Defence Capability Plan Launch

  • Hon Ron Mark

Release of the Defence Capability Plan 2019

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Good morning, and welcome to the launch of the Coalition Government’s Defence Capability Plan 2019.

Last year, as I launched the Strategic Defence Policy Statement, I acknowledged the efforts of the women and men of the New Zealand Defence Force.

At that time, I made a commitment to ensure that those same women and men would be equipped with the capabilities they require in order to perform the demanding and vital roles we expect of them.  

Back in October 2017, the coalition agreement included a commitment to review the Defence procurement programme.

With the release of Defence Capability Plan 2019 we are setting out a plan to make good on that commitment.

For me, this goal is a deeply personal one, and goes much further back than my time as Minister of Defence.  

As a young man it was my honour to serve in the New Zealand Army.

It is from my experiences then that, as Minister of Defence, I observe the Defence Force today, and look forward to its future.

Through my service I grew familiar with many of the capabilities you have just witnessed – in black and white – from the Iroquois helicopter and the Steyr rifle, to HMNZS Manawanui and the P-3K2 Orion.

But the Defence Force of today is full of a new generation of young New Zealanders.

Their sense of purpose, motivation, skills and integrity are the beating heart of the New Zealand Defence Force.

The common thread between the Defence Force’s engagement with the community, the nation, and the world is our people.

From restoring access to Westland communities following this year’s devastating floods, to delivering disaster relief in the Pacific, and training security forces in Iraq.

Every day, these service people represent the values of New Zealand at home and overseas. 

I am proud to have them as my successors.

And just as one generation has made way for another, we have a responsibility to prepare the future for these service people, and for the Defence of New Zealand’s interests.

The Defence Capability Plan does this.

It maintains the envelope of $20 billion of planned investment in the Defence Force out to 2030, and in doing so it represents no less than the total rejuvenation of the aging capabilities of the New Zealand Defence Force.

We have already made significant strides in this direction. 

HMNZS Manawanui, newly commissioned by the Prime Minister last week, represents a generational change for the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Through this new ship, the Navy will be able to respond to a greater range of events, in conditions previously beyond the ship’s ability, with greater safety and confidence than ever before.

The capabilities on-board Manawanui are now, truly, world class.

So too with the decision to purchase the P-8A Poseidon.

These aircraft will provide a highly valued and sought after capability, one that will ensure the New Zealand Defence Force, if needed, remains able to deploy to even the most challenging regions around the world.

The sophistication of the P-8s means we can provide a contribution which is of equal value to our partners as it is to our nation.

Once introduced, the P-8s will replace the P-3K2, which will come to the end of their service in 2023.

The replacement of the five Hercules transport aircraft is the highest priority project within this Capability Plan.

And today I can announce that the C-130J-30 Super Hercules has been selected as the preferred option for the replacement of our aging C-130 Hercules aircraft, with detailed costing information to be sought through the United States’ Foreign Military Sale process.

The Hercules embody every aspect of the Strategic Defence Policy Statement and the Plan.

Over the last 50 years they have responded to domestic environmental emergencies, they have supported New Zealand’s scientific community in Antarctica, they have provided fast response options in the South Pacific, delivering aid and relief, and they have deployed to theatres of operation in conflicts of global significance.

In their versatility, they have transported Defence force personnel, evacuated at risk populations, transported emergency vehicles and military vehicles, assisted in firefighting and conservation efforts, and contributed to search and rescue operations at sea and overland.

They have provided a platform for the training of countless individuals, from pilots to paratroopers, engineers and air crew.

The C-130J is a proven aircraft, with more than 400 C-130Js having been delivered to over 21 nations, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

It is used by key defence partners and carries a greater payload faster and further than the current fleet, with no loss of ability to land where our current Hercules are deployed.

We need a proven performer, and this aircraft is tried and tested. We cannot take risks with what is one of our most critical military capabilities.

A Project Implementation Business Case is scheduled to be progressed to Cabinet next year, where platform numbers, detailed costs and funding implications will be considered.

Other capability decisions this term have included the procurement of a flight simulator for the NH90 helicopters, a lease for four new King Air training aircraft, and additional funding for the Frigate Systems Upgrade.

And HMNZS Aotearoa, the impressive new sustainment vessel, is continuing to be built in South Korea, and is on track to arrive in New Zealand next year.

Yet while these advances are significant, we still have a lot more to achieve. 

