Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A fair day's pay?

The new Military Remuneration Policy which will be fully in force by July 2009 is an essential step towards making military remuneration competitive with the civilian labour market. The step away from purely rank based remuneration will make it possible for the NZDF to start competing for skilled staff without having to give them non-existent commands.
That said the pay rates are still not what anyone would call exciting.

A Captain with specialist medical training would get to earn $65,328. A Major $93,222

Compare that to the remuneration available in the private sector
Base Salary Total Package
SHO $55 - 70,000 $60 – 90,000
Registrar $56 - 87,000 $70 – 100,000
Career Medical Officer $88 – 151,000 $98 – 165,000
Specialist $115 -200,000 $160 – 250,000

and for Engineers:

Median total earnings for engineers aged 41-45 is $83,000 The upper quartile of Telecomunication engineers earn $100,000 base & $117,750 in total Median base salary for engineers with 7-9 years experience is $70,000 he lower quartile total earnings for engineers working in the central government sector is $60,000

So a young registrar or professional engineer would have to be a Captain and an experienced one would have to be a Major to be even vaguely in line with the private sector.

Meanwhile experienced mercenaries in Iraq are getting US$1200 a day from companies like Armour Holdings.That's more than a Major's salary for two month's work.

So the new policy is definitely heading in the right direction. The problem is the quantum. The Military is still based on the notion of recruiting the young and the cheap, training them up and expecting them to move on.

The problem is the world is just not like that any more. Military systems and the entire military task has become far too complex to give to a bunch of lunkheads you've just taught how to shoot a gun in the right direction. Today's military are involved in complex, sensitive situations where decisions at even the level of the corporal can have significant implications at national levels. The technology - even for the infantry - is getting more complicated all the time. So a soldier on a check-point watching out for suicide bombers has to assess the tactical situation, the technical environment (for remote triggers) the political situation and even the media situation all while trying to avoid getting killed. We cannot treat our infantry like lunkheads, the job is simply too big.

Once again it all comes back to headcount. If you have fewer people you can afford to pay them more but you can only afford to have fewer people if you are far more ruthless about deciding what you will or will not try to do.

As I have said (probably once too often) in my view the NZDF's main fault is trying to be a WW2 military and a post 9/11 military at the same time. The simple fact is we are trying to do too many things with a military which on comparison to nations of a similar size and strategic situation is too large.

We are not threatened by submarines and yet we have a large anti-submarine warfare capability (2 MEKO frigates, Seasprite helicopters + Orions worth about half the NZDFs working capital). Our emphasis in armour has been on combat rather than logistics making our 105 LAVs too aggressive to deploy for peacekeeping operations where logistics are more important.
All in all our military has small mans disease. It wants to show it's tough all the time rather than deal with the real issues which are mostly dual-use logistic support, low intensity warfare and high impact globally mobile anti-terror operations.

The point of my Defence Review was to show that it is possible to reduce the size of the Defence Force, refocus on a dual-use military for both military and civilian security from all hazards and achieve all the mission objectives of any post 9/11 environment in a way that is more satisfying ( and better paid) for defence staff.

The MRP is a good step toward this goal, but it is just the first on a very long journey.