Chief of the Defence Force (Australia)

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Chief of the
Australian Defence Force
Mark Binskin 1.jpg
Mark Binskin

since 30 June 2014
Style Admiral
Air Chief Marshal
Member of Australian Defence Force
Reports to Minister of Defence
Term length Four years (renewable)[1]
Inaugural holder Lieutenant General
Sir Henry Wells
Formation 23 March 1958

Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) is the most senior appointment in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The CDF commands the ADF under the direction of the Minister of Defence. The appointment shares control of the Australian Defence Organisation in a coequal arrangement (a "diarchy") with the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the most senior public servant in the Department of Defence.[2][3]

The position is a fixed-term appointment of four years. Prior to June 2014, this was three year appointment.[1] The position is notionally rotated between the three services, (Navy, Army and Air Force), but in practice this has not been the case; of eighteen appointees, nine have been from the Army, five from the Navy and four from the Air Force.[4]

During peacetime, the CDF is the only four-star officer in the ADF (admiral, general, or air chief marshal). CDF is assisted by the Vice Chief of the Defence Force (VCDF) and the service chiefs: Chief of Navy (CN), Chief of Army (CA), and Chief of Air Force (CAF), all of whom are three-star officers (vice admiral, lieutenant general, and air marshal).

The CDF is appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of his/her ministers. The appointment is politically neutral, as are all military positions, and not affected by a change of government.


Prior to 1958 there was no CDF or equivalent; a Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) existed but no separate position was established as its senior officer. Instead, the senior service chief served as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.[5] In March 1958, Lieutenant General Sir Henry Wells was appointed Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, a role independent of and notionally senior to the Army, Navy and Air Force chiefs. However, Wells and his successors did not command the Australian armed forces in any legal sense; the chairman had only an advisory role in the running of the separate services. In February 1976, COSC was dissolved and the new position of Chief of Defence Force Staff (CDFS) was created with command authority over the ADF. In October 1984 the position was renamed Chief of the Defence Force to more clearly reflect the role and its authority.[6]


Rank and prefix Name Postnominals Service Term began Term ended Time in appointment
Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee
Lieutenant General Sir Wells, HenryHenry Wells KBECBDSO Army 23 Mar 1958 22 Mar 1959 364 days
Vice Admiral Sir Dowling, RoyRoy Dowling KBECBDSORAN Navy 23 Mar 1959 27 May 1961 2 years, 65 days
Air Chief Marshal Sir Scherger, FrederickFrederick Scherger KBECBDSOAFC Air Force 28 May 1961 18 May 1966 4 years, 355 days
General Sir Wilton, JohnJohn Wilton KBECBDSO Army 19 May 1966 22 Nov 1970 4 years, 187 days
Admiral Sir Smith, VictorVictor Smith ACKBECBDSCRAN Navy 23 Nov 1970 23 Nov 1975 5 years, 0 days
General Hassett, FrankFrank Hassett ACCBCBEDSOLVO Army 24 Nov 1975 8 Feb 1976 76 days
Chief of Defence Force Staff
General Sir Hassett, FrankFrank Hassett ACKBECBDSOLVO Army 9 Feb 1976 20 Apr 1977 1 year, 70 days
General Sir MacDonald, ArthurArthur MacDonald KBECB Army 21 Apr 1977 20 Apr 1979 1 year, 364 days
Admiral Sir Synnot, AnthonyAnthony Synnot KBEAORAN Navy 21 Apr 1979 20 Apr 1982 2 years, 364 days
Air Chief Marshal Sir McNamara, NevilleNeville McNamara KBEAOAFCAE Air Force 21 Apr 1982 12 Apr 1984 1 year, 357 days
General Sir Bennett, PhillipPhillip Bennett ACKBEDSO Army 13 Apr 1984 25 Oct 1984 195 days
Chief of the Defence Force
General Sir Bennett, PhillipPhillip Bennett ACKBEDSO Army 26 Oct 1984 12 April 1987 2 years, 168 days
General Gration, PeterPeter Gration ACOBE Army 13 Apr 1987 16 Apr 1993 6 years, 3 days
Admiral Beaumont, AlanAlan Beaumont ACRAN Navy 17 Apr 1993 6 Jul 1995 2 years, 80 days
General Baker, JohnJohn Baker ACDSM Army 7 July 1995 3 Jul 1998 2 years, 361 days
Admiral Barrie, ChrisChris Barrie ACRAN Navy 4 Jul 1998 3 Jul 2002 3 years, 364 days
General Cosgrove, PeterPeter Cosgrove ACMC Army 4 Jul 2002 3 Jul 2005 2 years, 364 days
Air Chief Marshal Houston, AngusAngus Houston ACAFC Air Force 4 Jul 2005 3 Jul 2011 5 years, 364 days
General Hurley, DavidDavid Hurley ACDSC Army 4 Jul 2011 30 Jun 2014 2 years, 361 days
Air Chief Marshal Binskin, MarkMark Binskin AC Air Force 30 Jun 2014 Incumbent 1 years, 151 days

Living current and former Chiefs of the Defence Force[edit]

Rank Name Born
General Sir Phillip Bennett ACKBEDSO 27 Dec 1928 (1928-12-27) (age 86)
General Peter Gration ACOBE 6 Jan 1932 (1932-01-06) (age 83)
Admiral Chris Barrie ACRAN 29 May 1945 (1945-05-29) (age 70)
General The Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove AKMC 28 Jul 1947 (1947-07-28) (age 68)
Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AKAFC 9 Jun 1947 (1947-06-09) (age 68)
General The Hon. David Hurley ACDSC 26 Aug 1953 (1953-08-26) (age 62)
Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC 20 Mar 1960 (1960-03-20) (age 55)


Mark Binskin David Hurley Angus Houston Peter Cosgrove Chris Barrie (admiral) John Baker (general) Alan Beaumont Peter Gration Phillip Bennett Phillip Bennett Neville McNamara Anthony Synnot Arthur MacDonald Frank Hassett Frank Hassett Victor Smith John Wilton (general) Frederick Scherger Roy Dowling Henry Wells (general)


Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee[edit]

Chief of Defence Force Staff[edit]

Chief of the Defence Force[edit]


  1. ^ a b "New Australian Defence Force Command Team". Media Release (Office of the Prime Minister of Australia). 4 April 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  2. ^ Chief of the Defence Force: Roles & Responsibilities. Retrieved on 29 March 2008.
  3. ^ Chief of the Defence Force: The Diarchy. Retrieved on 29 March 2008.
  4. ^ Chief of the Defence Force: Previous Chiefs. Retrieved on 29 March 2008.
  5. ^ Rowell, Full Circle, p. 178
  6. ^ Horner, "Evolution of Australian Higher Command Arrangements".