Ursula Brennan to be new Permanent Secretary of MOD

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Prime Minister, with the agreement of the Secretary of State for Defence, has approved the appointment of Ursula Brennan as the new Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, it has been announced today.

In October 2008 Ursula took up her current post as 2nd Permanent Under Secretary (PUS) at the MOD where she has been responsible for a range of cross-Departmental business including acquisition reform, safety and governance and business process.

She spent most of her career in what is now the Department for Work and Pensions and prior to joining MOD she was DG Corporate Performance in the Ministry of Justice.

In a message to staff she said:

It is a privilege to be taking over from Bill Jeffrey at this critical time for the MOD. As 2nd PUS I have seen the passion and commitment which Defence inspires in our staff.

“We’ll need all of that to deliver the outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review and I look forward to working with you on the challenges ahead.”

The current Permanent Secretary, Sir Bill Jeffrey, said:

Ursula Brennan is well-known and highly respected in the MOD and I wish her well. I very much welcome her appointment, and I am confident that the Department will be in capable hands as we move to implement the Strategic Defence and Security Review over the next few years.

We have a lot of work to do in support of ministers over the coming weeks before I retire at the end of October and we will work closely together to ensure smooth transition.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell said:

I am delighted that, in Ursula Brennan, the Ministry of Defence will have a Permanent Secretary with the skills, knowledge and experience to lead the Department to rise to the challenges it faces, including delivering the outcome of the current Strategic Defence and Security Review.

I would like to thank Sir Bill Jeffrey for the outstanding role he has played in leading the Ministry of Defence over the past five years, and for his lengthy and accomplished record of public service.

Ursula will take up her new post on Monday 1 November 2010.

Ursula Brennan’s biography

Ursula Brennan was born in 1952 and is married. She has a degree in English and American Literature from the University of Kent in Canterbury. Ursula became 2nd PUS at the MOD in October 2008. She acts as Joint Chief Operating Officer (with the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff), ensuring delivery of Defence Board intentions and driving forward major Defence change programmes. Ursula is also responsible for a range of cross-Departmental business including acquisition reform, safety and governance and business process. She leads for the Board on corporate services issues and estates and (uniquely in Defence) is a member of all three Service Boards.

Prior to MOD, Ursula was DG Corporate Performance in the Ministry of Justice, having led the review to create the structure for the new Ministry of Justice (MOJ). Her remit covered leadership of the corporate functions in MOJ, including finance, HR, IT, strategy and planning, communications and research and analysis. Prior to joining the MOJ Ursula was Chief Executive of the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, a cross-departmental team supporting the three criminal justice departments and criminal justice agencies in working together to provide an improved service to the public.

From 2004-2006 Ursula was the DG Living Land and Seas at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) where her responsibilities included board-level leadership of strategy for rural disadvantage, and protection of wildlife and the countryside. She led the implementation of a review of rural delivery, merging and creating two new Non-Departmental Public Bodies and restructuring delivery of grants and advice to rural business. She also led a programme to reform the delivery of policy in Defra.

Ursula spent most of her career in what is now the Department for Work and Pensions, culminating with leadership of the strategy on welfare to work and benefit fraud. In that role she was responsible for policies designed to reduce disadvantage and promote opportunity for millions of people of working age and their children, and for delivering Public Service Agreement targets on reducing unemployment and increasing employment, particularly for vulnerable groups and for sick and disabled people; reducing child poverty within a generation and reducing fraud and error in benefit payments. Ursula also led on the development of universal banking; and strategic support to strategies on health and safety at work.

Ursula joined the Department of Health and Social Security in 1975 after two years with the Inner London Education Authority. After a variety of health-related jobs, she moved on to social security, covering policy on all the main social security benefits and then into operations as a Director of the Department’s Information Technology Services Agency, responsible for a range of IT projects and contracts. From there she became Director of Change Management at the Benefits Agency, leading the agency’s change programme and heading a directorate of over 1,000 staff. In 1997 she returned to policy, with responsibility for benefits for long term sick and disabled people. Ursula became a DG in 1999 when she assumed strategic leadership for the Department’s major change programme.