The world economic crisis has had an impact on virtually everyone. Proceedings asked the commanders of the world's navies: The global economic downturn is obviously affecting the United States and its Navy. How is it affecting your navy's maritime strategy, operation, and force structure?
Vice Admiral Matthieu J. M. Borsboom—Royal Netherlands Navy
Like many other European countries, the Netherlands is facing major financial challenges, not only in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2009, but also because of the increased costs of health care, an aging population, infrastructure regeneration, education, and investment in future economic growth. As a result of these pressures the government is reconsidering its ambitions, activities, and budgets in all fields of governance and is attempting to make its plans affordable by stimulating economic restoration and growth. This rebalancing of priorities will also inevitably involve cuts in costs and spending. With this in mind, the Ministry of Defense, in conjunction with representatives of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Justice, Finance, and Development ministries, is currently conducting a comprehensive Foreign Policy Survey to review the Netherlands' defense force structures, capabilities, and operational concepts.
Well before the onset of the international financial crisis, the Royal Netherlands Navy was already transforming its fleet and Marine Corps on the basis of the Naval Study, which was approved by parliament in 2005. Early in 2009, the Navy launched its Maritime Vision 2030. In both the study and vision papers, a course of action was defined to confront the challenges of the first half of the 21st century. They both give added value to the Netherlands' defense policy while addressing contemporary security challenges by means of more effective and efficient naval forces. The two also aimed at improving the navy's contribution to the government's 3D-approach (Defense, Diplomacy, and Development) in peace and security operations.
The Netherlands generates more than half of its gross national product in activities relating to the sea. The sea is, quite literally, the lifeline of the Netherlands. However, maritime activities can only remain economically viable and contribute to our prosperity and our way of life if global commercial trade routes and choke points are safeguarded. Piracy, drug smuggling, people and arms trafficking, illegal fishing, and the growing energy and food demands of ambitious nation states with modern navies are all threats that warrant increased maritime presence and tighter control over sea lines of communication and contiguous littorals. The risk of regional conflict and the catastrophic effects of natural disasters in the vulnerable and densely populated coastal regions all point to managing crises in the worlds' littoral regions as being the key to safety and security. The Royal Netherlands Navy is therefore fully committed to contributing to security at and from the sea with its fully integrated, flexible, scalable and sustainable Fleet-Marine Corps capabilities.
With a balanced mix of platforms and marine forces, the full range of maritime effects can be achieved. Sustaining this balanced mix will only be possible if we look closely at innovative ship design, in combination with crew-size reduction, mission-tailored manning, and organically sustainable amphibious forces. As a result of concepts defined in the Navy Study 2005, the four Holland-class ocean-going patrol vessels presently under construction will be state-of-the-art and illustrate this philosophy. They are specifically designed for operations such as policing and Coast Guard tasks with a lean-manned crew of about 50 personnel. The six remaining frigates will thus be freed up for more complex and expeditionary maritime security and interdiction operations.
Maritime safety and security will be further enhanced by the continuous commitment of mine-countermeasures vessels and two hydrographic survey ships. Furthermore, four submarines will remain available with more capable systems to conduct a broad range of tasks. Subsequently, marine battalions will be augmented by enhanced logistics and fire-support capabilities to create maximum flexibility and versatile effects as a response to the various asymmetric threats that characterize current complex operations. To preserve the marines' and other services' minimal footprint ashore in littoral operations, a contract for a joint-support ship was signed last year for it to enter service in 2015. In combination with the two in-service amphibious transport docks and a replenishment tanker, the Netherlands Defense Forces will retain a modest yet broadly capable sea-based and expeditionary navy.
I stated when I took command of the Netherlands Royal Navy on 22 January 2010, that the navy is underpinned by its people. Regardless of the challenges ahead, the integrated Fleet-Marine Corps concept, with its associated doctrine, tactics, related organizational structures, and capabilities can only function with well-trained and motivated personnel. Responsible leadership, interservice, interagency, and international cooperation allied to transparent communication and supportive care for Navy families are all essential prerequisites for long-term success.
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