Toward a focused defence structure

As we have seen our defence force is bloated with inefficiency compared to civilian agencies. This is, in part, because there is no efficiency driver like the profit motive in taxpayer funded agencies like defence. No private firm would waste the billions on NH90s or LAVIIIs as the defence force has.

Yet there are things that the military does which only the military can do. The main one is kill people and destroy things. The state does, unfortunately, need the best capability to do this, because if the state doesn't have it, someone else does - with all that implies for the rule of law. The military should therefore specialise more on limiting death and destruction while allowing civilian agencies to do the things civilian agencies can do more efficiently and effectively: such as logistics, engineering and facilities management.

There are two ways to limit death and destruction. One is to police well, firmly and effectively. The other is to get the other guy first. In places where the military are needed the guns and knives are already out. The force's role is to impose a new force which makes all sides put their weapons away again without creating new resentments and excuses for violence. It means, if necessary, the use of overwhelming but highly focused force against those who simply will not back down. It means using a scalpel rather than a scythe.

The circumstances of any military intervention is limited to dealing with irregulars or their regular equivalents. Essentially gunmen armed with AK74s, RPKs, PKMs, RPG-7s and RPOs. Some may have vehicles with mounted heavy machine guns on them. These are men who have picked up weapons as an easier path to wealth. They may be pirates, they may be insurgents, they may be mercenaries, they may be 'terrorists' or they may even be regular troops. They use their expert local knowledge and their dominance over the local population to achieve tactical, operational and strategic advantage.

The response is always the same. To displace their dominant power, to provide security to the population, and to force them to disarm through denying them logistic support, so that eventually they give up. Then to assist the society to heal and find a path towards a sound economy. Easier said than done and better demonstrated by the British than the Americans.

In addition to this we are talking about a coastguard. A coastguard able to effectively patrol and intervene in one of the largest EEZs, and SAR responsibilities in the world. This is no small capability and should not be under-rated.