Brigadier Martin Xuereb—Armed Forces of Malta
Like most other forces operating in the naval arena today, the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) finds itself in the grip of a disparity that pitches available means against a growing mission set. Malta has not been immune to the global economic downturn, yet it simultaneously faces growing maritime challenges. The irony of this situation is that many of these challenges are either fueled by the poor economic environment or, if ignored, will continue to add fuel to its flames. Some examples of this are illegal migration that is driven by the ever-increasing difference in wealth distribution, and environmental protection without which critical economic contributors such as tourism and fisheries will further suffer.
Therefore, the AFM has concluded that parsimony arbitrarily imposed at such a time will, in essence, result in an extension of the effects of the economic trough. Thus the focus is on producing similar or even increased levels of activity compared to previous years but in a more cost-effective manner. Achieving this required a holistic solution.
Renewing operational assets, although requiring significant capital outlay, is an assured method of reducing operational costs. The maritime fleet renewal program, begun in 2002, will see its completion in 2010 with the delivery of new inshore units. More important, the operational costs per patrol hour will be significantly reduced, thus ensuring that operation and training efforts remain at acceptable levels. A similar program for aviation assets is also expected to deliver comparable results.
The AFM has made every effort to offset the capital cost of acquisitions by drawing on non-national capital where these are available, with two significant sources being Foreign Military Sales funding and European Union funds. Access to the latter has been aided by the AFM undertaking numerous soft-security and maritime safety roles such as border control, fisheries protection, and search and rescue. This understanding that a military force can conduct a significant range of critical roles outside classic military missions ensures that financial support is not so sharply curtailed when governments tighten their belts.
Technological leverage has also provided further gains by permitting a hitherto undreamed-of level of maritime domain awareness. The result is the ability to target costly operational interventions rather than conducting speculative deployments. Networking between regional partners generates further enhancements to such an approach. The global picture generated by such cooperation far exceeds the sum of its parts.
Military forces in a democracy cannot expect to be immune to the pain when government finances are under scrutiny. They can, however, take innovative approaches to ensuring that the vital security that it is their business to deliver is not reduced in either quantity or quality. By doing so they make their own, albeit indirect and less-than-obvious, contribution to eventual recovery.
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