forces. Since the start of the new century, tens of thousands of Dutch troops have taken part in a great many crisis management operations, from the Balkans to Afghanistan and from Cambodia to Iraq. On two occasions they played a leading part: the Task Force Fox operation in Macedonia and, together with Germany, the ISAF operation in Afghanistan. The Netherlands also provided the commander for the UN peacekeeping force in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and for the Multinational Division Southwest of SFOR in Bosnia.

The basic principle of participation in a peace operation is that it must rest on the political mandate of an internationally authorised organisation, for instance the United Nations (UN), NATO, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) or the European Union (EU). Any request for Dutch military resources to be contributed to a peace operation must be approved by Parliament and will be assessed using the ‘Frame of Reference for Decision-making for the Deployment of Military Units Abroad’.

The Ministry of Defence has gone through a process of comprehensive change, at the core of which are administrative innovation, improvement of efficiency and investment. As a result of making a clear distinction between policy, implementation and monitoring, the staffs of the Services are to be amalgamated (with the exception of the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee because of his police tasks). The position of the Chief of the Defence Staff (the main military advisor to the political leadership) was enhanced with regard to both the operational deployment of military resources and defence planning. The Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) holds primary responsibility for the execution of crisis management and humanitarian operations. The administrative reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence were be completed in 2006.

In the new organisation, two politicians head the ministry and bear political responsibility: the Minister and the State Secretary. The highest-ranking civil servant is the Secretary-General, who runs the Central Staff. The Central Staff supports the political leadership in leading the organisation and advises them in their role as members of the government. As head of the Central Staff, the CDS directs the deployed military units. He is also responsible for the operational commanders of the Services, who are in turn responsible for the primary duty of the armed forces, i.e. providing combat power and all that that entails, such as activation and support. Together with the Director of General Policy Affairs and the Director-General of Finance and Control, the CDS is in charge of the policy, planning and budgeting cycle. The Director of Personnel is responsible for policy matters with regard to human resources.

All support activities of the Services are to an increasing extent subject to central control and therefore grouped together in the Support Command. Although he operates on the same hierarchical level as the operational commanders, the officer in charge of Support Command is not accountable to the CDS but directly to the Secretary-General. Again, however, the Chief of the Defence Staff has the casting vote on issues between service centers and operational commands concerning prioritisation. The Director of Legal Affairs, the Director of General Information, the Director of the Defence Audit Board and the Director of the Military Intelligence and Security Service also come under the direct authority of the Secretary-General. The Inspector General of the Armed Forces holds a special position. He is the ombudsman of the Defence organisation and offers advice to the Minister, unsolicited or otherwise. He therefore adopts an independent position within the Defence organisation. He is also inspector of the veterans.