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Cablegate: Nz Defense Report Reveals Shortcomings, Creates Debate

VZCZCXRO6501
RR RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHWL #0310/01 2630722
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 190722Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5439
INFO RUEHNZ/AMCONSUL AUCKLAND 1744
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 5264
RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY 0722
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 0758
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0064
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 0034

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 WELLINGTON 000310

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR STATE FOR EAP/ANP
PACOM FOR J01E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV MARR EFIN NZ
SUBJECT: NZ DEFENSE REPORT REVEALS SHORTCOMINGS, CREATES DEBATE

WELLINGTON 00000310 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) Summary. The publication of the 2008 New Zealand Defense
Force (NZDF) Annual Report created recent media controversy as it
revealed shortfalls in the country's military preparedness. The NZ
Defense Chief and Defense Minister defended the status of the NZ
military. A subsequent report reinforced concerns that the NZDF faced
serious manpower, procurement and capacity challenges. The opposition
National Party tried (without success) to gain political advantage out
of the reports but defense issues do not factor into the November 8
election for the majority of the general public. End Summary.

New Zealand Defense Force Release Status Report
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (SBU) The GNZ released the 2008 New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF)
Annual Report on September 3, which quickly prompted questions about
the state of the country's military preparedness. The New Zealand
Ministry of Defense-generated report revealed that the NZDF is
currently ill-prepared to perform any mission beyond a low-level
confrontation and faces numerous personnel, equipment and capacity
challenges across the services. One major newspaper used broadsheet
style banner headlines to sum up the NZDF's state of readiness: "Can't
Sail, Can't Fly, Can't Fight."

Problems Facing All Services
----------------------------

3. (U) According to the report, all three services of the NZDF - Army,
Navy and Air Force - are facing challenges. For the Army, the report
stated that land forces were only "partially" prepared for low-level
conflicts, and it was not equipped to meet higher threats. The report
further stated that "deficiencies in command and control, firepower,
and compatible protection and mobility for combat service support
elements would impair effectiveness in conventional military
operations, and the more challenging peace support operations."

4. (U) The Air Force was reported as having "insufficient personnel" to
meet air and ground crew levels and being only "partially prepared" for
complex maritime air operations. It was also revealed that essential
air transport and helicopter assets were restricted by technical
problems or crew shortages. The report stated that few of the Navy's
ships managed to get to sea as much as planned due to both a lack of
personnel and "equipment and capability issues." The Navy also did not
receive two offshore patrol vessels and four inshore patrol vessels
during the year in question, when these had been expected.

5. (U) The report stated that NZ's Special Operations Forces are
"maintained at a high state of readiness in order to meet short notice
special operations in support of land combat operations,
counter-terrorist operations, and the disposal of improvised explosive
devices." However, it conceded that their ability to contribute beyond
current operations is "very limited."

Another Negative Report follows Annual Report
---------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) A subsequent report only served to buttress the perception
that the NZDF has considerable equipment and staffing issues. The
Ministry of Defense and the NZDF commissioned John Coles, formally
Chief Executive of the UK Ministry of Defense's Warship Support Agency,
to independently review the acquisition and introduction into service
of the HMNZS Canterbury, the New Zealand Navy's recently acquired yet
troubled multi-role ship. The subsequent Coles Report revealed that an
extra NZD 20 million funding is needed to address vessel safety issues
and make it seaworthy. The report found no fault with Ministry of
Defense procurement officials for purchasing a NZD 177 million ship
vessel. Nonetheless, the Ministry's former Acquisition Chief Bruce
Green, who was involved in the original procurement of the vessel,
criticized the Canterbury's crew whose inexperience with multi-role
ship, he argued, directly led to the subsequent damage to the ship in
heavy seas. The report identified a number of material and training
shortcomings, but judged that there is no correlation between the death
of a crew member on October 5 2007 - during a maneuver at sea to deploy
a rigid hull inflatable boat - and the intrinsic safety of vessel.

Defense Chief says Standards not Compromised
--------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) In the 2008 Annual Report, Defense Force Chief Lieutenant
General Jerry Mataparae acknowledged the high staff attrition rate -
more than 15 per cent - and the loss of trained staff to the civilian
sector. However, he noted that the New Zealand Military maintains high

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standards at home and abroad despite the struggle to retain staff.
Mataparae said in the report that new equipment and new employment
strategies would help with the problems.

