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Defence at the crossroads: it’s decision time


I BEGIN WITH a simple thesis: unless the PNG Defence Force structure is altered in a fundamental way, PNG’s military will become increasingly inadequate for the burdens placed on it by our foreign and defence policies.

It is almost 35 years since PNG was given its own military; and during this time, the government saw no need to review its capabilities.

Successive governments paid no more than lip-service to defence and national security and the requirement to maintain an efficient military. As a result, the defence force has changed little since independence in 1975.

The changes in PNG’s strategic environment and the need for greater self-reliance in defence are understood. But, for a variety of reasons, the defence organisation has not yet translated these fundamentals into a coherent national security strategy.

Most of PNG’s strategic assessments in the post-independence period have been of a ‘no threat’ character. There are valid reasons, however, why it would be irresponsible to plan on this basis – as PNG cannot rely on a ‘no threat’ future.

This ‘no-threat syndrome’ has clouded successive governments’ thinking and has bred complacency, which has contributed to the present grave security situation PNG finds itself today.

Prime Minister Somare has been in office a long time. But his governments have consistently failed to critically appraise what his predecessor, Sir Mekere Morauta, did in 2001.

It is now time to put the Ministry of Defence on notice before the 2012 elections that it mist come to the rescue of the PNGDF.

Defence is at the crossroads in PNG. It is time for the government to fix the PNGDF and bring it back to its former glory.

The country’s national security situation now demands for the Ministry and Defence department to face up to some real issues, make long term decisions and get on with implementation.

Defending PNG in future calls for a complete re-appraisal of outlook on the capabilities of the PNGDF. Now, not in another three decades.


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Reginald Renagi

The second challenge is to improve defence management in all core competence areas. That is, the way defence manages its equipment acquisition; its people's careers, planning in every area from how we fight to how we feed our people. All these processes need to be revised due to military technological and management changes in the world this past decade.

Defence cannot allow itself to become complacent in the face of great changes sweeping through our society and region. Our task whether in the military or the whole country is to become the master of change rather than its servant.

Change, be it technology or in the way we manage and organize ourselves, is something which the PNGDF needs to drive. Both development challenges must be well managed at a time of budget constraints and during an extended time of peace.

Reginald Renagi

For years, defence has become a misunderstood element of national power. After numerous false starts and countless defence ministers, PNG needs a new defence White Paper. The last key policy document is some 10 years old.

Despite strategic changes internally and in the region, the past three governments has not had any defence review done; or produced its own white paper.

PNG needs a good strategic plan that can be incrementally refined over time. Without complicating matters, some blend of corporate reorganization, realignment and renewal of a new nationally sustainable defence policy is needed.

PNG's first challenge is to enhance its sovereignty and security. We achieve this by bridging the gap between declared defence commitments and actual military capabilities. Integral to our vision of a more credible defence posture are the realignment and consolidation of existing commitments, a vigorous reform program for the next 10 years and beyond, including a sweeping reorganization, especially of our higher defence command.

Reginald Renagi

Joseph, the army is only one component of what comprises the defence organization. Defence and national security needs to be approached in a totally integrated way and holistically by the government, and its citizens.

For a start, the current two-term government of Michael Somare does not even have its own Defence White Paper (Strategic Policy) since it came into office in 2002, so no one knows what its official objectives are. This does not give Defence planners anything to go on from except take certain extracts out of the constitution to still maintain the same roles, and functions for years.

The strategic situation has altered considerably over the years so a new defence review is well overdue for a new white paper. The government needs to do this before the 2012 elections as a new regime will be in office by then.

The defence organization is a triad organization and consists of the Ministry, department and the PNGDF. The PNGDF has three enviromental components as apart from the army, or the land element. It also has a maritime and the air elements to simutaneously rebuilt into a national cohesive fighting force, as apart from its many peace-time national development and civic action tasks.

It is important that the PNGDF's roles be reviewed now by the government to meet future challenges. It will undoubtedly mean a proportional increase in strength, structure and the way it conducts its future business.

Joseph, the PNG Attitude blog readers would be interested in what your general views are with regards to the defence and national security situation within the 'PNG scenario'? Your valued comments here will certainly help our readers on what PNG must do for herself.

This is important for PNG before expecting Australia and other friendly countries to assist it where they may in future.

Joseph Walter Mautu Pakei

For PNG's scenario, it is not the increase in the size of manpower that will make an army stronger and effective and be useful to the Government's objectives.

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