Tuesday, November 2, 2010
In fact value to taxpayers doesn't get any attention from the review at all. No attempt has been made to determine an appropriate level of expenditure against the costs and risks of being unprepared (as my review did). Its principal concern is the shift of the defence force from a notional cadre organisation preparing for national mobilisation to a more professional structure which seeks to enhance the force's ability to retain its expertise, and contract out that expertise which can be contracted out.This was assumed in my own private defence review, first published four years ago. It does not require a panel of assorted bigwigs to see the inevitable need of this sort of arrangement.
What is simply not addressed by this White Paper is what the Defence Force is actually meant to do given that we have no obvious challenges to our sovereignty other than foreign fishing boats that thumb their noses at our inadequate EEZ protection. The White paper stresses again and again that defence of our sovereignty is the prime purpose of the Force. If so it is extremely badly structured to do that. We have too few and too limited EEZ protection vessels, too few and too restricted EEZ protection aircraft, and two enormously expensive frigates equipped to fight non-existent Russian submarines. Its called putting too many eggs in one basket and we do it all the time.
What the Defence Force is actually structured to do, and indeed is STILL the underpinning message of the review, is make small but useful contributions to the efforts of the Australians. That is why we have the same frigates, the same helicopters and the same rifles as the Australians. The Defence Force is, to all intents and purposes, STILL run from Canberra, not Wellington.
I would not be very surprised if in the not too distant future we sell a stock of our LAV-IIIs and replace them with the Australian Bushmaster vehicle, despite the fact that it makes no more sense in New Zealand than the LAV III does.
The Minister of Defence, Dr Wayne Mapp, has pointed out recently that the new NH90 helicopters will be extremely expensive, costing an unbelievable (compared to what others pay for them) NZ$80 million a unit! That means just having a helicopter costs NZDF $8m in capital costs before we even get to operational costs. If they are ever to be used they will have to spread around the country. Otherwise, like the LAVs, they will just have to sit in their nice cosy hangars in Ohakea or wait for something to carry them to deployment in other nations. The NH90 is a good helicopter (although there are better) for New Zealand but only if it is used for New Zealand, not kept in store awaiting "Tomorrow when war began" or equally unlikely events.
The fundamental problem is one of doctrine. NZDF doctrine is firmly rooted in the 20th century. It envisages a clear enemy. It presupposes political certainty. It ignores economic, biological and cyber warfare and developments like Twitter. It ignores environmental catastrophes and natural disasters. It just wants to get to the hairy-chested bang-bang bit. The doctrine I proposed in my Defence Review is a 21st Century one. It assumes a multidimensional environment where politics comes before guns. It assumes most deployments will be civil in nature, not military. It is as much about preventing violence as it is responding to it.
A future defence force should be as much an economic as a protective force. It must be capable of responding to all hazards not just military ones. It must be aware of the multidimensional world we live in, where achievement of military objectives could completely destroy political ones. It must be largely a logistics and infrastructural organisation with civilian and uniformed components. But it also needs a sharp end able to prosecute short sharp violent encounters with maximum effectiveness.
The defence force is a useful asset but only when assisting other agencies (including diplomatic ones) to enhance and protect New Zealand's people and economy. The problem with the White Paper is it persists with the myth that defence cannot be thought about in terms of economic return on investment. Only by adopting this outlook will defence ever try to find as many ways as possible to safeguard New Zealand than just sit around shining their shoes and dreaming about past battles while waiting for a new Japanese Imperial Navy to reappear on the horizon.
The fact is tomorrow's war will begin not with explosions but with a cough and a runny nose.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
But at the same time the Government is committing to replace two anti-submarine-warfare frigates in 2030 at an estimated cost of $2 billion. On a simple piggy-bank approach to finance that would be $100 million a year the government will be putting aside for its future Navy. So saving $100 million by shifting jobs around will be cancelled out by buying hardware we don't need in twenty years time.
Am I the only one who can see the Minister of Defence is being sold a pup? Unless the Government thinks about what we need to be defended from, and how, promising to spend money on future toys is just so much horse-shit.
The fundamental problem is the way the military clings to:
1. The ridiculous notion we will refight WW2 (this time against China apparently)
2. Its traditional structure with its emphasis on areas of mobility (sailing, flying or driving) rather than spheres of operation (strategic or tactical).
