National Security in Saudi Arabia: Threats, Responses, and Challenges

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Nawaf Obaid | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Saudi Security Apparatus

The current Saudi security apparatus that must deal with this mix of strategic threats and pressures is a complex mix of regular military forces in the Ministry of Defense and Aviation (MODA), a separate Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), and various internal security and intelligence services in the Ministry of Interior (MOI). Saudi Arabia's military forces are only one element of the Saudi security structure and are currently divided into five major branches: the Army, the National Guard, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Air Defense Force. Saudi Arabia also has large paramilitary and internal security forces and a small strategic missile force.

Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in creating modern and effective military forces, but it still faces major problems in the leadership and organization of its armed forces. These include the traditional problems all states face in organizing and commanding large military forces and in shaping and funding the future structure of its armed forces. At the same time, the Kingdom faces newer problems in dealing with significant problems in manpower quality, advanced military technology, readiness, sustainability, and managing an advanced force structure that must have the option of being interoperable with both region allies and those from outside the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia also must recast the mission of many elements of it forces to focus on "jointness." It must adopt many of the advances in joint warfare pioneered by the United States and other Western nations, and improve cooperation between the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Air Defense Force. It must also redefine the mission of jointness to link the regular services, the National Guard, and the internal security and police forces under the Ministry of Security into a coherent structure that can prevent and respond to terrorism.

Saudi Arabia has made major advances in internal security and counterterrorism since it came under more intense terrorist attack in May 2003. It has given the deputy minister of the Ministry of Interior the interagency lead in this role and has effectively dual-hatted him in dealing with the forces of the Ministry of Defense. Nevertheless, it will be several years before Saudi Arabia can plan and implement all of the measures required.

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