Importantly, the Defence Capability Plan has been developed to reflect the principles espoused through the Strategic Defence Policy Statement.  

These principles include the need for Defence to embody and promote New Zealand’s values.

These values are unique, and we have seen that demonstrated time and time again.

As a nation we are compassionate, we act with integrity and loyalty, and we boldly address challenges as they confront us.

This Plan reflects those values in the truest sense - at its heart it is a humanitarian plan, and readies New Zealand to lead in the assistance of our neighbours, and to contribute to the security of our friends.  

I am proud that this Defence Capability Plan places climate change at the forefront of challenges our Defence Force is facing.

Managing the impacts of any risk requires not only a reduction of its causes, but also a preparedness to respond to its eventuality.

I needn’t reiterate to this audience the intense environmental impacts our region is already experiencing from climate change, and the flow-on economic, cultural and social consequences of these impacts.

Over time there will be an increased requirement for our Defence and other security forces to respond with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, more search and rescue missions, and potentially stability operations.

The challenges facing the Pacific are diverse, and stem not only from climate change, but also include increased trans-national crime and irregular migration.

More significantly, the Pacific finds itself the stage of competition by nations, for presence, resources, and influence. 

New Zealand is a Pacific nation through geography, identity, and values.

Our nation’s security and wellbeing are intrinsically bound to the peace and stability of the Pacific.

Supporting the Pacific Reset, the New Zealand Defence Force must be ready to lead operations in the Pacific, or indeed, to undertake them independently if required.

This requirement, this obligation we have to our region, forms the foundation of the Force that will be delivered through the Defence Capability Plan.

Specifically, the Defence Capability Plan 2019 responds to the Pacific Reset, and the impacts of climate change in the Pacific, by increasing both the capacity and concurrency with which the New Zealand Defence Force can respond in the region.

Since Canterbury first deployed for humanitarian and disaster relief following the impact the 2009 earthquake and tsunami in Samoa, the ship has been a critical component of New Zealand Defence Force activities in the Pacific.  

In response to cyclone Pam in Vanuatu in 2015, over the course of 27 days the ship provided personnel, medical stores, construction materials, food and fresh water to local populations impacted by the cyclone.

This feat was undertaken again in 2016, when Canterbury responded in Fiji following the damage inflicted by cyclone Winston.

The importance of a strong sealift capability is inherent in the Pacific.

As a Pacific nation, we are also a maritime nation. Indeed, these same capabilities provided by Canterbury to Pacific Island nations have also been deployed domestically, following both the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes. 

Yet despite understanding its value, the New Zealand Defence Force has been limited through its reliance on Canterbury as the sole vessel of its type.

As we find ourselves needing to do more in the future, reliance on single points of failure must be replaced with resilience through numbers.

To this end, through the Capability Plan we intend to introduce a second, more capable sealift vessel, and to grow the size of the New Zealand Army to 6000 people by the year 2035.

Increasing the size of the Army will provide for longer sustainment of operations, and a greater ability to contribute resources across our areas of responsibility, responding to events in multiple areas if necessary. 

The enhanced sealift vessel will be brought into service in the late 2020s, and will operate alongside HMNZS Canterbury.

This vessel will be able to move more vital stores and personnel, with greater ability to operate in adverse conditions than is currently available to Canterbury.

These two vessels together will ensure that we have the capacity to respond in the Pacific and at home if necessary.

And when Canterbury retires in the 2030s, the plan signals an intent to replace her, to maintain a fleet of two sealift vessels.

The challenges which New Zealand faces as a maritime nation were recognised in the Strategic Defence Policy Statement.

Over coming years New Zealand will likely face increasingly challenging requirements to identify, characterise and respond to activity in its expansive maritime domain.

Capabilities have been included in the Defence Capability Plan that allow us to confront the sheer size of our maritime domain.

Achieving this will require cooperation with other government agencies, and a distinction of this Capability Plan is the emphasis placed on such cooperation.

In the Southern Ocean, a polar class patrol ship will provide dedicated services to other government agencies, allowing resource protection in the marine protection area and supporting the scientific community.

Replacements for our crucial maritime helicopter and offshore patrol vessel fleets are also included in a Defence Capability Plan for the first time.

Across New Zealand and the Pacific, new investments in enhanced maritime surveillance capabilities, satellite surveillance, and long range unmanned aerial vehicles will provide a breadth of awareness to New Zealand government agencies which has previously not been possible.

