Tom McKane

Distinguished Fellow


Tom McKane is a Distinguished Fellow of RUSI and a visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is also a member of the European Leadership Network.

From 2008-14 Tom was successively director general for strategy and director general for security policy in the UK Ministry of Defence. In 2012 he was briefly the acting permanent secretary of the MoD. He led the Ministry of Defence’s contribution to the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review and was the department’s principal adviser on all aspects of security policy, including multilateral and bilateral defence relations.

In a career which included secondments to the Northern Ireland Office, the Cabinet Office’s Overseas and Defence Secretariat (the forerunner to the National Security Staff) and the British Embassy in Riyadh, Tom became an expert on defence policy and planning. He developed a particular interest in the UK nuclear deterrent, overseeing the team in the Ministry of Defence which was responsible for the 2006 Nuclear Deterrent White Paper and chairing the Department’s Defence Nuclear Executive Board from 2011-14.

A three-year spell as the private secretary to the late Sir Michael Quinlan, when he was the department’s permanent under secretary, provided a firm foundation for this aspect of Tom’s career.

From 1997-99, Tom was principal private secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. This period included the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and the Kosovo Conflict.

Tom has a long-standing interest in the way that defence organisations work, both inside the government boundary and outside. In 1994 he assisted with an externally led review of the management of the defence estate, which resulted in significant organisational reform. In 2005-06 he led a review of the organisation of Defence Acquisition, which led to the amalgamation of the support and procurement organisations. In 2007-08 Tom led the implementation of the streamlining of the Ministry of Defence’s Whitehall headquarters.

Two years as a Voluntary Service Overseas teacher in Egypt in the 1970s and two years in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s gave Tom an abiding interest in the Arab World, which he continues to draw on in his capacity as chief of the Saudi Armed Forces project, on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

Tom is married to Christine and they have two grown-up children. They live in Wandsworth, southwest London. Tom’s pastimes include reading, walking, listening to music and spending as much time as possible in the company of family and friends.

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