Peter Watkins

Former Director-General in the Ministry of Defence

Peter Watkins worked for over three decades in government service on defence and national security issues. From April 2014 to November 2018, he was the Director-General in the Ministry of Defence (MOD) responsible for strategic defence policy and planning, key multilateral and bilateral defence relationships (including the UK’s contribution to NATO) as well as defence policy on space, cyber and prosperity (exports and inward investment). This role was known latterly as the Director-General Strategy & International and before that as Director-General Security Policy. Peter remains involved in international security and defence matters through several affiliations to universities and think-tanks.  He is a Member of the Council of Cranfield University and a Non-Executive Member of the Steering Board of the UK Space Agency.

Peter joined the MOD in 1980.  During his career, he worked closely with all three Services and held senior posts in security policy, acquisition and resource management.  Prior to his most recent appointments, he was the Director-General of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, the institution responsible for the professional development of UK military personnel and civil servants (including in leadership, acquisition, technology and language skills).  Before this, he was the Director of Operational Policy in the MOD Head Office from 2008-11; this post was responsible for setting the policy framework for the planning and conduct of UK military operations overseas and at home.  Previous Director-level roles included: head of the UK element of the international Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft programme (2006-7); Command Secretary and Senior Finance Officer of the Royal Air Force’s Strike Command (now part of Air Command) (2004-6).  Peter was the Private Secretary to the Defence Secretary from 2001-03. Earlier assignments centred mainly on international defence industrial cooperation, including as a Counsellor in the British Embassy in Germany (1996-2000) and, before that, as the senior official responsible for the policy and financial aspects of the UK’s participation in the Eurofighter Typhoon, Tornado and Joint Strike Fighter (now the F-35) programmes.  Prior appointments included three years as Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Defence Procurement (1990-93) and a number of policy-related roles.

Peter was educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge University, where he studied History.  He is an ancien of the NATO Defense College (1993-94); and was a visiting Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University (2006-07).  A former Trustee of the Imperial War Museums (2014-19), he is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and of the Institute of Directors, and a Liveryman of the Coachmakers’ Company. He was awarded a CB in the 2019 New Year’s Honours list and a CBE in 2004.