The Defense Council, which in the 1980s was chaired by the general secretary of the CPSU, was in overall control of the defense industry. Although the Council of Ministers nominally controlled all ministries, including those serving the military, military issues transcended that authority. The Military Industrial Commission (Komissiya Soveta Ministrov SSSR po voenno-promyshlennym voprosam, or Voenno-promyshlennaia komissiia, known as VPK) was formed in the 1950s to serve as an arbiter, coordinator and interface between the military production ministries and the political leadership. The Military Industrial Commission included representatives from the defense industry ministries, the Ministry of Defense, Gosplan, and probably the CPSU Secretariat. The VPK monitored and coordinated all military research and development and production. It reviewed new weapons proposals for their technical feasibility and for production requirements, approved research-to- production timetables submitted by lead organizations, and participated in planning and supervising major technological programs, apparently including those conducted by Academy of Sciences institutes.
Most military production came under the eighteen ministries of the machinebuilding and metal-working complex (MBMW), nine of which were primarily involved in making weapons or military matériel. Other "military-related" ministries sent a smaller percentage of their output to the military. Among their contributions were trucks (from the Ministry of Automotive and Agricultural Machine Building, under MBMW), tires and fuels (from the Ministry of Petroleum Refining and Petrochemical Industry, outside MBMW), and generators (from the Ministry of Power Machinery Building, under MBMW), plus any other items requested by the military.The principal organizations involved in Soviet military science and technology were subordinate to the defense industrial ministries. The ministries responsible for research, design, and production of military equipment and weapons or their components consisted of the Ministry of the Aviation Industry, the Ministry of the Communications Equipment Industry, the Ministry of the Defense Industry, the Ministry of the Electronics Industry, the Ministry of General Machine Building, the Ministry of Machine Tool and ToolBuilding Industry, the Ministry of Medium Machine Building, the Ministry of the Radio Industry, and the Ministry of the Shipbuilding Industry. These nine ministries were among the eighteen ministries of the machine-building and metal-working complex (MBMW) under the control of the Defense Council. Each of the nine ministries incorporated institutes engaged in applied research and a network of bureaus responsible for designing and developing new military equipment and processes. In 1989 these ministries directed the work of thousands of plants making weapons and weapons component plants, at least 450 military research and development organizations, and approximately fifty major design bureaus. Other industrial ministries contributed to military research, development, and production. For example, some military vehicles were produced by the Ministry of Automotive and Agricultural Machine Building, and fuel and chemical warfare agents were produced by the Ministry of the Chemical Industry. In 1987 the machine-building industrial complex, one of the seven industrial complexes, included 300 branches and subbranches and a network of 700 research and planning organizations. Officially designated the machine- building and metal-working complex (MBMW), it was the most inclusive and varied industrial complex. Its three major types of product, were military hardware, consumer durables, and industrial machinery and equipment. In 1989 eighteen ministries were included, manufacturing a wide range of machinery; nine of the ministries chiefly produced military weapons or matériel. Ministries within MBMW often split the jurisdiction within a particular specialization. For example, although instrument manufacture fell mainly under MBMW'S Ministry of Instrument Making, its Ministry of the Aviation Industry and Ministry of the Shipbuilding Industry controlled manufacture of the instruments they used in their products. The contributions of MBMW included machines for mining, agriculture, and road building; equipment for conventional and nuclear power plants; oil and gas drilling and pumping equipment; and metal-working machines for all branches, including the military. In the mid-1980s, restructuring in the machine industry was a central theme of perestroika because most industries needed to update their machine stock. Western studies in the 1980s showed that 40 to 60 percent of industrial production was earmarked for military uses. In the 1980s, government policy encouraged industry to buy domestic machinery to counter a frequent preference for more reliable foreign equipment. (A 1985 study by MBMW's Ministry of Heavy Machine Building said that 50 percent of that ministry's basic products did not meet operational requirements.) In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) sent half its machine exports to the Soviet Union. At the same time, Soviet machine exports fell behind machine imports, after exports had reached a peak in 1970.