The shit-for-brains analysis on which this capital acquisition projection is based is economically illiterate.
The Chinese in 2030 are not the Japanese Empire of 1930. China already has a Japanese Imperial "Co-prosperity sphere" and Australia and New Zealand are already in it! That's why Australasia is booming and America and Europe aren't. China is not about to start a war with its south Pacific mine, Australia, any more than Australia is going to fight China. The idea we might fight China shoulder-to-shoulder with America is the kind of idiot fantasy that only sad old scroats drowning their racist sorrows down the RSA would come up with.
What about Indonesia? Well, Indonesia is not going to invade Australia -other than RSA scroat fantasies like Australian movies. Indonesia is too poor and disorganised to attack a mini-superpower like Australia. Fundamentally it can't get air superiority and without that you can't invade anyone. So get this straight: Australia's military is better armed than anyone else in South East Asia. Australia could probably be nuclear armed about as fast as Japan and Germany if they wanted to be. If anything Australia is more likely to attack Indonesia.
The problem is Indonesia is unstable and could fracture badly and Australia has a rather paternalistic and racist outlook toward its northern neighbour. But Australia can't invade Indonesia because its too big, and Indonesia can't defeat Australia because it's too technically hopeless. The result will be more localised messes in Aceh or Papua like the one in East Timor.
In such situations big piles of capital with millions of dollars worth of anti-submarine warfare systems are not necessarily the most sensible contribution New Zealand can make. Only a one-eyed Navy scroat would think so. Most people would think air support and infantry would be more useful.
The fact is Mapp is failing to tame the New Zealand Defence Force. He has not got any serious strategic analysis to suggest why we need to replace the capability we have today with a more modern one later on. All he is doing is letting the brass keep their shiny bottoms on their chairs while they produce next to no value for New Zealand taxpayers.
The NZDF does need aeroplanes. Yesterday. Almost all our strategic and tactical needs rely on long range, economical, high capacity air lift. Airlift and helicopter air support are dual-use civilian and military and you'd be hard pressed to have too much of it in an island nation 2,000 miles from anywhere. We also need ships, but certainly not the kind the NZ Navy is wedded to.
By 2030 almost 100 years will have passed since New Zealand was last directly threatened by war. There will be robots on our streets, if not in our homes. There will be biological crises and our agriculture will be more valuable than ever. Directed energy weapons like Star-trek's phaser will be in existence. But the idea of conflict will be different. Finance will be even more connected to foreign policy. War and policing will be almost the same thing. Intelligence gathering will be huge and the internet will be a bigger realm of conflict.
In this environment deciding now to buy big boats twenty years hence, is just plain nonsensical.
Dr Mapp needs to stop listening to scroats and use his brain.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
The American Army has been seeking alternatives to the "armoured" Humvee ever since 2003 when the politicians discovered, what most commanders already knew: the Humvee was never built to protect its occupants against mines and Improvised Explosive Devices. The Humvee was designed in the 70s to be a replacement for the jeep. Despite its reputation for size and gas guzzling, it is actually a light vehicle in military terms and unfortunately bolting on armour and spall lining here and there does not overcome the fact that its wheel arches and body shape just weren't designed to deflect explosive forces away from vehicle occupants.
On the other hand one must be reasonable. Some Improvised Explosive Devices in Lebanon have destroyed Merkava III tanks, and armoured protection doesn't get any better than that. The simple fact is that when one group of people lie in wait to ambush another group of people in vehicles armed and everyone is armed with machine-guns and explosives the liklihood is someone is going to get hurt. To date New Zealand had been very lucky no one has been killed. Sadly for Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell and his family and friends, our luck finally ran out.
But that doesn't get the armed forces completely off the hook. Had the lead vehicle been an RG-33 as recommended by my study it is possible that Lieutenant O'Donnell would still be alive. The RG-33 has a good track record of resisting mines and IEDs and is certainly better protected than the armoured Pinzgauer or armoured Humvee. So looked at from this perspective the question that has to be asked is not could the vehicle provided better protection but what led to the situation which we find ourselves in where it did not?
The first and most obvious point is that none of the vehicles on that patrol were bought by the New Zealand Army. They were leased. This raises difficult questions.
