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Contributing to peace and security?

11 May 2001


Contributing to peace and security?


Kia ora,

On 8 May the government announced the military expenditure for the coming year and changes in the composition of the armed forces. As most of the changes had been leaked in advance of Tuesday’s announcements, there were no major surprises there.

It was, however, rather surprising to read the editorial in The Dominion on 9 May which seemed to support the scrapping of the air combat capability of the air force. The editorial pointed out that “a country of 3.8 million, slipping steadily down the international wealth league, cannot do everything” and further ... “of all the areas which the government considered pruning, this stood out as the logical target” - this from a paper which has spent the past few months publishing articles describing any decrease in the armed forces in a ‘we’ll be invaded any minute now’ way.

There are four main documents relating to the changes and budget which were released under the overall heading of ‘A Modern, Sustainable Defence Force Matched to New Zealand's Needs’. This alert provides an overview of the documents, and is in five sections: 1) what are the changes? 2) how do these changes contribute to peace and security? 3) the Budget figures; 4) contact details for those of you who feel inclined to share your views on the recent announcements; and 5) where you can get a copy of the government statements.

* What are the changes?

The changes were outlined in the ‘Executive Summary’ as follows.

“Executive Summary: The government is building a modern, professional and well-equipped Defence Force with the necessary military capabilities across all three services to meet New Zealand's objectives. The government has set clear goals and priorities and made a careful and thorough assessment of New Zealand's defence and security needs.

The New Zealand Defence Force is being reconfigured so that it is sustainable and affordable over the long-term. It will be able both to meet New Zealand's own defence and security needs, and to make a useful contribution when it is deployed.

The key components of the NZDF will be: a joint approach to structure and operational orientation; a modernised Army; a practical Navy fleet matched to New Zealand's wider security needs; a refocused and updated Air Force; a funding commitment to provide financial certainty.

Joint Approach: * On 1 July this year, the Joint Force Operational Headquarters begins operation at Trentham. The ability of the headquarters to operate effectively will be enhanced by moves now underway to acquire a modern joint command and control system. * The headquarters of the Defence Force and the three single services are being reorganised and rationalised to reflect a better joint approach to planning and to managing the NZDF. * A new Maritime Co-ordination Centre will be established and co-located with the Joint Force Operational Headquarters at Trentham. It will be responsible for integrating the work of all agencies to ensure that there is a comprehensive national strategy for managing maritime risks.

A Modernised Army * The current structure of the Army continues, based on two light infantry battalions within a brigade framework. These two battalions provide a capacity to sustain a 600-900 person commitment for a year and a 900-1,200 size battalion for six months. These levels can be enhanced by the deployment of Territorials when and where necessary. * Service in the Territorial Army needs to be more attractive to both territorials and their employers. The government is looking at ways to address these issues. * Acquisition of new armoured vehicles, tactical communications, and light operational vehicles to replace the Landrovers will address the major immediate equipment deficiencies. * Other investment requirements include: close-in fire support; vehicles and sensors to equip the reconnaissance companies; command and control equipment; and combat service support equipment. * Other capability issues to be addressed are engineer support, artillery, air defence and electronic warfare.

A practical Navy fleet * The two ANZAC frigates will continue in service. * Work will proceed on identifying a suitable multi-role vessel, with long distance and Southern Ocean capabilities, to be phased in as the HMNZS Canterbury is retired. * HMNZS Charles Upham will be sold after it completes its current charter in July of this year. * The requirement for an appropriate sealift capability will be considered as part of a review of the composition of our maritime surface fleet. * The above review will also examine how best to meet civilian requirements for coastal and mid-range offshore capabilities. * Consideration will be given to whether any further combat and detection equipment should be provided for the Seasprite naval helicopters.

A refocused and updated Air Force * The Orion fleet will be retained, and provided with a limited upgrade using good quality commercial systems wherever possible. * A study will be undertaken to determine the best options for short and medium range air patrol. * The air combat force will be disbanded. * There will be an investigation of the feasibility of equipping the Orions with a missile capability. * The C-130 Hercules fleet will be upgraded or replaced. * The Iroquois helicopter fleet will be upgraded or replaced. * A study will be completed as soon as possible to identify the options for replacing the B727 transport planes, including ownership, or the possibility of leasing or chartering.

