The Chiefs of Staff Committee is composed of the most senior military personnel in the British Armed Forces.
The Chiefs of Staff Committee was initially established as a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence in 1923. It remained as such until the abolition of the CID upon the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The initial composition of the committee was the professional heads of the three services, the First Sea Lord, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff. Each service head took turns being chairman of the committee.
During World War II the committee was a sub-committee of the War Cabinet, and in addition to the three service chiefs, it had an additional member, in the person of General Sir Hastings Ismay, who acted as its secretary. Subcommittees of the Committee were also formed, including the Joint Planning Staff and Joint Intelligence Committee. The Chiefs of Staff committee was responsible for the overall conduct of the British military part of the war effort. When matters required joint Anglo-American decision, the Chiefs of Staff Committee members formed part of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, meeting in concert with their American counterparts, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Combined Chiefs of Staff were based in Washington, so for most of the time the Chiefs of Staff were represented at meetings by the British Joint Staff Mission.
Following WWII, the Chiefs of Staff Committee was transferred to the Ministry of Defence.
In 1955 the Government decided to create the post of Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The post came into existence on 1 January 1956 and the only incumbent was Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Dickson who served until 1 January 1959 when he became the first Chief of the Defence Staff. The CDS remained as chairman of the committee and was also recognized as the professional head of the British Armed Forces. In 1964, the post of Chief of the Imperial General Staff was discontinued and the Army was thereafter represented by the Chief of the General Staff. Since then, the only major change has been the appointment of the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff to act as a deputy to the CDS.
The current membership of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is:
- Chief of the Defence Staff—Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup (chair)
- Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff—General Sir Nicholas Houghton
- First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff—Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, Royal Navy
- Chief of the General Staff—General Sir David Richards, British Army
- Chief of the Air Staff—Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, Royal Air Force
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