Why is the New Zealand Army paying a 10% capital charge on $750 million worth of Light Armoured Vehicles which haven't been deployed to Afghanistan PLUS leases on poorly armoured vehicles which have been deployed to Afghanistan?
Why are New Zealand troops not using Pinzgauers (except the SAS) and would they be any safer if they were?
The answers to most of these questions are quite simple. When the Army bought its vehicles the problem of deploying them economically was not part of the equation. The Defence Force talks up its engagement around the world but aside from its frigates can't deliver much more than pedestrians with 50kg of kit to lug around.
This isn't the Army's fault alone. It is the entire Defence Force's fault. When shopping time rolls around every thirty years or so it focuses too much on high-tech bang-bang and not enough on simple logistics.
The fact is our infantry are now, and have always been, our most important force. We are not the kind of nation that launches Tomahawk missiles at people thousands of miles away guided by satellite spies and robot drones. New Zealanders are up close and personal soldiers where as much is achieved by jaw-boning as it is accurate shooting. That means the whole military side of the defence force should be built around delivering and supporting our infantry while they carry out their mission.
The system should be capable of delivering infantry to the deployment zone along with their vehicles and equipment both by air and by sea. Unfortunately we don't have heavy air transporters and we don't have low cost sea transport either. Without this core logistical backbone we simply can't derive any value from our own vehicle fleet. We end up being dependent on other armies cast-offs to protect our soldiers.
My study had two suggestions for long range heavy transport. One was this Landing Ship Tank which can carry 24 tanks 6,000 nautical miles at a go at a relatively low cost. The other was the IL-76 aircraft which is routinely leased by the United Nations for humanitarian work. With a bit of squishing the IL76 could carry three RG-33 per flight. Neither of them are as fancy as the HMNZS Canterbury, or the Boeing 757, but they are far better at carrying tonnes of stuff, long distances.
That way you could deliver a full range of vehicles and helicopters we have already bought and paid for, to protect our troops that need them, rather than paying to use some-one else's, while our own store of capital equipment never leaves storage.
But would that, in the end, have saved Tim O'Donnell's life? One has to be honest and admit possibly not. An ambusher always has the advantage and can pick the time, the place and the target. My study does not envisage patrols purely of armoured Behemouths rumbling around. I have always supported the use of Toyota Landcruisers simply because they are easy to fix in the field. If an IED was fired at a landcruiser its occupants wouldn't stand much chance.
Could the Defence Force do better? I think so. Would it guarantee our record of remaining casualty free in Afghanistan? No other military force has ever escaped that country as lightly as we have to date, so I rather think not. Afghanistan has defeated every empire that has tried to crush it. The odds of our "winning" there, are poor.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
GDP is, of course an odd measure for the impact of the Earthquake. Yes Chile will take a hit to its national income. It will be forced to spend just when it has less revenue, and that is likely to mean borrowing. But the GDP equation will count all economic activity - including rebuilding - as an economic benefit. Despite a huge destruction of capital the replacement of that capital will appear like a good thing.In terms of opportunity cost, of course it isn't. Nobody needs an 8.8 magnitude earthquake and in competitive terms the quake is likely to set Chile back at least five, and possibly even ten years.
There will be internal displacement and migration and there will probably be political ramifications as well. Fortunately incoming President, billionaire Sebastian Pinara will have a clear mandate for emergency leadership when he takes power in nine days time. With chaos on the streets it will be easy to exercise more force than perhaps left wing incumbent Michelle Bachellet would choose.
On paper Chile's army is poorly organised for this sort of operation. It's just spent a fortune on 120 old German Leopard 2's but only has about 600 trucks. For a force with 45,000 soldiers that is pretty hopeless. Worse, a large part of the national defence administration is now buried in the rubble in Concepcion.
Chile's Navy is similarly militaristic. Its two French light ferry ships and one US landing ship tank are wildly outnumbered by the frigates and submarines in its line of battle. Equally sad the airforce has 10 Iroquois, 6 small transports (CASA C212) and 3, count them, 3 C-130s. Most of the money goes on F-16s and combat aircraft. The Chileans have been annoying the Americans by kicking the tyres of Mi-17s, which as the Thais have pointed out are about ten times better value for money than a Blackhawk. The Navy and Airforce have another 35,000 personnel between them.
