DEFENCE BEYOND 2000Defence
Lieutenant General Tony Birks, Air Vice Marshal Carey Adamson, Commanders, Leaders, Managers of the Royal new Zealand Air Force.
It is my great pleasure to be here today. My speech will be a short one, and touch upon what I see as the core issues for New Zealand?s Defence Force - and particularly the Air Force - as we rapidly approach the year 2000 and beyond.
New Zealand?s International Setting
As professional military officers you are all too aware of the nations interests which you help to protect.
We have seen tremendous growth over the past 10 years in our "backyard" - the Asia Pacific region. For the Defence Forces of our neighbours, economic prosperity brought with it growth in the number and capability of their defence assets throughout the region. More submarines, more ships, more aircraft, and better trained personnel.
But history tells us that while economic prosperity binds nations together in self-interest, economic decline encourages old conflicts of interest to surface - as we are witnessing today.
The Asian Economic Crisis
The current Asian economic crisis has curbed our Asian neighbours' defence spending in the short term, but the fragile economic outlook is opening up old divisions and creating instability for the region's security.
One would have to be blind not to see the increases in tension, and to realise that this nation?s investment in its Defence Force as an insurance policy may unfortunately be needed sooner than we hope.
Of course there are those who are blind to the world. It never fails to surprise me that in this age of information technology, where the world has shrunk and is accessible via a modem, that we have New Zealanders, including some of my political opponents, who hold narrow isolationist views on our foreign affairs and defence policy.
Public opinion: Isolationism & anti-military sentiment
How can you as Air Force leaders continue the practice and development of Air Power without interaction with the world?s nations, particularly its technological leaders like the US? Each of you must take every opportunity, as I do, to discourage isolationism and to foster understanding of our Defence Force and its role.
Opinions such as "Defence needs to be more civil defence oriented" are no doubt held with genuine concern for the world we live in, but never-the-less demonstrate naivet é and narrow-mindedness. Let me make this very clear, the New Zealand Defence Force has never turned down any civil defence task. It has always risen more than admirably to the challenge, and there is good reason for all New Zealanders to be proud of the "humanitarian" work our young - and sometimes not so young - service men and women perform.
Just this week, for example, the crew of the HMNZS Endeavour was very much involved in the rescue of intrepid (though some may say fool-hardy!) balloonist Steve Fossett. This type of rapid and professional response to an international rescue mission is something we have come to virtually take for granted - that New Zealand Defence personnel will be there whenever needed.
But as we all know, the Defence Force has a much broader and more solemn role. Those who claim our Defence Force and policy are Cold War relics, are again peddlers of naïveté.
Anyone who has read last year's Defence Assessment will know that it is a forward looking document that begins to address our nation's security needs for the next millenium - closer cooperation with our defence partners and allies in the Asia Pacific region; the role for New Zealand in making a credible contribution to collective security operations and international peacekeeping; and the continuing demands in the areas of counter-terrorism, surveillance and protection of the EEZ and Southern Ocean, support for the Antarctic programme, civil defence emergencies and search and rescue.
There is also the section of the public that tell us we spend too much on Defence. In fact in US dollars we only spend around 700 million dollars a year on defence - or 1.3 per cent of our GDP. In comparison, our nearest neighbour and closest ally, Australia, spends 8.4 billion dollars a year - or 2.2 per cent of their GDP. Fiji, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Singapore all spend more of their GDP on defence than New Zealand does.
Defence Commercial Spin Offs
I like to always remind my Parliamentary colleagues of just how much New Zealand Industry gets back from the small Defence vote. Two-thirds of the vote is recycled to the nation in the form of taxes or salaries, and Defence employs 2000 civilians.
Take also for example the ANZAC frigate programme, which has meant more than $800 million worth of work contracted to New Zealand, benefiting more than 500 local companies, and generating 11 million man hours of work across the country - thousands of full and part-time jobs.
The $70 million worth of defence export orders a year Kiwi companies are now winning overseas is largely because of their work on the Anzacs, and has put our defence industry sector in the same league as our wine and chilled beef export industries.
The commercialisation of your own Depot Level maintenance here at Woodbourne, and the Airtrainer and the Beech KingAir contracts, are also of major economic benefit to the community.
Defence Skill Base Spin Offs
And what of our most valuable resource, our people?
At one end of the spectrum, initial military training helps our young people develop a sense of worth and self confidence. Initial training covers many facets of military life, including the basic skills of day to day living, development of personal qualities, leadership, acceptance of accountability, teamwork, communication skills and self-discipline.
At the upper level, our personnel receive specialised technical and academic skills training to a level equal or better than any training available - and very much designed to meet the demands of today's technology and workplace environment. Air Force, Navy and Army trained people are actively sought and poached by employers.
This is the hidden return on society's investment in our armed forces, and New Zealand - our economy and society - can only be the better for it.
I would add specifically for this forum, that with so many changes occuring on a micro level, it will be of paramount importance to ensure that as the RNZAF moves towards a new direction, it takes its people with it.
Irrespective of how long a person signs up for, what their specialty is, or what superannuation package they are offered, the RNZAF's strength is the loyalty.of its personnel. A sense of purpose in an ever changing environment is of paramount importance, together with a sound understanding of the RNZAF purpose and the meaning of Air Power.
Defence Assessment Priorities
So where are we going in Defence? Last year the Government recognised that the financial reductions successive Governments had subjected the New Zealand Defence Force to over the past decade or so could not continue. We have therefore committed to a major upgrade of equipment - in total $663 million over five years.
As the Defence White Paper sets out, the Government's priorities for rectifying our Defence Force's most critical deficiencies are:
re-equipping the Army so that it can undertake the more demanding peace support operations; and
improving the ability of the Air Force to undertake maritime surveillance tasks in our EEZ and the Southern Ocean.
Our priorities therefore include for the RNZAF:
rewinging of the six Orions, five of which are 32 years old - and older than their pilots - to extend their life by 20 years;
updating the Orions avionics systems - last done in 1981;
purchasing a fifth Kaman Super SeaSprite Helicopter;
extending the life of the 13 Iroquios helicopters so that they will not need replacing till 2015; and
updating the air combat weapons for our 28 year old fleet of 19 Skyhawks;
The media has made much of the fact that we are currently evaluating the offer of the US to buy a number of their F16s. They would be better advised to view this in perspective. Our Skyhawks are 28 years old. We keep patching them up to get every last ounce of serviceability out of them. But the day will come in the not too distant future when we will by necessity have to find replacements.
Considering the US F16s is just like any one of us considering the offer of from a friend on good deal for replacing the family car which sadly has a rising number of kms on the clock. You know it will need replacing at some stage - but your decision will be based on a close examination of the full facts - and nothing less.
As I have outlined, the next five years are a time for rebuilding our capabilities. We must able to make a meaningful contribution to the security of our Asia-Pacific "backyard."
As a major part of this contribution I have made it a priority over the next few months to get my colleagues to take a close look at the need to order a third Anzac frigate by the end of the year.
Its an old adage that constant change is the only certainty, and that it must be managed well.
Last year you worked on your Vision For the Future. Your conference this year addressed Air Power beyond 2000. I believe that the true challenge over the next few years will be to combine the two, to guide all facets of the RNZAF, particularly its personnel through a period of constant change, to unite them with a sense of purpose, so that they can effectively deliver the Air Power the nation requires.