Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Youth and the Defence Force

The New Zealand Defence Force has long had an interest in youth training and youth-at-risk development. By all accounts its training successfully blends the needs of neglected, boundary-exploring youth with the operational abilities of the defence force. Thus John Key's recent speech endorsing the work of the defence force and holding it up as a useful model should not be written off immediately as the defence force acting as "baby-sitters" (by the right) or red-neck militarism (by the left).

For the fact is that for many young people the Defence Force is a family which provides them with a sense of purpose, a source of pride and a world with clear and enforced rules based on the ever present reality of violence (mostly from hostiles) to focus the mind. The Defence Force doesn't have pointless family group conferences, nor does it take any bullshit. This no-nonsense structure provides many kids with the best learning environment they have ever had. And when it comes to cocky know-it-all teenagers they have very effective ways of taking them down a peg or two.

But there is a world of difference between the Defence Force training its own and its training outsiders. As it is structured the Defence Force exists to train soldiers - typically Territorial Force soldiers. The job of soldiering is no longer about being given a gun and told to go and shoot the enemy. In today's world soldiering has become a serious professional career involving legal, logistical and even political assessments. It is not the sort of job for young criminals from South Auckland.

What young criminals from South Auckland need is the sense that someone cares what they do (in a positive way, rather than simply looking for an excuse to arrest them), hope that they can find a better way of life, and freedom from drugs and dibilitating peer pressure. They need tough love - with the emphasis on tough. This is because they have tough lives and people that don't - no matter how well meaning - simply can't relate to the level of resilience these kids have to have daily simply to survive. As such tough kids need tough teachers. People who they can emulate, look up to and admire and frankly the average secondary school teacher simply isn't that person.

Moreover, and lets be entirely blunt about this, the fact is many of these young hoodlums are Maori. They are Maori because Maori have significant alcohol problems, have been marginalised into crime (as for example have many other occupied peoples e.g the Irish 100 years ago), and have serious child-rearing problems relating to the breakdown of traditional family structures over the past three or four generations. Many Maori have tough lives and many Maori are tough people. However the only role-models many Maori kids see are the local gang-leaders while more deserving role-models like Corporal Willie Apiata V.C or Major General Jerry Mataparae remain largely remote from their daily experience.

Once again the problem is the terms of reference of the defence force. Because these are so narrow the purpose of the defence force is to prepare for combat. My Review concluded that given the relatively low risk of New Zealand needing to defend itself and the scope of other threats with which New Zealand is faced that combat should be considered only one of the risks that the Defence Force should be prepared for. Other risks such as civil emergencies or biohazards are equally worthy of Defence Force purview.

Unfortunately threats such as biohazards (such as H5N1) or major civil emergencies cannot be handled tidily by Government agencies alone. The way the population responds to these emergencies is equally important.

When the great Hanshin earthquake struck Kobe the Japanese population responded with a degree of civil discipline which would only be regarded as miraculous in most other parts of the world. There was no looting, no stampedes at hospitals and no riots. If a major disaster struck Wellington or Auckland, in particular, I have grave doubts that New Zealanders - especially in South Auckland or Porirua - would be as disciplined. Indeed looting, riots and even arson might be expected. Thus to achieve greater levels of civil defence the civil population needs to have a greater level of civil discipline.

No agency is better placed to train civilians in emergency response, survival and engender civil discipline than the defence force. Thus when reviewing the defence forces as part of my study I concluded that the whole training component of the defence force should be regarded as a branch of the services just as the Air Force is today. This branch would train not only defence personnel but civilians - including youth at risk - as well. It would also manage defence force exercices and audit performance to further refine new training.

Some might argue that seperating training and operations is a mistake. That operations are, in effect live training and if they are seperate trainers can become too theoretical and operations can loose touch with training. Personally I don't think this cannot be managed. Trainers can be dispatched as observers along with operational staff and trainers can also be seconded to operations as needed. There is, however, a big difference between a good coach and a good fighter and one should not confuse the two. Great coaches should not be retained in operational units simply because there is nowhere else for them to go. Moreover the skills of the great coaches of the Defence Force could also deliver great value to the civilian population of New Zealand as well as the Defence Force.

