A new U.S. defense strategy unveiled in January calls for a resized, refocused military. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world’s sea services: In an era of austere defense budgets and rapidly increasing technologies, what are the strategic objectives for your naval force over the next 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
Rear Admiral A. J. Parr
A New Zealand Defence White Paper in 2009 was particularly encouraging for the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) because while the document did not indicate any immediate increase in ships or personnel, it did signal an acknowledgement of and commitment to the navy’s current force structure, whereby capabilities will be renewed, replaced, or enhanced in a program of capital acquisition over the next 15 years. While planning for that is well under way, financial constraint and restraint over the next three years at least mean the end result will be realized over a longer period. Nevertheless, the intent remains.
Additionally, there are a number of strategic challenges and issues to be addressed. The first is an enduring one for a small volunteer navy such as ours—the ability to recruit and retain the right numbers of the right people. If we do not have the right number of the right people in the right place—at sea, in support areas ashore, and in the naval reserve—then we can achieve neither our mission nor our vision. To a large extent, of course, our ability to meet this challenge is reflected in budget austerity.
We also must strive to continuously demonstrate value to the government, the people of New Zealand, and international partners as we go about performing our mission. We must be seen and understood by those stakeholders as being able to deliver effectiveness in maritime operations with professionalism and expertise. For the government this means demonstrating value for money as well. We must constantly reassure all that the navy is providing a good return on investment in being able to bring about desirable outcomes.
A third challenge is that of achieving balance between effectiveness and efficiency. For the RNZN the key to efficiency is the nurturing of a culture of ‘continuous improvement’ in navy people in all aspects of our business. That means we constantly look for ways to improve processes and practices so the resources of money, people, and time can be allocated sufficiently—and no more—to all parts of the endeavor. In other words, we want to do the right things right and cease doing those things that no longer add value.
The next three to five years will undoubtedly be tough. We will need to stay well focused on our challenges and strive to do things smarter as we go about our duties.