Defense Minister Endorse State of NZ Military
---------------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Defense Minister Phil Goff defended the state of the NZDF and
expressed confidence in its ability to carry out its mission. Goff
noted that armed forces worldwide face a challenge to attract and
retain staff and yet New Zealand's total number of defense force
personnel was at its highest level in seven years. He said that
despite the challenges currently facing the armed forces the reputation
of the NZDF remains high and noted that the company operating in Bamian
province is regarded as the "the best PRT in Afghanistan." Goff
asserted that any claim that the NZDF is not fit for combat on the
basis on the 2008 Annual report is without foundation.

Labour-led Government Committed to Building up NZDF
--------------------------------------------- ------

9. (SBU) When Helen Clark's Labour Party defeated the then National
Government in 1999, the NZDF was largely under-funded and beset by
chronic staff loss and obsolete equipment. The incoming Labour-led
government committed itself to build and maintain a modern, well
trained, well equipped defense force. Goff argued that 2008 Annual
Report was a progress report on rebuilding and modernising the NZDF
from a similar 1999 status report which underscored the sorry state of
the defense force at the time. Goff stressed that since 1999,
successive Labour-led governments have sought to redress the funding -
NZD 8 billion to date - and staffing shortfall in a ten-year plan that
has not yet run its course. Since 2002, Goff asserted, the Government
has injected NZD 4 billion to replace outdated equipment in all three
arms of the NZDF, making it "the best equipped it had ever been."

10. (SBU) In the 2008 Budget of May 23, the Government allocated NZD
276.4 million over the next four years to grow and retain existing
defense service personnel in a tight New Zealand labor market. This
funding is out of the NZD 4.6 billion Defense Sustainability initiative
started by the government in 2005. This represents approximately 1.4%
of GDP, which is not dissimilar to the 1999 level of 1.3% (Note:
Defense spending in NZ peaked at about 3% of GDP in the 1950s, and
declined to an average of around 1.7% over the next three decades
before falling sharply to around 1% of GDP during the 1990s. End
Note). Goff has stated that the current levels of defense spending
reflect the reality that "no-one is remotely interested in invading New
Zealand".

Opposition Criticizes Government over Findings
--------------------------------------------- -

11. (U) The findings of the 2008 report were immediately pounced upon
by the opposition National Party. Led by its defense spokesman, Dr.
Wayne Mapp, National highlighted the NZDF's "appalling state of
affairs" under Labour and condemned Goff's assertion the NZDF is "the
best-equipped it's ever been." Mapp stated that a National-led
government would immediately commission a Defense White Paper to
address the problems facing the NZDF. The National Party's attempt to
garner media attention over this issue largely failed, as defense
issues do not factor into the list of voter concerns for the November
elections.

Experts say Funding and Career Development Main Problems
--------------------------------------------- -----------

12. (SBU) Two of New Zealand's leading defense experts believe that
until the NZDF receive adequate funding and address career development,
problems will remain for the country's defense force. Air Vice
Marshall Robin Klitscher (ret.) welcomed the Government's plan to
re-equip the defense force, but questioned whether it would be enough
to restore troops' combat readiness to a reasonable level. Klitscher
also said New Zealand's defense policies leaned too heavily on its
allies to protect NZ troops when deployed. Former NZ Secretary of
Defense, and former NZ Ambassador to the US, Denis McLean said the
retention problem stemmed from New Zealand's defense strategy. McLean
argued that many NZ servicemen and women do not see a career in the
armed forces to be as attractive as in other countries because the NZ
military is under-resourced and operationally limited.

Comment
-------

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13. (SBU) The problems outlined in both the NZDF and Cole reports
mirror what many MOD officials have pointed out over the past several
years. New Zealand's military is funded and organized to be a largely
peace time military with limited capability geared towards the
occasional security problem in the Pacific. It is inadequate for
multiple, multi-year deployments such as those New Zealand is committed
to in Timor-Leste, the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan -- where some
troops have undergone multiple deployments to the same location. This
has led to the retention problem at the mid-ranks, which is most
worrisome to MOD leadership, primarily because security issues in the
Pacific and New Zealand's commitments to the UN are unlikely to
diminish. Until the NZ political leadership is willing to pay for a
NZDF that can handle multiple deployments over the medium to long term,
the NZDF will continue to work under stress.

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