New Zealand’s $20 billion plan to revamp military by 2030

New Zealand has become the fifth export customer for Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon, with a $1.6 billion order for four aircraft. (Royal New Zealand Air Force)

Defense Minister Ron Mark earlier outlined how the Government plans to spend $20 billion over the next 10 years, equipping the defence forces with brand new planes, boats and other high-tech military equipment.

The Government for the first time has confirmed New Zealand is capable of launching its own cyber attacks as a deterrent to cyber terrorism. 

It’s unveiled a $20 billion investment plan in defence force capability, which will see the military establish a new cyber support capability, bolster intelligence units and digitise the army on the battlefield, giving it network enabled navigation and communications systems. 

It’s the centrepiece of a military modernisation programme, which will also strengthen New Zealand’s interests in Antarctica, against the backdrop of an AUD $2.2 billion investment by the Australian Government in its own Antarctic programme.  

The Government released the DefenSe White Paper on Wednesday – a 100-page document laying out the strategy and direction out to 2030

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17 Globemaster III transport plane carrying donated aid for Myanmar's flood victims lands at Yangon international airport in Yangon August 10, 2015. A C-17 has long been considered one of the options to replace the air force's aging Hercules, though there is only one left now available for purchase. Exactly what the replacement will be however, has not been outlined in the white paper.
A C-17 has long been considered one of the options to replace the air force’s ageing Hercules, though there is only one left now available for purchase. Exactly what the replacement will be, however, has not been outlined in the white paper.

“But I think also, you think about what the military do other than just giving us sheer protection, they also have a big humanitarian role in what they do. 

“We’re going to Fiji tomorrow, and when Cyclone Winston hit we sent our military to help with the rebuild and the support of people. The Christchurch earthquakes we saw the military provide that capability.”

New Zealand’s defence spend was about one per cent of GDP, lower than most of its defence partners, including Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

CYBER WARFARE

At a press conference launching the Defence White Paper, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed the ability to launch cyber attacks on other targets was part of an overall strategy to “deter”. 

He also confirmed New Zealand had some capabilities in cyber warfare already, but there had been no recent attempts on military systems by foreign hackers. 

“As we move forward, cyber is now a significant weapon,” he said. 

It was a “much wider concept than to say it’s to protect or it’s to attack”. 

“We need to know what other people are up to, particularly in a military sense. But we also need to know that if we have a plane in the air, with its glass cockpit, that it’s not going to be interfered with from outside. Similarly with a ship, or for that matter, our land troops in their deployments. 

“You’d expect in a circumstance where you knew that someone was trying to attack you’re communications system or your operational system, or whatever it might be, that you would be able to deter that.”

New Zealand has reached a “tipping point” in cyber warfare, says Brownlee. 

The increased threat of cyber attacks and cyber security issues was the “major point of difference” from the white paper released in 2010. 

“It’s not unreasonable to assume the greater capabilities will be required in coming years, to meet an increase in this type of threat.

“You only have to look how the likes of [ISIS] use the online tools to their sinister advantage, from which New Zealand is not immune,” Brownlee said. 

In the white paper itself, the defence force described technology advances as both an asset and a liability. 

“Advances in technology continue to enhance the ease with which knowledge is able to be transferred. This is a positive development, and has a number of advantages in the military context. 

“However, increasing reliance on technology and information networks is creating new vulnerabilities. The threat to systems that rely on networked technologies such as the internet, industrial control systems and global positioning satellites has increased markedly since 2010. 

“New Zealand therefore has an interest in contributing to international cyberspace and space efforts to protect this infrastructure from being exploited or disrupted,” it said. 

Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating said a resilient defence force was New Zealand’s “insurance policy” at times of increasing international instability. 

Secretary of Defence Helene Quilter said the white paper “forecasts a geopolitical environment” that was “increasingly interconnected, unstable and uncertain”. 

Brownlee could not yet provide specifics on what New Zealand’s new cyber support capability would look like. 

NO SPECIFIC DETAILS IN WHITEPAPER

But while the White Paper outlines what is to be replaced, and the areas the defense force intends to bolster, it makes no reference to a possible replacement or purchase options.  

