Monday, February 01, 2010

Setting a new defence agenda


Since Francis Agwi became the new commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) last December, I paid him a courtesy call to find out what the general's agenda is for the PNGDF in 2010; and beyond. 

The impression I got was positive.  I felt satisfied that several key aspects of defence and security I had been promoting in the media in recent times appeared as salient points in the command's recent media 'statement to the nation'. 

Judging from this, the rest of this year promises to be an interesting period for the PNGDF; we can expect a new defence capability plan by the year's end.  While his statement foreshadowed some new policy developments in the near future from what I gathered, General Agwi is quiet serious for the PNGDF to do its job well in his 'back to basics' approach of conducting future defence business.

In his media statement, General Agwi shares his thoughts with the public of a "new PNGDF" and the "way forward."  He assured the government, PNGDF and the people of PNG that "the force is in good hands" and that its loyalty to the constitution of PNG remains unquestionable.  This is a positive bold statement to set his new agenda for the PNGDF. 

General Agwi takes a different approach from his predecessor with regard to the defence reforms.  As commander, he is not waiting for a 2030 vision, but wants to see things happen within the next decade.  He plans to speed up the reforms so objectives are achieved in "… a short time frame", and outlines his command strategy of rebuilding the PNGDF. 

The commander plans to rebuild the PNGDF on a "4 R Strategy: Re-consolidation, Re-construction, Re-development and Re-evaluation. 

This strategy sets General Agwi's agenda on what will be his force development focus.  Agwi also plans to review PNGDF roles and functions to closely align it with the government's vision 2050.  He further wants the new roles and functions to focus around: national security, international relations, resource protection and nation building.

A new force build up plan will be needed as since reducing to a 2,000 manpower ceiling, the PNGDF roles and functions have not fundamentally changed.  People issues will also pre-occupy Commander Agwi by taking personal responsibility for some pressing issues that demands immediate attention. 

In the next 10 years, the PNGDF must reconstruct itself with a new mission in compliance with government guidance.  In this time, outstanding issues of new capability development will be addressed through retraining and re-skilling of personnel, buying equipment and introducing new technology through a ten (10) year development plan.   This will enhance government policy guidance, future budgets and procurement.

In future, defence will have to decide whether to train for war against an "invisible enemy" or focus on defending PNG's sovereignty, people and rich natural resources.

The PNGDF needs to also measure its own success and steady growth through a process of self-evaluation.  It is important that this be done through annual reviews, auditing and inspections for transparency and accountability of action.

General Agwi writes a new chapter for the PNGDF by continuing the reforms started in 2002 with a different strategy.  If past trends are any indications to go by, this writer believes the new commander seems serious about getting the PNGDF back 'on track'.  He hopes to do it by speeding things up a bit and reviewing its roles; added with realistic missions, budget and government support in future. 

Welcome aboard, Sir!


  1. bernard oberleuter - Australia6:13 PM

    It appears that General Agwi's Mission Statement is on target... and that the 4 R's need to be given a real shake down toward the PNGDF's 2030 Vision.. In hindsight, PNGDF human resources should be doubled, as we move toward the twentysecond century... Wobuna!!

  2. Taurama Sol Dia8:37 AM

    Great overview by Reginald of the new Defence Commander's new agenda in the next decade. I agree with Bernard that PNG must now double the size of the PNGDF and build up its operational capacity now that we have the money to do it.

    Great comments Reginald. Please keep these security analysis coming as more servicemen, and an interested public enjoy reading your media comments. They are in full support of your call in the way you read and see our security situation in PNG and the region, as you are one of the best of the best, the PNGDF has produced in the past 30 years.

  3. Anonymous1:59 PM

    General Agwi has the right idea. I grew up in Eastern New Guinea as a missonary child. I now live in the United States. I am a veteran of the United States Navy. I served 4 years on a navy destroyer. Has General Agwi considered organizing a peoples army of volunteers who would all come together in a common defense of their country? Much like the early militias that existed in the United States around the period of the American Revolution. This would allow him to maintain a defense force of considerable size without a major cost to his people. They would assemble when notified and receive weekend training in combat methods which would get them up to speed if they were ever needed.

  4. I had the pleasure of attending a young officer Mortar Commander's course with Francis in 1978 at the Infantry School, Singleton Australia.
    Suddenly, i remembered about him and decided to Googled search his name today and came across your blog.
    I wonder whether you have his email where i can contact him.
    Lt Col(retired) Mohamad Azudin, Malaysian Army