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?
Admiral Khamthorn Pumhiran—Royal Thai Navy
Like every country, Thailand has been affected by the global economic turmoil. The Royal Thai government had to trim the budgets proposed by its departments and agencies. The Royal Thai Navy's operational plans are inevitably affected by these reduction measures, which definitely have an impact on the navy's maritime strategy, operation, and force structure. The navy is thus compelled to alter its conceptual plans and frameworks in those areas to suit existing circumstances, so that it can still maintain its primary responsibilities to at all times protect our sovereignty and maritime interests.
Strategically speaking, the world economic downturn has had a great impact on the navy's defense and deterrence strategies, where continuous enhancement of naval capabilities and force readiness is essential. To address its shortcomings, the navy needs to rely more heavily on military cooperation with its allies. This strategy is defensive by nature in which a problem can be soon resolved at the negotiating table before it turns into a conflict. Should it result in armed confrontation, it would be brought under control in an expeditious manner. However, such measures must be based on mutual benefits, and respected with honor and prestige by the international community.
As far as daily operations are concerned, the world economic recession has greatly affected the number of ships and aircraft we are able to deploy in maritime patrol and aerial reconnaissance within our operational areas. The navy must seek cooperation on various related fields from the general public and other concerned agencies and units, both at home and abroad, to help keep up its performance as effectively as possible within its limited budget. For instance, we rely on fishermen to patrol their fishing grounds and then share intelligence and information with neighboring countries involved in the Malacca Strait joint patrol.
With regard to the force structure, the navy needs to delay many of its planned equipment procurement programs as outlined in the Royal Thai Navy Enhancement and Development Plan. The navy is now becoming more self-reliant in research and development, such as with the indigenous construction of patrol craft 991 to 994 and offshore patrol vessels. In addition, specifications for new equipment, while directed toward current mission accomplishment and mutual international cooperation, must include multifunction and future upgrade capabilities.
The Royal Thai Navy must review its roles and strategies as an operational guide for efficient implementation of its resources while operating on a shoestring budget. Maintenance of a properly sized, tailored, and efficient force structure, both at regional and national levels, is essential to achieving and sustaining effective maritime security now and in the future.
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