A funding commitment to provide financial certainty: There will be modest increases in the net operating funding for defence and total capital investment of more than two billion dollars over the next ten years.”

* How do these changes contribute to peace and security?

Well that really depends on how you define peace and security. If you regard peace and security as the active promotion of peace; of human security; the meeting of human needs such as access to food, safe water supplies, shelter, health care, education, freedom from the threat of armed conflict and war; a clean safe environment; economies (local, regional and global) which empower everyone to provide adequately for themselves, and which distribute wealth in an equitable manner; and systems of government which enable informed participation and genuine representation, then any decrease in the offensive capabilities of any armed forces is a step in the right direction.

However, in practical terms, these changes are a limited decrease in offensive capability. With regard to the airforce, the scrapping of the air combat wing and the decision not to fit anti-submarine warfare detection systems to the Orions is welcome. But there is now the possibility that the Orions will be fitted with missiles; and there will be new helicopters - readily convertible to airbourne gunships. While the end of the Skyhawks may represent a decrease in capability here, they will be sold to the highest bidder thus increasing militarisation elsewhere. With regard to the navy, the decision not to purchase any further frigates is welcome; but the offensive capability of the existing two frigates remains.

With regard to the army, the modernisation of their equipment is a definite increase in offensive capability. While the government says this is to increase their capacity for peacekeeping operations such as that in East Timor, there are other uses for a re-armed army. In the main government statement, there is a rather ominous reference to the need for a modern, efficient high quality defence force for “dealing with low level and small-scale events around New Zealand and the South Pacific”. Also ominous is the statement that other capability issues still to be addressed include electronic warfare.

As well, there is reference to the overseas deployment of elements of the armed forces - so our involvement in wars designed to further the imperialist interests of other governments has not been ruled out. Getting rid of the Skyhawks will not decrease the likelihood of that type of involvement, as they have not been used in combat over the past thirty years. During that time it is primarily the army and navy which have been used in foreign wars - the former including the deployment of soldiers and artillery to Vietnam, and SAS involvement in the Gulf war; and the latter including the deployment of a frigate to the Indian Ocean so that British warships could be redeployed to the Falklands war, and the deployment of frigates to take part in the economic blockade against Iraq.

What is also clear from the recent announcements is that the underlying belief that military might is a useful thing in itself has not changed. Family violence is increasingly being seen as unacceptable in this country, and it would be useful to extend that thinking outwards and move towards the belief that violence at the national and international levels is also unacceptable.

In terms of regional and global peace and security, the focus on re-arming of the army does not seem a particularly positive contribution in an already grossly over-militarised world. The United Nations Charter says that nations should “live together in peace with one another as good neighbours”. Good neighbours tend not to arm themselves with weapons, nor encourage others to do that. If you start to think about what kind of neighbours you would like living next door to you, and apply that to our region and world, then the concept of using armed forces as a way to contribute to peace and security seems increasingly bizarre.

While the government may say they have looked at all the options, they have not considered what some would regard to be the obvious one, looking at more positive ways in which we could contribute to peace and security - both overseas and here. Replacing the armed forces with a coastguard with responsibility for fisheries protection and search and rescue, and using some of the resources currently used by the armed forces to establish a civilian peacebuilding organisation to assist in resolving situations of conflict before they deteriorate into warfare, is just one of the creative possibilities which could be considered.

Such an approach would cost much less than what looks to be an expenditure of around $4,500,000 each day in the coming year on the armed forces. The remaining financial resources then available could be diverted into practical initiatives towards achieving real peace and security in this country - reducing poverty; increasing access to health care, to education, to meaningful socially productive employment ... think about what $4,500,000 a day could do to alleviate the area of social inequality or need that you are particularly concerned about.

* The Budget figures

With the scrapping of the air combat capability which currently takes up around 14% of armed forces spending, you might have expected this year’s military budget would drop by a corresponding percentage. However, the budget outline is called ‘Significant increases to defence funding’, and while there is an apparent small decrease in spending over the coming year, in future years it will rise as to pay for the navy’s new multi-purpose navy vessel; the airforce’s Orion upgrade, new helicopters and possible new purchases of fixed-wing transport planes; and further new weapons for the army which may include automatic grenade launchers and .50 calibre machine guns.

