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Why We Need A New Defence White Paper

The majority of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee wants a new Defence White Paper to replace the “narrowly based” and “now outdated” 1997 White Paper which simply reaffirmed defence policy set down in 1991.

In the Defence Beyond 2000 final report, the majority said Cold War confrontation had been replaced during the 1990s by a complex mixture of uncertainty and localised stability. International peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace enforcement had assumed greater importance in the past 10 years and while globalisation had brought opportunities it had also led to new and wider threats to national security.

The majority set out a number of reasons for a fresh White Paper:

 The nature of war fighting was changing and our forces were largely unacquainted with leading edge military technology.

 Many of the force structure imperatives on which the 1991 White Paper was based, such as a four frigate Navy, the replacement date for the Skyhawks and the response time for the Army brigade, had been superseded by recent Government policy decisions.

 The Australians had found that a policy of “fitting for but not with” a particular capability, which New Zealand had adopted, was flawed even though it was better placed than New Zealand to upgrade military equipment at short notice.

 There had been major financial changes (particularly in the relationship between the NZ and USA dollars) since the Defence Assessment was published.

 The NZDF faced equipment block obsolescence without a new procurement approach. A more innovative stepped approach was needed to keep up with technological change.

 NZDF force structures and doctrines were still driven by single-service traditions and ethos when progressive overseas defence forces were moving to joint-service approaches.

 The credibility of defence forces was judged on their capability today, not on what they might be in the future, which appeared to be the current Defence approach.

 The Government’s basic defence assumptions preclude essential future flexibility.

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