Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Fixing the Papua New Guinea Defence Force



Defence Commander Francis Agwi unlike his predecessors; is not wasting much time since being appointed to the job last December.

In my two brief courtesy calls on him before he released his recent media “Statement to the Nation”, I got the impression that at long last we will see some fundamental changes to the way the PNGDF is commanded, and managed in PNG.

General Agwi again has confirmed a long awaited command action to fix the force during his watch. 

All others before him have not fared very well. 

Upon getting the top security job, he immediately made known his personal intentions to his command, the government and the country: he plans on reviewing the force’s roles, restructure it to do its job well to the expectation of the people and country. 

But first, he will fix some pressing outstanding personnel issues that the organisation has shown a poor ability to solve by sweeping them under the carpet - hoping they will disappear.

From my personal discussions, here is what this writer sees General Agwi do to fix the PNGDF’s problem:

  • Review its roles and structure – what are the priorities we should critically address in the next decade? Review the external defence roles and Internal security, involvement in civic action and national development;
  • Analyse carefully the balance between personnel, operations and capital assets to provide a detailed budgetary guidance for government consideration; and
  •  Recommendations: 1) to make the PNGDF an effective force by focusing on three key national roles: sovereignty defence, internal security and civic action projects to support national development, 2) A balanced force relevant to PNG’s unique strategic environment in the next ten years.

Despite several past recommendations, the defence organisation has not fully carried out the immediate actions required to improve the operational effectiveness of the PNGDF.  The reduction of personnel in 2001 has seriously eroded the capacity and overall weakened the PNGDF. 

This grave political judgement has not resulted in any tangible savings for the defence organisation, especially the PNGDF; full contracting out of non-core areas such as major maintenance to the private sector have not being done to redirect this into improving the operational effectiveness of the PNGDF.

The whole purpose of a former government reducing the PNGDF has failed in PNG.

 It has not resulted in a better-equipped force with more resources available for operations and training. 

Despite the numerous media statements by the defence council and political rhetorics from several prime ministers down, the PNGDF has still not been appropriately structured to meet PNG’s pressing internal security, and national development needs as well as the protection of PNG’s territorial integrity and valuable resources. 

The force will soon become irrelevant if something is not done soon by the government to make the PNGDF meet serious future challenges in this millennium.



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