Labour’s defence spokesman Phil Goff has hit out at the lack of detail. “The Government has announced $20 billion in capital expenditure over 15 years, but in the absence of what it will spend this on, we have no idea of whether it represents value for money.  “Huge capital expenditure in this area is inevitably at the expense of another spending the country needs in areas like transport and housing,” he said. “While the White Paper says there is no foreseeable military threat to New Zealand in the next 25 years, we nevertheless need an effective Defence Force.  “This is particularly so in new threat areas such as cyber-warfare.  With cuts in expenditure and capabilities in recent years, much of what the Government is intending to spend is simply catch up.”

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said New Zealand had a defense force, and so it should be well equipped. “And defense equipment is really expensive, so we know it’s a significant expenditure.”

The money had to be well-spent, and the Government needed to be accountable for it, he said. ACT leader David Seymour said $20b was a “good spend”. 

“Defending New Zealand is one thing the Government has to do, and it looks from the white paper that they’re modernizing our defence.

“The threats are different, and they’ll be even more different in the future. Cyber-security for instance is very important.”

Source NZ Government

PROTECTING THE OCEANS

Brownlee said a major challenges were New Zealand’s ability to protect its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and interests in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. 

The White Paper also highlighted the Middle East as an “increasingly challenging and higher threat environment for defense force deployments”. New Zealand has troops stationed at US base Camp Taji, helping train Iraqi troops and supporting operations against terrorism group the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq. 

The Government set a two-year time limit on its deployment, but the White Paper has left the door open for operations to be expanded.

It also outlined existing plans to replace major capabilities, such as the Anzac Navy frigates, and outline new investments. 

“These include new cyber support capabilities to improve protection of defense force information networks, and ice strengthening for a third Offshore Patrol Vessel and a naval tanker as we look to better support our interests in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica,” Brownlee said.

Read More   Canada could be the next target of the Russian GRU, warned the head of NATO

A review of the Defense Force’s crumbling estate will redesign plans drawn up in 2016, with the Government committing an additional $400 million to its rejuvenation. 

It will take the total spend to fix buildings and infrastructure across the military’s nine New Zealand camps and bases to $2.1 billion out to 2030. The money will come from the $20 bILLION investment announced in June, boosting New Zealand’s wider defense capability. 

Defence Minister Ron Mark made the announcement while on a visit to Trentham military camp. He said a long-term review was important, alongside continued investment to stop infrastructure becoming more dilapidated. 

“The 81,000 hectare Defense estate is at a crossroads; much of it is run down, and outdated. It needs to be improved in order to gain, train and retain our service people, now and into the future.

The Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes (pictured) will replace a fleet of retiring P-3K Orions.
The Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes (pictured) will replace a fleet of retiring P-3K Orions.

“We need to be smart with our investment into the estate. So it makes sense for us to take stock of what we have, and look at what we will need in the year 2070.

“This is particularly important with the new capabilities identified in the Defense Capability Plan 2019, due to come online in the next decade,” Mark said.

MODERNIZATION OF DEFENSE FACILITIES

NZDF was responsible for the third-largest area of Crown land and managed 58 sites, including nine camps and bases, across the country.

A business case released on Thursday alongside the review terms argued the estate was old and outdated, “with a large proportion dating back to World War II”.

Defence Minister Ron Mark said a long-term review was important, alongside continued investment to stop infrastructure becoming more dilapidated. (File photo)
ROSA WOODS/STUFFDefence Minister Ron Mark said a long-term review was important, alongside continued investment to stop infrastructure becoming more dilapidated.

About 78 per cent of it had less than 30 years remaining in useful life with a replacement cost of over $3.2 billion. Of this, 15 per cent had less than 10 years remaining life with a replacement cost of more than $600 million.

Mark said a number of changing demands and priorities on the Defense Force, domestically and overseas, meant a review needed to assess requirements out to 2070, “so we can begin to plan a way to get there”.

The previous government created the Defense Estate Regeneration Plan to manage the estate with an investment of $1.7 billion to 2030. The review will essentially overtake much of that work, but some projects remain underway.

