Developing a robust Ministy of Defense and a Joint Staff


Authored by: Thomas C. Bruneau

The Routledge Handbook of Civil–Military Relations

Print publication date:  September  2012
Online publication date:  November  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415782739
eBook ISBN: 9780203105276
Adobe ISBN: 9781136253218


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Portugal is an excellent case study of a country creating from scratch the institutions for democratic civilian control of the armed forces, adapting them in line with changes in the domestic and international environment, and establishing joint command structures and education to increase effectiveness. Portugal is a new democracy, having initiated the Third Wave of Democratization on 25 April 1974. The authoritarian regime of 1928–74 was not a military dictatorship, although the military supported it, and in fighting three separate counter-insurgency wars in Africa between 1961 and 1974, the armed forces grew to 200,000 men and absorbed one-half of the national budget. With the military coup of 25 April 1974, and ensuing two years of military rule under a split but overall leftist military movement, the armed forces assumed extensive prerogatives both legally and in fact, which were gradually pared down over the next 20 years of civilian-led governments. A civilian-led Ministry of Defense was empowered in the early 1990s, and civilian control ultimately pervaded all aspects of national defense and security policy. Most recently, from 2008, in law and increasingly in fact, the civilian-led Ministry of Defense has been further strengthened and a joint operational command has been created. Increasingly, joint education has also been established. The causal factors that allow us to best understand these major reforms are found in historical memory, domestic politics, and external inputs from NATO and the European Union. The experience of Portugal, looking back for a generation, demonstrates distinct phases in which this small and relatively poor country has periodically reformed the defense sector within the perspective of a larger strategic environment.

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