Rear Admiral Tony Parr—Royal New Zealand Navy
The global economic downturn has had a minimal affect on the Royal New Zealand Navy's (RNZN) strategy to deliver a versatile, responsive, and effective maritime military capability, primarily because of improvements made in its organizational performance. In 1998 the RNZN adopted the internationally recognized business standard—the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence—and following a decade-long journey to becoming a world-class organization, attained a Gold Award, the highest honor, in November 2009. The award and the rigorous evaluation process it involves demonstrates that the Navy understands its business, understands how its resources are allocated, and is disciplined about its strategic direction. Therefore, as an organization the RNZN was in a strong position to absorb the shock of the economic downturn, allowing it to remain focused on its operational outputs.
Operationally, there was little impact on the fleet program in 2009. While international engagement and participation in multilateral exercises remained a focus for major fleet units of the Combat and Support Forces, the addition of four new inshore patrol vessels-HMNZ ships Hawea, Taupo, Rotoiti, and Pukaki-to the Naval Patrol Force provided the RNZN and respective government agencies with greater flexibility to monitor the exclusive economic zone and support the multi-agency approach to border and resource protection. Events in the South Pacific, too, kept the fleet busy, with the multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury taking a step closer to realizing her amphibious capability when deployed to Samoa in October as part of the whole-of-government response to the tsunami relief effort. Although it was a successful year, obsolescence issues are a concern for the RNZN as progress in capability projects stalled pending the outcome of the current defense review.
Fiscal realities were a critical aspect in developing maritime capability options for the Defence White Paper due for release in mid-2010. As a significant deliverable of the review process, the future maritime force structure has yet to be defined. Therefore, all new starts to minor capability development have been placed on hold and decisions regarding the long-term capability development plan delayed pending the release of the strategic policy. Conversely, recruitment efforts benefited from the downturn, as unemployment figures climbed and interest in pursuing a military career became more appealing.
Maintenance of a credible maritime military capability during tight financial times will create challenges across the organization out to 2011 and possibly beyond. If ever there was to be an affect on the RNZN, it will be the influence the global economic downturn has on the selection of capability options for the future maritime force structure and the allocation of funding necessary to support the associated projects.
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