Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review or Whitewash?

The Government has announced that it will be carrying out yet another Defence Review. Defence Review 09 is the first post 9/11 Defence Review and its terms of reference have been revealed to media but not as yet posted on the Ministry website.
The objective is apparently to take a hard look at the number of bases, the airforce aircraft, whether the LAVs are worthwhile and when and how to replace the ANZAC frigates.

All of this is sensible is you know the answer to one important question first, and that is this:
"What is the New Zealand Defence Force going to defend us from?"
Until you know the answer to that question there is no point reviewing the NZDF.

My Defence Review took a look at the following factors:
= The strategic environment around New Zealand
= The diplomatic concerns facing New Zealand, from the Ross Ice Shelf to the Tokelaus
= The economic cost of military threat
and it basically concluded that we are spending twice as much on pure defence as we ought to. We are under even less threat than Ireland and far more heavily armed.

It then took in other factors such as:
= Civil Defence issues
= Coastguard and Fisheries protection issues
= Biohazard and border security issues
= Environmental protection issues
= Terrorism threats
And came to the conclusion that unless these were included in the NZDF's remit and incorporated into NZDF doctrine; the organisation was too large.

All of this suggests the NZDF needs to become more dual-use. Yes it needs a sharp front end, in the form of more special forces troops. But following behind the spear head is a more dual-use spear shaft made of dual-use logistics support troops, able to operate equally well in supporting battlefield operations and in civil emergencies. Troops that can be upgraded to combat capability but who specialise in very long range logistics, emergency response and operations. Moreover this organisation should comprise mostly of career professionals who are paid according to civilian pay scales, not thousands of weekend warriors who get paid to indulge in silly fantasies about how New Zealand might end up being a military playground.

In other words the NZDF should be mostly a trucking fleet, a freight airline, and a Pacific shipping line for dealing with emergency situations: military or civil. As such it should make use of the best of civilian technology and techniques rather than constantly over-engineer the force for a "battlefield" that is most unlikely to eventuate.

It will be fascinating to see how professional this Review actually gets. My hope is it will outclass my own review in every conceivable way. My worry is that it will simply be the same tired old rehash by the same stuck-in-their-ways thinkers we have always had.