With all of the conflicts raging around the world today and the knowledge that the conflagration in the Middle East might get worse before it gets better, there are definitely times when I am glad to be living in a country so geographically removed from the conflict zones. But with the knowledge that things closer to New Zealand are not as flash as they could be, I know there is never been since World War 2 a time when the necessity of a New Zealand Defence Force with New Zealand’s real interest at heart has been greater.
So it was with interest that today I looked at the White Paper released by the Ministry of Defence which examines the appropriateness of New Zealand defence policy, how the Defence Force fits in and what challenges it faces. The armed forces, which have evolved significantly since World War 2 might now be training for a variety of other problems such as counter terrorism, disaster relief and fighting militant groups rather than nations, but the key expectations of New Zealanders have not changed.
In saying that, it is worthwhile examining some of the issues in the 21st Century for the purpose of providing better context:
- Equipment procurement has lead to some very expensive controversies over the years – $600 million for Light Armoured Vehicles; potentially $1 billion on two transport aircraft; the purchase of a transport ship since sold that was more effective carrying oranges than the military equipment it was designed for
- The rate of attrition is quite high – even though there will always be an attrition rate in the Defence Force, much of the current attrition is caused by a mixture of cost cutting and low morale amongst the ranks
- Addressing A.N.Z.U.S. – although New Zealand has not been a member formally for about 30 years, the geopolitical environment has moved on substantially from the Cold War days in which the alliance was conceived, with new threats, new issues
- If New Zealand is involved in a war where any participating forces we have are under American or other foreign command, it needs to be determined how we will ensure that our forces have nothing to do with acts of torture or other illegal behaviour
- Are our intelligence assets sufficient and properly arrayed for dealing with the various threats
- Is New Zealand using its Defence Force to deal with the relevant hostile threats – i.e. is I.S.I.S. in the Middle East really relevant to New Zealand; what threats could emerge in the South Pacific and would New Zealand be ready for them
I made a submission on the Defence White Paper 2015, and other New Zealand citizens are eligible to do so as well. In my submission in response to questions posed, I covered these issues among others. Go here for more on the White Paper.