To achieve this uplift, capability decisions will need to consider the fundamental changes to the ways in which militaries operate across the world.

As the rate of technological change accelerates, so too will the complexity of our strategic environment.

Staying in line with these technologies will be crucial to ensuring our Defence Force remains properly resourced and positioned.

The Defence Capability Plan recognises this, and continues with investment in cyber and intelligence capabilities which will allow the Defence Force to exploit advances in technology, while protecting the information we value.

Planned investment is also retained for strategic air transport, the Network Enabled Army programme, and Protected Mobility vehicles.

As a small nation effective use of resources will continue to be a focus of ours.

Capabilities which provide value across the community, the nation and the world must be taken advantage of.

You will also note that the Plan shifts the replacement of the ANZAC frigates into the post-2030 period. 

Governments have invested $970 million in upgrading the frigates since 2007. When their final refits are complete they will be technologically advanced and fit for purpose for the modern environment. 

It stands to reason that we want to see value for money for that significant investment. 

The successful implementation of the Defence Capability Plan can only be done in close partnership with industry.

Defence currently spends over $900 million annually on goods and services ranging from the purchase of military equipment to long-term maintenance and infrastructure. 

The size and value of this partnership will grow with the forecast investment in the Defence Capability Plan.

New levels of transparency are essential to support that growth. 

The Defence Capability Plan includes information on when we intend to start early engagement, and when we intend to go to market for proposals.

Upon taking the Defence portfolio one of my priorities was to demonstrate with the highest assurance that the Defence capability portfolio could be delivered in a manner that met the expectations of the Coalition Government.

This was to ensure that, not only would our Defence policy be aligned with the broader objectives of this Government, but also that the Government could have confidence in the Defence agencies to deliver investments successfully.

In line with this priority, the investments in the Defence Capability Plan will be subject to considerable analysis, to ensure that both cost and capability are justified, that investments are appropriately situated with other priorities for public expenditure, and that these investments are in the public interest.

As Ministers consider these investments, through business cases and the budget process, the improvements made over the last few years to the defence procurement system will help ensure Cabinet is fully informed and aware of all the implications of investment.

Our confidence in these improvements was reinforced by last year’s independent review of the Defence Procurement System by Sir Brian Roche, which reflected the high quality of defence agencies procurement practices. 

The outcome of the Investor Confidence Rating further built on this confidence across the public sector, with the Defence capability portfolio receiving an A rating.

And I will continue to actively monitor procurement practices and performance, to ensure that this high standard is maintained.

The launch of the Defence Capability Plan successfully concludes the initial Defence priorities of the Coalition Government, and establishes the basis for the next decade of investment in Defence.

In recognising these achievements, I would also like to recognise the outgoing Secretary of Defence, Helene Quilter, for her vision, integrity and dedication to achieving lasting reform of the Defence procurement system.

These qualities, instilled in the Defence sector through your leadership, have made a huge contribution to the successes I have enjoyed as Minister of Defence, and for that I thank you. 

In closing, I would like to reflect on what this Plan means to our service people.

This Plan is significant, in both depth, breadth and implication.

This significance is a reflection of the confidence the New Zealand government has in you to accomplish the tasks you are assigned, and a recognition of the value you provide to New Zealand in doing so.

And already the Coalition Government has shown the seriousness of its belief in the value of the New Zealand Defence Force through the procurement of the P-8A Poseidon, HMNZS Manawanui, and various other capabilities over the last two years.  

And it has been backed up with new funding, with more than $2.5 billion allocated to Defence this term, across both Budget 2019 and Budget 2018.

Launching this Plan today is the start of a long journey.

It will require a responsive and innovative Defence industry, in partnership with Defence agencies.

However, we have an obligation to ensure that New Zealand remains secure and prosperous, that we meet our commitments to our partners, uphold and represent our nation’s values globally, and that we are prepared to address the challenges that face our future generations.

The Defence Capability Plan 2019 delivers on that obligation, and will ensure that the Defence Force is able to deliver value to the community, nation, and the world for decades to come.

Personally I said on day one, there is no greater responsibility for a government than that which it accepts when deciding to send our women and men in uniform overseas.

On that basis any Government must equip, prepare and train its Defence Force personnel the best they can possibly be so that they are able to deploy, undertake the missions we assign them, to complete them successfully, with distinction and come home safely.  The Coalition Government’s Defence Capability Plan is about exactly that.