Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why do we need the Jamaica Defence Force?
‘Members of Armed Forces are subject to direct governmental authority, and have skills and equipment that enable governments to respond to challenges, both in their own countries and elsewhere, that 1could not otherwise be addressed so promptly.’
Every government has at its disposal a series of diplomatic, military and
economic instruments used to pursue their national and international interests. Nations
retain the right to defend themselves from external aggression and to maintain social
order as they seek to realize their goals. A professional military force under civil control
is a major asset and insurance policy for any country, and remains an important
component of sovereignty. In the modern era, military forces have taken on a range of non-traditional missions such as Internal security, Disaster relief, Participation in nation building, and International peacekeeping and peace enforcement.
Q. When was the JDF Formed?
The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) was formed on 31st July 1962, a few days
before Jamaica gained its independence from the United Kingdom (UK). Jamaica was
the first British colony in the Caribbean to become an independent state within the
Commonwealth of Nations. With the British forces withdrawing, Jamaica was
compelled to fill the security vacuum by establishing a Defence Force.
Q. What gives the JDF their legal authority?
The Defence Act (1962) to govern the actions of and procedures within the
JDF. Section four (4) of the Defence Act (1962) states:
‘there shall be established in Jamaica a body of Her Majesty’s military forces to be
called the Jamaica Defence Force, and shall consist of a regular force and a reserve
force to be known as the Jamaica National Reserve’.
In addition, the Defence Act charges the JDF with ‘the defence of and maintenance of
order in Jamaica, and with such other duties as may from time to time be defined by the
Defence Board’. According to the Act, the Force may also be employed outside Jamaica,
as has been done on several occasions
Q. What is the value of the JDF to the nation?
The JDF has an adaptable and multi-mission utility that complements other
government agencies. It is an organization which requires of its members, unlimited
liability involving personal hardship, loss of certain liberties, discomfort and sometimes
injury or death. The military cannot avoid risk, but confronts and manages it. A
paramilitary or civil police force is not designed to cope with conflict or violence beyond
the point that requires military intervention. Furthermore, the JDF provides Jamaica
with a disciplined, professional and stable body, loyal to the people and State of Jamaica.
Q. When, and Why was a Strategic Defence Review conducted?
In 2005 the Government of Jamaica approved a National Security Strategy (NSS)
for Jamaica entitled “Towards a Secure and Prosperous Nation”. This NSS integrates
Jamaica’s major security policies, goals, responsibilities, and actions into a cohesive
whole. Through the NSS, the Government has adopted a holistic approach to security,
recognizing the various non-military dimensions of security and the distinction between
the security of the state and the security of the people. It classifies the institutional
framework within which the JDF and civil institutions of the State will coordinate their
activities to create an integrated and cohesive national security network to safeguard
Jamaica’s interests. The NSS mandates the JDF to conduct a comprehensive Strategic Defence Review (SDR) that elaborates on how the military will contribute to the overall security policy objectives of the Government of Jamaica. The dynamic nature of the current threats has also highlighted a number of capability gaps in the JDF as it is presently structured and resourced. A comprehensive review of the JDF was therefore
unavoidable. With a global trend towards capability-based forces as opposed to threatbased forces, a review should identify areas where greater efficiency, effectiveness and relevance can be realized. Whilst it is important to examine all options, it is also critical that the review remains grounded in sound military principles and experience. The review addressed a range of issues such as how the JDF’s mission, tasks, capabilities and shape should be adjusted to meet the new strategic security realities. The review was completed in 2006.