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Secretariat of National Defense
Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional - SEDENA

The organization of the Mexican armed forces at the cabinet level is distinct from that of many other Latin American nations. Instead of a single ministry consolidating the command of the army, navy, and air force, two government ministries are directly responsible for national defense: the Secretariat of National Defense and the Secretariat of the Navy. The head of each of these secretariats is a military officer who holds cabinet rank and has regular, direct access to the president of the republic, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

The "Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional" (Secretariat of Defense) was created by decree of November 1, 1937, replacing the "Secretaría de Guerra y Marina" (Secretariat of War and Navy). The Navy business were administrated by the "Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional" as a "Departamento" (Department) unitil Dec. 31, 1939. A day later the "Departamento Autónomo de Marina" came into effect.

After President Carlos Salinas de Gortari took office in 1988, five cabinet-level councils were created within the offices of the president to oversee principal policy areas. One of these is the National Security Council, which includes representatives of the secretariats of government, foreign relations, national defense, and the navy, as well as the attorney general's office. Narcotics control is one of the topics dealt with in the council.

The secretary of national defense is selected by the president from the ranks of active army general officers. The secretary normally serves for six years, the same term as the president's. Similarly, the secretary of the navy (Admiral José Ramón Lorenzo Franco in 1996) is chosen from the ranks of active admirals. Operating through the General Staff, the secretary of national defense commands army and air force units, the army zonal commands, and logistics and administrative directorates. Under the secretary of the navy are the chief of naval operations, the chief of naval staff, and the naval zones that control operational forces.

Civic-action programs designed to improve socioeconomic conditions and develop public facilities traditionally have been an important mission of the armed forces. As early as 1921, labor battalions created by order of President Obregón were employed in road construction, irrigation projects, and railroad and telegraph maintenance. The Organic Law of the Armed Forces directs the army and the air force to "aid the civilian population, cooperate with authorities in cases of public necessity, [and] lend assistance in social programs." Programs designed to meet these aims have been given high priority since the 1960s.

By the 1980s, civic-action programs encompassed a wide range of activities carried out by military zone personnel, often in coordination with government agencies. These programs reinforced the army's ties to the country's rural inhabitants and promoted national development. The army was placed in charge of coordinating disaster relief in 1966 under Plan DN III. Military zone personnel assist the rural population in literacy programs, road building, bringing electricity to rural villages, repairing equipment, school restoration, immunization, and dental care, and in some cases provide emergency surgery in military hospitals. Military personnel also serve as escorts on the national railroads, patrol federal highways on national holidays, and participate in campaigns to eliminate livestock disease and crop damage caused by insect infestations.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:39:13 ZULU