A Defence Force incapacitated

Kia Ora

On Wednesday, the Government was handed a damning indictment on the incompetent management of the Defence Force written by the Auditor General, Lyn Provost.

In September 2010, the Government told the Defence Force that it had to:

  1. Save between $300-500 million by the 2014/2015 financial year
  2. Enhance frontline activities and capabilities
  3. Maintain specified outputs

Two years later and the situation is a damning indictment on the Minister, Jonathan Coleman and the obsession of this National-led Government with keeping the policy promise plucked from thin air by 2015 of the Government financial books being back in the black. The findings of the Auditor General were brutal:

  • From 2015, there will be 1618 too few personnel for the Defence Force to perform its functions properly.
  • The Royal New Zealand Navy inshore patrol vessels have been tied up at Devonport Naval Base with too few crew to go to sea with, and did not complete the number of sea-going days that the funding provided for.
  • Larger operations, ongoing tasks requiring rotation of personnel and mulitple tasks occurring at the same time may be compromised by the lack of personnel.

But it was not just the Government that has been bad in it’s management of this issue. The Defence Force itself has been found seriously wanting in terms of its judgement whilst complying with the Government’s requests. It was found that the Defence Force did not seriously give due consideration to the staffing requirements; the effects on morale and the culture of the military; the attrition rates and the cumulative effects of the changes.It botched letters to staff notifying them of changes and leaving many staff distressed or angry with management.

A major failure is the so-called “moral contract”, between the rank and file personnel and the senior brass. As the military is an institution where one serves and is expected to obey orders, and cannot negotiate contracts, the senior leadership is expected to take care of rank and file interests. The contract between personnel and senior leaders was damaged by the failure of senior military leaders to properly carry out their part of the contract.

The full report can be found here.

Some serious questions have to be asked about the state of the New Zealand Defence Force. Past Governments have been poor in terms of ensuring the military is sufficiently resourced to carry out its agreed roles, but the National-led Government of Prime Minister John Key shown a scant regard that borders on being negligent.

If an East Timor type operation was needed to start today, I would not support the deployment of the New Zealand Defence Force, because I honestly do not think it would be sufficiently resourced to do the job. If a war involving Pacific Island neighbours were to start and New Zealand was asked to stop it by the United Nations, we might need Australian assistance. Let us hope nothing like this happens soon because New Zealand will not be able to carry out its obligations to the South Pacific.

That would not be embarrassing. That would be grossly negligent.

Take Care,


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2 thoughts on “A Defence Force incapacitated

  1. Nice post Rob, couldn’t agree more. The report highlights some serious failings – ignoring warnings, and positions still vacant months later, leaving the “front end” further unsupported.

    • Before we can give consideration to new weapons systems, we need to increase expenditure on the Defence Force just to ensure that the formations are fully staffed and get their allocated training time in full.

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