DEFENCE WHITE PAPER OUTLINE

The New Zealand government released the long-awaited Defence White Paper on 2 November 2010. This document was well overdue, with the previous paper issued 13 years ago. With an annual budget of just NZD 3 billion (US$ 2.2 billion, or 1% of GDP in 2009), NZ is militarily a small fish in a big sea. Indeed, tellingly, its defence spending amounts to just 7.2% of Australia’s, and the NZ Defence Force (NZDF) has a mere 9,673 regular personnel. Nevertheless, NZ does have a security role to play, especially in its South Pacific backyard.

22nd Dec 2010


The New Zealand government released the long-awaited Defence White Paper on 2 November 2010. This document was well overdue, with the previous paper issued 13 years ago. With an annual budget of just NZD 3 billion (US$ 2.2 billion, or 1% of GDP in 2009), NZ is militarily a small fish in a big sea. Indeed, tellingly, its defence spending amounts to just 7.2% of Australia’s, and the NZ Defence Force (NZDF) has a mere 9,673 regular personnel. Nevertheless, NZ does have a security role to play, especially in its South Pacific backyard.

The Defence White Paper unveiled by Defence Minister Wayne Mapp charts a strategic blueprint for the next 25 years. Its key thrust is a “reprioritisation” of spending instead of outright cuts in a climate of financial austerity, with resources redirected towards frontline capabilities. (KYM TO TASHA, BPS) The NZDF’s separate Value for Money (VfM) review has already identified where annual savings of NZD250 million could be made, but the government wants to prune at least another NZD100 million per year by 2013. This is significant, as these savings equate to 10+% of the defence budget, with the money being redistributed into new pricey items for the NZDF.

One way of saving money will be by consolidating NZDF bases, particularly by creating a new hub at the Ohakea Air Force Base in the lower North Island. The largest army camp, Linton, will then be relocated to this Ohakea joint facility. While combining bases might make sense economically, from a national-security standpoint it is a retrograde move. A single strike by a state actor or terrorist group could wipe out the majority of the NZDF’s combat power in one fell swoop!

Dr. Mapp stated: “Much of the infrastructure is run down and does not meet current requirements. The costs in maintenance are high. We will be looking for new public-private partnerships (PPP) to provide efficient facilities that will save money in the long term.” In other words, leasing facilities and contracting services will occur. Another avenue is to convert some military posts into civilian positions, thus freeing up more personnel for frontline deployment. Up to 1,400 jobs could thus be ‘civilianised’. Money could also be saved by joint systems such as IT, training, administration and logistics for the three armed-service branches. Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae, Chief of the Defence Force, described the cost-cutting exercise as “challenging”.

Strategic forecast
Its isolated geographical position insulates NZ from international security threats, but the report rightly acknowledges that “the next 25 years are likely to be more challenging than the 25 years just past.” Global unrest will intensify demands on the NZDF, although its principal tasks of territorial defence and peacekeeping will remain much the same. (KYM TO TASHA, BPS) A “fragile” South Pacific looms large in NZ thinking, but the government is also seeking credible security contributions to Southeast Asia and beyond. To do this, long-range sea and air transport capabilities need to be maintained, and the deployability and sustainability of land forces must be improved. No direct threat is predicted in the next quarter century, and while China is mentioned in the report, its rising influence is not given the prominence it received in Australia’s Defence White Paper.

The report explicitly states NZ will resort to force in the following scenarios:
1. A direct threat to NZ and its territories
2. A threat to Australia
3. To collectively support a Pacific Island Forum member
4. As a contribution to the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA)
5. At the request or mandate of the United Nations.
NZ seems intent on strengthening historical relations with countries like Australia, Canada, the UK and USA. When referring to NZ’s closest neighbour, the report expresses commitment: “Australia is our principal defence and security partner. We have no better friend and no closer ally.”

New equipment
The Royal NZ Air Force (RNZAF) and Royal NZ Navy (RNZN) will receive new or upgraded assets in coming years. This includes NZD900 million worth of helicopters, NZD500 million for ships and NZD600 million for Hercules and Orion aircraft upgrades.