The air force base at Whenuapai was set for a new gymnasium, new fencing and changes to the facilities that had supported the old fleet of P3 Orion aircraft. But their replacement with Boeing P8-A Poseidon’s – which would be based at Ohakea – would require a certain amount of reconfiguration at both bases. 

Satellite view of the Devonport Naval Base.
Satellite view of the Devonport Naval Base.

Among a range of upgrades planned for Devonport Naval Base was new accommodation and new offices, meeting rooms and secure spaces for NZDF lodger units.

Ohakea would get a new hangar for the Poseidon and upgrades to its wastewater management system and taxiways. Planning work was also scheduled to begin on a Base HQ building and physiotherapy and medical facility.

Waiouru would see a change in focus and function, acting as a mountain training base. Plans for upgrades there included a base headquarters communications and control centre. 

Units from around the country would congregate at Waiouru and prepare to deploy on operations from there. Meanwhile, Linton Army camp was set to receive major upgrades to make it one of two logistics hubs, along with Burnham Military Camp. 

The new Vincent barracks were the first new barracks building since World War 2 to be opened at RNZAF Base Auckland, in Whenuapai. Opened in July 2018.
The new Vincent barracks were the first new barracks building since World War 2 to be opened at RNZAF Base Auckland, in Whenuapai. Opened in July 2018.

“The review, plan and continued investment in the defense estate will result in better working, training and living conditions for all personnel,” said Mark.

A Joint Ministerial Group would oversee it, led by the Minister of Defence and including the Minister of Finance, Minister of Regional Economic Development, Minister for Infrastructure and the Minister for Housing and the Minister for Urban Development

Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Defense Gerry Brownlee release the defence white paper outlining future spending.

The Government has approved a $1.7 billion project to upgrade defense buildings across the country, including a health and wellbeing precinct at Whenuapai and a mounting base at Waiouru. 

Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base would get a multistorey car park and office building, as well as “small boat storage” and wash down areas and ship loading areas.

INVESTMENT IN DEFENSE SECTOR

Plans put on ice a number of years ago to develop a “central defense hub” at Linton, near Palmerston North, were back on the table. 

Gerry Brownlee has announced the Government has approved a $1.7b spend to upgrade the defence estate - a portion of the $20b spend planned for in the recently released Defence White Paper.
Gerry Brownlee has announced the Government has approved a $1.7b spend to upgrade the defence estate – a portion of the $20 billion spends planned for in the recently released Defence White Paper.

At Ohakea Air force Base, projects included a covered refuelling area, logistics warehouse, and the replacement of a taxiway.

And at Burnham, a health and rehabilitation centre, various upgrades to communications and electrical network and storage facilities were planned.

HMNZS Te Kaha (right) from the top of HMNZS Canterbury, berthed at Devonport naval base.
NZHMNZS Te Kaha (right) from the top of HMNZS Canterbury, berthed at Devonport naval base.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee gave an assurance no camps or bases would be closing, over the upgrade of the defense estate, but said there could be some reorganisation or “rationalization” between bases could take place. 

The approval of the spend comes after the release of the Defence White Paper in June – a $20 billion plan for defence force capability, which will see the military establish a new cyber support capability, bolster intelligence units and digitise the army on the battlefield, giving it network enabled navigation and communications systems. 

Troops return from Iraq in 2015 at Ohakea Air Force Base.
Troops return from Iraq in 2015 at Ohakea Air Force Base.

The upgrade of the defence estate – or the camps, buildings and military bases that house the defence force – was expected to take about five years. 

“Most of the capital investment will go to upgrade operational facilities in Auckland, Manawatu and Canterbury,” Brownlee said. 

“Initially, the investment will be directed towards health, safety and compliance measures, as well as initial recapitalization, works such as starting to replace old, outdated barracks with modern facilities.

“Work on the 81,000 hectare Defense estate is needed to make it fit for purpose and operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Brownlee said many of the 5000 buildings on defense land were old and need to be upgraded. 

The NZDF has nine main camps and bases, two large training areas and several regional support centres, as well as headquarters in Wellington.

Investigations into establishing a “strategic business partner arrangement” to deliver the work, were underway. The review was due to be completed by 30 September 2020.

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