As defined in the National Defence Act, the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) has direct responsibility for the command, control and administration of the Canadian Forces, and is appointed by the Governor-in-Council, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The CDS also has a special relationship with the Governor General who, as the Queen’s (or King’s) representative in Canada, exercises virtually all of the powers of that office under the Constitution and hence serves as Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces(CAF). Formally speaking, though not in practice, there is a direct “line of command” from the Head of State (the King or Queen) to the Governor General, through the CDS to all the officers who hold the Queen’s Commission, and thus through them, to all members of the CAF.
In keeping with the responsibility to command, control and administer the CAF, the CDS also advises the Minister of National Defence on these subjects as required. This provision of advice can cover subjects such as current and future military requirements, force capabilities, and possible courses of action and the consequences of undertaking (or failing to undertake) various military activities.
The CDS is accountable to the Minister of National Defence for the conduct of all CAF activities, as well as for the readiness and the ability to fulfill military commitments and obligations undertaken by the government. The CDS implements government decisions that involve the CAF, by issuing orders and instructions.
Whenever required, the CDS also advises the Prime Minister and Cabinet directly on major military developments and issues. The Chief of the Defence Staff is the senior serving military advisor to the Government of Canada.
General Thomas J. Lawson graduated from the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada with an Electrical Engineering Degree in 1979. Upon completion of his flight training in 1981, he was posted to 421 Squadron in Baden, Germany, where he flew the CF-104 Starfighter. Following this four-year tour, in 1985, he completed a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering through RMC, and then went on to serve as a professor at the College.
Promoted to Major in 1988, General Lawson was posted to Montgomery, Alabama, to attend the United States Air Force (USAF) Staff College. During that time, he also completed a Master's Degree in Public Administration at Auburn University.
Posted to Cold Lake, Alberta, in 1991, General Lawson completed CF-18 Hornet training and then returned to Germany for a second operational tour, this time with 421 and 439 Squadrons. With the closure of Canadian Forces Base Baden, he was posted back to Cold Lake where he was assigned to 410 Squadron to serve as the Officer in Charge of the Fighter Weapons Instructor School.
In 1996, General Lawson was posted to Ottawa as a career manager and soon after promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. Then in 1998, while still serving in Ottawa, he was appointed Commanding Officer of 412 Squadron. Upon completion of that assignment in 2000, he was placed in charge of career management for the Air Force, at which time he also completed the USAF Air War College Program.
Promoted to Colonel in 2003, General Lawson held various staff positions within the Air Force before joining the CAF Transformation Team in 2005 where he led the stand-up of the Strategic Joint Staff organization. Posted to 8 Wing Trenton in 2006, he completed a year as the Wing Commander before being promoted to Brigadier-General. In May of 2007 he was appointed Commandant of the Royal Military College in Kingston.
In 2009, General Lawson was promoted to Major-General and appointed Assistant Chief of the Air Staff. In July 2011, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General and posted to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, where he assumed responsibility as the Deputy Commander North American Aerospace Defence Command.
General Lawson was promoted to his current rank and was formally appointed as the Canadian Forces’ Chief of the Defence Staff on October 29, 2012.
The Armed Forces Council is the senior military body of the Canadian Forces. It meets regularly to advise the Chief of the Defence Staff on broad military matters pertaining to the command, control, and administration of the Canadian Forces and to help the CDS make decisions.
The Armed Forces Council is chaired by the CDS, generally meets at least once per month, and includes the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, the Environmental Chiefs of Staff, and other senior military advisors.
General Thomas J. Lawson
Chief of the Defence Staff
A.B. , CMM, CD
Vice Chief of the Defence Staff
M.A.G. , CMM, CD
Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy
CMM, MSC, CD
Commander Canadian Army
Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force
CMM, MSM, CD
Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command
Chief Military Personnel
Chief - Reserves and Cadets
Judge Advocate General
Chief of Defence Intelligence
Chief Warrant Officer West
MMM, MSM, CD