New short-range maritime patrol aircraft and satellite imagery are ways of protecting NZ’s borders and maritime territory from illegal fishing or immigration. These new maritime aircraft should enter service in the coming five years. The two Anzac-class frigates, vessels critical for multinational commitments, will have their air defence missiles upgraded in the near term. Furthermore, the frigates will be retained until the end of their useful lives. HMNZS Endeavour (oiler) will be replaced with a more versatile platform possessing a sealift capacity after 2013. HMNZS Manawanui (diving/mine countermeasures vessel) and HMNZS Resolution (hydrographic vessel) will be replaced by a single littoral warfare support ship. HMNZS Canterbury, the new sealift ship criticised for being unseaworthy, will undergo remedial work to leverage its full lifespan.

The RNZAF’s five C-130H Hercules aircraft will be replaced around 2020. The six P-3K Orions will soldier on to the end of their lives at around 2025, necessitating an upgrade in the meantime. A lot of activity is happening in the helicopter fleet, with the five SH-2G Super Seasprites to be upgraded or replaced. Eight new NH90 medium helicopters are arriving shortly, and the AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopter fleet will be enlarged to eight from the original five planned. (KYM TO TASHA, BPS) NH90 and A109 craft will receive self-protection systems.

In efforts to create a more mobile force, the NZ Army will be reconfigured to allow longer overseas deployments of up to 800 troops at a time. A deployable headquarters organisation will support this. New units such as a construction/combat engineering squadron, as well as a forward surgical team, will be formed. The NZSAS, currently deployed in Afghanistan, will have a modest enlargement, plus a company will also be trained with high-end skills to support these special forces. The army will eventually enjoy a rolling renewal of its transport fleet to replace Mercedes-Benz Unimog U1700L 4x4 and MB2228 6x4 trucks. The fleet of 105 NZLAVs has been criticised for being underutilised, and so up to 15 vehicles will be dispensed with. The 90 remaining NZLAVs will be upgraded. Replacements are also needed for 105mm Light Guns and mortars.

Closer US ties
Interestingly, the White Paper was released one day before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived on an official visit. Her visit resulted in the signing of the Wellington Declaration on 4 November. This document outlines political and military cooperation punctuated by regular high-level meetings. Foreign Minister Murray McCully described the Wellington Declaration as “highly symbolic…the turning of a new page in the relationship.”

The US cut military exchanges and joint training in the fallout from NZ’s nuclear-free policy legislated by the Labour government in 1984. The USA’s quarter-century-long cold shoulder is thawing, but the Wellington Declaration gives little substance to renewed military ties. The fact remains that NZ will not renounce its nuclear-free policy, something the US does not appreciate from a “friend”. Of course, NZ can stick to this policy simply because the country faces no existential threat in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, NZ will face any threat alongside Australia, which has the good fortune of remaining an official US “ally”. NZ’s military involvement in Afghanistan has contributed much to the USA’s warming attitude, but Mrs. Clinton stated she could not offer much more than a relaxation of the 25-year-old ban on joint military exercises.

The Defence White Paper predicts “the US is likely to remain the preeminent military power for the next 25 years, but its relative technological and military edge will diminish.” This White Paper commits the government more than ever to its strategic partners, even stating NZ will benefit from being “an engaged, active and stalwart” partner of the USA. While NZ is making more of its reassuring relationship with the USA, it still wishes to maintain its stance of perceived independence.


CAPTIONS

1. The NZLAV fleet will be reduced to 90 vehicles, including the conversion of some to new roles like Ambulance and Command vehicles. (Gordon Arthur)

2. The ancient B47G-3B-2 Sioux serves as a training helicopter, a role it is no longer suitable for thanks to its age and outdated design. (Gordon Arthur)

3. HMNZS Endeavour docked in Honolulu. The RNZN’s solitary supply ship/oiler is set to be replaced with something more versatile. (Gordon Arthur)
 

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