Chile is 4,300 kilometres long and on average 175 kilometres wide. Chile's mountainous border to the East is mostly shared with Argentina, with Northern borders with Peru and Bolivia. Since the collapse of the fascist regimes in both Argentina and Chile relations between the two countries have improved markedly and there is now a clear spirit of cooperation. Both Peru and Bolivia are potential sources of friction but neither nation is strong enough economically to sustain a war with Chile.
In short Chile does have a need for a defence force that can deal with insurgency style conflicts and fake "guerilla" movements sponsored by grumpy elements among its Northern neighbours. For this it needs professional infantry, a much better airforce and mechanisation better suited to these sorts of operations.
But while Chile has had diplomatic stoushes in the past, under an all-hazards defence framework it is impossible to overlook the 28 major earthquakes it has had in the past 100 years. Two of these are among the top five largest earthquakes in recorded history.
Given a 20-year capital expenditure cycle it is almost certain that the Chilean armed forces will have to contend with a very serious earthquake five times in that cycle. Sure as God made little apples these earthquakes will require the assistance of agencies beyond the Carabineros, i.e the rest of the Defence Ministry.
The military establishment cannot prevent an earthquake but it can reduce the opportunity cost of an earthquake by establishing law and order, supply and returning critical services so that civilian operations can resume as fast as possible. This would seem to be a natural task for the Chilean military.
Were I an incoming Chilean president with a business bent this is what I would be asking myself. "We employ 110,000 personnel in the Defence force. That's neally 12% of the population of Concepcion. Did our people really get their money's worth from this vast collection of manpower and machinery after the earthquake? Or are these just a bunch of strutters waiting to plot another coup or bomb a bunch of no-hopers from up North?"
And I think what I'd be wanting to see is much less emphasis on buying second hand big guns and a lot more on rapid deployment, field engineering and logistics, and low intensity warfare training and management. I would definitely be wanting to hear about a volunteer civil defence command using military budget.
I'd also think about different equipment. Chile's biggest problem is the United States. It is notable that Chile is spending US$900 million on 46 F-16s while Peru is spending half that on the better Mig-29. Chile looked at the HAL Dhruv which is an excellent value light helicopter but ended up with the Bell 212 instead. Essentially Chile has to tell the US where to stick its military bullying.
Lots more logistics trucks like the Indian TATA LPTA 1623 7.5 tonne truck. Cheap. Rugged, Used to high altitudes and temperature extremes. This is no piece of German perfection but when you need numbers it will do.
And I'd be looking pretty hard at the South African RG-35 for armoured patrol. It can carry 15 tonnes or 15 troops. It's mean enough to deal with both insurgents and rioters, but not a full-on combat vehicle.
All of these systems have dual use. i.e they can be used for civilian emergencies as well as military ones. The helicopters and the trucks can provide aid, fire fighting, water, and many more capabilities besides.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Given the vastness of the United States military - its airforce's budget is greater than New Zealand's GDP - one might have expected a slighly more coordinated response. But one should never confuse size with capability. A superyacht may cost the same as an ocean liner but its focus is on quality rather than quantity . The United States military is designed to (in the words of one general memorably testifying to Congress) "kill people and destroy things in the name of the United States of America". It isn't designed to save lives and build things as is needed in Haiti.
The American military is something of oddity in the world. For a start it is many times bigger than any other military anywhere. US military spending dwarfs Chinas and even most of Europe's combined. Moreover the US military performs many functions that in other nations are handled by Government departments. The Army Corps of Engineers is pretty much a Federal Public Works department. The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency is similar to other Government's national science agencies. The military provides a huge vocational education infrastructure for literally millions of Americans, and it also has its own health and welfare program. In many respects America has become a cross between Sparta and Plato's Republic.
America is a militant state. Most of the wars that have occurred since World War Two ended have occurred because America decided to fight them. It has a huge hammer and it goes looking for nuts. As this page shows http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations#1970-1979
the US has scarcely been shy about trotting out its hammer when its seen a need to crack down on things.