Using the defence force to re-orientate youth at risk as proposed by John Key has significant merit - but only if the defence force is re-orientated first.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

NZDF and 'the ice' - more commitment needed!

Stuff has two stories today once again demonstrating our military's narrow frame of reference when it comes to equipping itself for potential missions.

The Japanese whaling fleet is once again wreaking havoc in the Southern Ocean - with the Australian military copping flak for failing to live up to undertakings to maintain surveillance{ http://www.stuff.co.nz/4346118a11.html } while a British trawler (Argos Georgia - intent on ravaing Toothfish) is locked in the ice { http://www.stuff.co.nz/4346591a11.html}. Meanwhile duty Ministry Jim Anderton says the military are too over-stretched to operate in the Southern Ocean. Too short-sighted more like.

The Navy has five vessels capable of operating in the Southern Ocean. Two expensive ASW frigates, two OPVs (still being trialled) and the Canterbury LSV. The OPVs and Canterbury are Lloyds C-class and so aren't really meant to go into the ice. The frigates can go into the ice but because they are so expensive they have chewed up all the Navy's potential resources.

By contrast my Review (using the same amount of capital) postulated purchasing two research vessels (of the kind used by Nordic oil men), two environment patrol vessels (as used by South Africa to patrol for raiders on the Patagonian toothfish), two Lloyds B-class transport ships (as used by the Chilean Navy to service its Antarctic bases), and two ice-breaking environment patrol vessels ( as used by the Norwegians to safeguard Norways northern coast all year around. Any one of those vessels (although the ice-breakers would be the best choice) could have carried out these missions with ease.

It isn't that the Navy couldn't have resources available for such operations. They just didn't want to. Saving whales and extracting fishermen are not jobs that the Royal New Zealand Navy has much interest in. Exactly what the RNZN is interested in, however is unclear. For some time it seemed to want to join the Royal Australian Navy but now that it has got Project Protector delivered it is torn between being an inadequate combat navy (with only 2 frigates) an inadequate fisheries protection agency (2 OPVs for the 4th largest EEZ) and an army transport which has already managed to kill one of its crew.

The fact is the RNZN needs at least four more OPV/EPV vessels to cover the amount of sea that it needs to operate in. What it does not need is two MEKO class frigates. Unfortunately military machismo runs deep and the need for a boat with big guns is crucial to the self-image of our Navy officers. However as I have always argued, in reality the only kind of ships the RNZN is ever likely to need to counter in our quarter of the Earth's surface is unlikely to have any weapons at all. Big guns are simply redundant.

New Zealand has long held a protectorate claim to the Ross Sea Ice Shelf under the Antarctic Treaty. In practice we have done precious little to protect the Antarctic and relied almost entirely on the United States to support our access to the Pole at all. If New Zealand wants to be taken as seriously as other Antarctic protectorate nations (such as South Africa, Australia and Chile) we should do a good deal more to demonstrate our logistical commitment to the ice.

So far our Navy's contribution is inadequate and our airforce's capability is failing. The C-130Hs are being re-winged so they can keep flying but they remain very very old aircraft. Its plans to acquire Airbus A400m's seem to overlook the fact that as yet no A400M as flown yet alone landed on the Antarctic. By contrast my Review proposed the IL76MF - a much larger aircraft design than either the C-130 or the A400M which has been landing on ice for decades. It also proposed the DHC-6 light operational aircraft which also has a long history of operations on the ice.

And while the Antarctic is a demilitarised zone the fact is that every Antarctic treaty nation relies on its military to provide the services to operate in such an environment. New Zealand's Army however only operates the Pinzgauer light operational vehicle which might be able to cope with summer roads but certainly nothing else. By contrast my Review recommended the purchase of 48 BvS210 armoured all-terrain transports - closely related to the "Hagglunds" tracked vehicles used at Scott Base.

Once again none of this was ever beyond the potential of NZDF/ NZDM planners. They just weren't interested in thinking about the Antarctic. It is an omission that New Zealand as a nation may yet come to regret.