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Minister Releases Defence Briefing Papers

Embargoed until 1am Thursday 13th January
12 January 2000

Minister releases Defence briefing papers

Post-election briefing papers from the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force show that some crucial issues need to be addressed, the Minister of Defence Mark Burton said.

"The briefing illustrates the general erosion in defence spending under previous Governments. Restricted budgets have resulted in a decline in equipment reliability and combat viability.

"Capital expenditure plans became a shambles under National. After years of neglect, a range of vital equipment purchases was approved in 1996 - but no provision was made for either currency fluctuation or inflation. By 1998 there was a funding crisis. 27 approved projects were given a lower priority with no funding attached to them. New requirements have also arisen that have not been approved.

"National lurched into replacement of our air combat capability years ahead of any plan to do so, when there was no money in the baseline to make that possible unless it came at the expense of other priorities. Our military personnel have gone to Bosnia and East Timor and put their lives on the line, with aging armoured personnel carriers and unreliable communication equipment.

"Capital spending priorities need to be urgently addressed. The Government has already announced a review of the F-16 deal and Derek Quigley is to report back by March. It is interesting to note that with regard to the current Fixed Wing Transport Force, the briefing raises concerns about the aged Boeing 727 and C-130 Hercules aircraft. The 727s are facing increasing restrictions on their use while the C-130s have high maintenance costs.

"Improving the ability of our armed forces to transport personnel and equipment to theatres of operation, may prove a higher priority than new fighter jets," Mark Burton said.

"Contrary to Opposition claims, the new Government will not be "downgrading" our defence capability, but there will be a careful assessment of priorities. The Government is committed to maintaining a credible defence force which provides for our national security, makes an appropriate contribution to regional security and to international peacekeeping."

(Copies of the Briefing Papers are available from Mark Burton's Beehive Office.)

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