Deputy Minister of National Defence



The Deputy Minister of National Defence is appointed under the National Defence Act by the Governor-in-Council (the Cabinet), on the advice of the Prime Minister. It is the role of the Deputy Minister to articulate a corporate vision for the Department. Deputy Ministers ensure they have the right people, work environment and capacity to ensure the Department's success and are uniquely responsible to exemplify, in their actions and behaviours, the best values of the public service, and to infuse those values into all aspects of the work of their department.

They are also required to manage a complex set of multiple accountabilities which arise out of various powers, authorities and responsibilities attached to the position. The Deputy serves as the senior civilian advisor to the Minister of National Defence and provides him or her with the broadest possible expert support in all of the Minister’s responsibilities, except for partisan political activities. This includes supporting the Minister in consulting and informing Parliament and the Canadian public on defence issues. As a result of their role in the collective management of the government, Deputy Ministers are also accountable to the Prime Minister for responding to the policies of the Ministry as a whole and to the requirements of the Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission.

Specifically, the DM is responsible for:

Policy Advice

The Deputy plays the central role in formulating advice for the Minister on policy matters. Within the priorities, objectives and standards established by the Government, the Deputy Minister must provide advice on the possible impact of initiatives on the public, the Department, and the government. Advice must be timely and candid, presented fearlessly, and provide the best possible policy options based on impartial review of the public good and the declared objectives of the Minister and the Government. It must also demonstrate policy coherence from the perspective of departmental and portfolio management.

Departmental Management

The Deputy is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Department on behalf of the Minister. By law, Deputy Ministers act under the management and direction of their Minister. In order to fulfill their duties, Deputy Ministers require certain authorities, including the authority to exercise the Minister's powers, which flows from the Interpretation Act. In addition, certain provisions in the Financial Administration Act, the Public Service Employment Act, and the Official Languages Act assign some powers directly to the deputy head.

Deputy Ministers also carry a general obligation of accountability to the Treasury Board for the overall management capacity and performance of the department. In order to assist in managing this accountability and to ensure performance is subject to regular review, deputy ministers are required to implement the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Management Accountability Framework.

The Financial Administration Act itself assigns to the Deputy Minister specific responsibilities for the prudent management of allocated resources, which are subject to compliance with certain policies, regulations, standards, and periodic audit.

Another major element of the Deputy Minister's job as departmental manager involves the management of human resources. Responsibilities relating to personnel management in the public service, including appointment, employer/employee relations, and the organization of departments, are assigned to the deputy head directly rather than through the Minister.

Accounting Officer

Under amendments made by the Federal Accountability Act, the Financial Administration Act designates Deputy Ministers as accounting officers for their organizations. Under the legislation, the Deputy is accountable before Parliamentary committees and required by law to provide information and explanations to committees, and in so doing to assist Parliament in holding the government to account. This legislative change makes the Deputy responsible for establishing an independent departmental audit committee and for ensuring that an adequate financial oversight regime is in place.

Interdepartmental Coordination

The Deputy is an important link for the Minister to the wider government machinery for policy development and decision-making. A Deputy Minister’s policy advice must also be mindful of the Minister's collective responsibility and ensure that advice is drawn from an appreciation of the government-wide agenda and the impacts of a particular initiative.

In preparing proposals for Cabinet consideration, other departments must be consulted so that the views of the Prime Minister and other Ministers are taken into account, and disagreements identified and resolved. The support and collaboration of other Ministers may also be necessary for the success of a proposal, and the need to coordinate the responsibilities of several Ministers in order to take certain initiatives is now the rule rather than the exception. This is done through inter-departmental working groups and consultation or negotiation with other Ministers or their officials. The Deputy Minister of National Defence sits on a number of interdepartmental committees including the Deputy Minister Coordination Committee on Afghanistan, the Deputy Minister Committee on Economic Trends and Policy and the Deputy Minister's Committee on Global Trends, Foreign Affairs and Defence.

International Defence Relations

The Deputy oversees issues affecting Canada’s international defence relations, including: bi-lateral defence relations with countries around the world and engagement with organization such as the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NORAD, the European Union, the African Union, and the Organization of American States, among others.

Public Service Renewal

Deputies are collectively responsible for the development of the public service of today and tomorrow and as such each Deputy holds the responsibility for advancing the four priorities identified by the Clerk in his Annual Report to the Prime Minister: planning, recruitment, employee development and enabling infrastructure.

Federal-Provincial Relations

The Deputy supports the Minister’s responsibility for federal-provincial relations through ensuring proper consultation on federal-provincial-territorial aspects of policies and programs under the defence mandate, and ensuring coordination with other intergovernmental initiatives

Portfolio Management

The Deputy assists the Minister in the management of the other organizations of Defence Portfolio, including through responsibility for Defence Research and Development Canada and by overseeing financial and administrative matters of Communications Security Establishment Canada.

For more information on the role of Deputy Ministers please see:


Bill Matthews


On January 5, 2022, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of Bill Matthews to the position of Deputy Minister of National Defence.

Prior to his most recent appointment, Bill held the position of Deputy Minister of Public Services and Procurement since January 2019, Senior Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence since October 2017, and served as the Comptroller General of Canada between July 2014 and October 2017.

Bill has also held various senior-level positions within the Office of the Comptroller General and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat with responsibilities in the areas of financial management policy, estimates, evaluation and expenditure management.

Bill is a member of the board and chairs the Finance and Audit Committee of the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Mental Health Research.

Bill is a chartered professional accountant and was named a Fellow by the Chartered Professional Accountants in October 2016. He holds a bachelor of commerce from Dalhousie University.

Page details

Date modified: