About the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces

Who we are

The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are together the largest federal government department. DND/CAF share a unique relationship in the Government of Canada; we are the only department where military members work alongside civilians (non-military members). Together, we form The Defence Team, which is comprised of over 100,000 employees, including:

  • 68,000 Regular Force members
  • 27,000 Reserve Force members
  • 24,000 civilian employees

Senior Leadership

The Governor General of Canada is the Commander-in-Chief of Canada. DND is headed by the Minister of National Defence, a federal Cabinet Minister. The Associate Minister of National Defence supports the Minister of National Defence and is also a federal Cabinet Minister. The Deputy Minister of National Defence is the Department’s senior civil servant. The CAF are headed by the Chief of the Defence Staff, Canada’s senior serving officer. Each has different responsibilities:

  • The Governor General is responsible for appointing the Chief of the Defence Staff on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, awarding military honours, presenting colours to CAF regiments, approving new military badges and insignia and signing commission scrolls.
  • The Minister of National Defence presides over the Department and over all matters relating to national defence;
  • The Associate Minister is also responsible for defence files, as mandated by the Prime Minister, with the specific priority of ensuring that CAF members have the equipment they need to do their jobs;
  • The Deputy Minister is responsible for policy, resources, interdepartmental coordination and international defence relations;
  • The Chief of the Defence Staff is responsible for command, control and administration of the CAF and military strategy, plans and requirements.

National Defence Act

In most respects, DND is an organization like other departments of government. It is established by a statute, the National Defence Act, which sets out the Minister’s responsibilities, including the Minister’s responsibility for the Department and the CAF. Under the Act, the CAF are an entity separate and distinct from the Department.


The Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence have complementary roles to play in:

  • Providing advice and support to the Minister of National Defence
  • Implementing Government decisions regarding the defence of Canadian interests at home and abroad.

More information

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