As the full 2001 Budget is not yet available, a total figure for the costs associated with the armed forces for the coming year cannot readily be calculated. These costs are not only found in Vote Defence Force, for example, there will be costs involved in the setting up of the new department to administer war pensions - these will no longer be dispensed by WINZ as war veterans are no longer to be considered as ‘beneficiaries’. The figures which have been released to date are as follows:

* Main Estimates for Vote Defence Force of $1,598,000,000 (this is a projected drop from last year’s actual figure of $1,772,000,000 because of the $104,000,000 cost of writing-down the remaining book value of the Skyhawk and Aermacchi aircraft and their associated assets) - this is allocated as:

~ NZDF Core Expenditure - $1,055,000,000;

~ NZDF East Timor deployment - $30,000,000;

~ WINZ East Timor deployment - $19,000,000 (yes, that startled us too, all sorts of weird possibilities! apparently this figure is for allowance payments to service personal [sic] in East Timor);

~ other departments defence expenses - $35,000,000;

~ GST on defence expenses $14,000,000 - this is explained as “eg GST payments when a new frigate arrives in the country (very irregular amounts and timing)”.

The total of this breakdown is $1,153,000,000. The $445,000,000 difference between this breakdown (Budget and Economic Fiscal Update, BEFU figure) and the Main Estimate is explained as “the BEFU are exclusive of capital charge, excludes departments GST expenses and make adjustments for inter-departmental activity.”

New baseline funding of $43,450,000 - $18,450,000 for service personnel remuneration; and sustainable capability baseline funding of $25,000,000 (if you can tell us what that means, please do!) - is also incorporated in Vote Defence Force.

The $151,000,000 cost of the armoured vehicles is allocated over the next five years as $3,000,000 in 2002/03; $31,000,000 in 2003/04; $39,000,000 in 2004/05; $39,000,000 in 2005/06; and $39,000,000 in 2006/07. This total figure is interesting as last year Mark Burton announced the project cost of the armoured vehicles as $611,764,000 which suggests that the $151 million is only the base cost of the vehicles. It is not clear if this figure includes the new army landrovers.

* Contact details

* Contact details for politicians: Letters - all letters should be addressed to the relevant person and posted (no stamp needed) to Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Phone and fax numbers (all to be prefixed by 04 by those of you out of Wellington) - Helen Clark, Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9998, fax 473 3579; Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9011, fax 495 8441; Mark Burton, Minister of Defence, office - tel 471 9715, fax 495 8465; The Cabinet (collectively), office - tel 471 9743, fax 472 6332. Ideally you should send a copy of your correspondence to Matt Robson, Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, office - tel 470 6659, fax 495 8462; Keith Locke, Green Party Spokesperson for Defence - tel 470 6709, fax 472 6003. If you can send us a copy of any correspondence you send, and of replies you receive, it is very helpful for our work.

* Contact details for mass media: Christchurch Press, fax (03) 364 8492, ; Dominion, fax (04) 4740257; Evening Post, fax; (04) 474 0237, ; New Zealand Herald, fax (09) 373 6434, ; Sunday Star Times, fax (09) 309 0258; Press Association, fax (04) 473 7480; Radio New Zealand, fax (04) 473 0185; Listener, fax (09) 360 3831,

* Where you can get a copy of the government statements

Paper copies are available from PMA (see order form below), or on-line at http://www.executive.govt.nz/minister/burton/sustainable-defence/index.ht ml or we can email them to you as a Word attachment.


* If you wish to be sent paper copies of the four main documents, please tick in the ( ) for those you require.

( ) Government Defence Statement: ‘A Modern, Sustainable Defence Force Matched to New Zealand's Needs’, 8 May 2001 [15 pages]; ( ) ‘A modern defence force for New Zealand’s needs’, joint statement by Helen Clark and Mark Burton [ 2 pages]; ( ) ‘Significant increases to defence funding’ [4 pages]; ( ) Questions and Answers about ‘A Modern, Sustainable Defence Force Matched to New Zealand's Needs’ [6 pages].

Add up the number of pages [in square brackets] _____ x 12c = $ ________ . ____

donation $ ________ . ____

Total enclosed $ ________ . ____



Please include your cheque made payable to ‘PMA’ with this order form and return to PMA, PO Box 9314, Wellington.

Peace Movement Aotearoa the national networking peace group PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa / New Zealand. tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173, website Internet Peace Gateway

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