But what is obvious is that what drives these operations is a constant need to field test its capability. The invasion of Grenada, Panama and the dirty war against Nicaragua have been launched on the meanest of excuses. The current deployment in Afghanistan is ultimately a test of United States capability and not the most cost effective way to crush the Taliban ( it would be cheaper to pay the Afghans to fight the Taliban than send US soldiers). War is the anvil on which the United States perfects its weapons in order to ensure its global strategic hegemony.
Where the US military has generally found itself unable to operate as well as expected is where the emphasis is on saving lives and building things in the name of the United States of America. Katrina was an excellent example and Haiti is turning into another. Yes, the US military has the capability but it is fundamentally a war machine. At the back of its mind it is based on World War Two. The US shows up, it invades, it kills the bad guys and it rides off into the sunset. The way Ahmed Chalabi was able to apply this fantasy to Iraq and sell it to George Dubya Bush shows how ingrained this mythic vision of itself is in the American psyche.
The problem is the US military is really best structured to fight itself. It is organised to fight a huge highly advanced enemy and defeat them on the field of battle. In reality however what it actually does is invade small nations suffering from internal conflicts, gets hopelessly muddled in the middle, shot at from all sides and retires in confusion. It still hasn't really worked out that mounting a successful landing is pointless if you don't know what a successful exit looks like. Examples include Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. It has been interesting lately to watch the way U.S generals have increasingly moved from a combat outlook to their jobs to starting to understand the economic, cultural and social precursors to conflict and deal with those. But what does that mean for military structure and training?
In my view the fundamental objectives of military training need reconsideration. The object of military intervention should be to establish peace and security without necessarily establishing total control. The problem with command structures in the military is they encourage a view that when the command is given to "jump!" the response is "how high?". Well outside the military structure - and that is where most people are - the response to "jump!" is "or what?". And the threat of an airstrike is not exactly conducive to friendly relations.
The British have bitterly criticised US management in Iraq for acting like invaders from Mars who simply won't listen to anyone but their own. The British deserve to be listened to, too, for while the US has lost most of its military interventions in the past fifty years the British have actually won most of theirs. And the way the British win is through negotiation, engagement and when necessary (as in the Falklands) steely determination. The point is however the British have always operated very effectively with allies rather than going it alone.
The US needs to adopt this strategy as well. It means having an overwhelming hand of friendship extended first with a big stick behind its back ready to whack anyone who bites it.
It starts with logistic and medical trains on land sea and air. Then tacked on the end of that are the operational units which are more like engineers and medics than soldiers. These are troops who can work with civilians, defend themselves and others and build infrastructure. This is the big hand of friendship. The point is this sort of unit will be welcome by the average local anywhere - just as they were in World War Two.
Then around this core are the security units able to infiltrate the community and also strike with power and precision. This is the big stick. It consists of humint operatives and all the incredible weaponry the US has at its command. It has to be surgically accurate and proportional. This is the 'don't mess with us' stuff which is there to dissuade political opponents from use of force.
So in concrete terms you need a logistic train consisting of a sea or air fleet preferably of purpose built craft. That means hospital ships, fast RO-RO freighters, landing ships able to work from a beach or small port or the equivalent in aircraft. It means a completely new kind of pioneer brigade equipped with multi-wheeled transports and engineering vehicles with strong medical support able to extend from the landing point and begin operations deeper into the territory. The pioneer brigade can fight if need be but largely in self defence. It means add-on security units for naval security, air security, litoral security and land security. Each of these units should be environmentally specific and task sized. So for example a land security unit in some places might involve armour and in another helicopters depending on the need.
A structure like this would work in just about any of the operations where the United States has ended up having to retreat in confusion. It would also work where the emphasis is on saving lives and building things rather than killing people and destroying things.
Ultimately a mercantilist world relies on stability. Without peace trade suffers, It is in the interests of everyone in the world to have peace. That said without America's overwhelming capability for war the temptation for other nation's to resort to force would be greater. But making war for the sake of maintaining a war machine is ultimately self-defeating. America's experience in Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq has shown that a war machine - no matter how large it is - cannot be sustained in long and futile actions without a clear objective.
By restructuring the core of the US war machine around saving lives and building things and wrapping around that the most devastatingly accurate and sophisticated capability to kill people and destroy things America would be able to both maintain its global military hegemony and redeem itself in the eyes of the rest of the world. That in itself would be a step along the way toward resolving the deep conflict between the US and its billions of resentful detractors.