The transition from a high cost defence force to an appropriate cost defence force would not be immediate because it would not be easy. First a significant number of people - probably in the order of 4,000, but it could be more - would need to be transitioned to civilian employment or retirement. It is estimated this would take between seven and ten years.

It should be pointed out this transition should learn from the 1980s transitions involving health and education. Instead of progressing quickly the transition should be progressed steadily and sensibly. There is no benefit in Railways Department type mass redundancies where 17,243 jobs were eliminated over twenty years. Instead of simply handing out pink notices the transition must be handled carefully.

Fortunately the focused defence force model is based on the concept of civilian-military-civilian career transition. It assumes that younger people will start their careers with the defence force, develop their skills and use them, then as they get older retrain for civilian life and depart the defence force again.  The retraining and departure phase currently has minimal investment by the defence force because, like most employers, it is focused on its current business. This model is based on the people who make up that business and moving them through the process.

The phases described below will not necessarily happen at the same rate. For example replacing HMNZS Endeavor with a Damen Schelde LSV is not especially different to business as usual. Replacing two Meko 200 (Anzac) frigates with crews of 163 with two Svalbard class EPVs with crews of 50 means 226 sailors are ultimately out of a job. They may find places in the Marine Battalion or may have to find work elsewhere just as the Skyhawk pilots did.

Phase one

Human Resources Systems

Therefor the initial focus of the transition would be on establishing the exit systems applicable for all defence staff in the focused force structure. This includes the reservist structures, the study leave, the career planning and the links to industry and business. An important part of that would be developing the NZ Defence Academy and the establishment of more military unit standards on the educational framework. This will allow for the recognition of military skills in a civilian unit standards system.

Territorial Force Disbanded

The territorial force would be discontinued in favour of the reservist force. The funding for the development of the reservist force would come from the territorial funding.

Defence Ventures

It would also include the early establishment of Defence Ventures so as to begin the venture finance aspect of developing an industrial system based around the defence system. This would include development of structures around industry linkage and development. For example the development of the adventure tourism industry. the adventure clothing and equipment industry, the land and aerospace industries.

Service Administrative Transition

The integration of rotary aviation into the Army (already achieved in Australia) and the transition of the Air Force and Navy into a Coastguard will involve systems integration and identification of redundant systems and functions. This will take time and involve a significant adjustment. Military officers will take time coming to terms with the notion that their purpose no longer involves combat. This will require some talented managers to appointed to senior Coastguard positions. It can be expected that a number of senior military people would make a lot of grumpy noise about scenarios which simply have no justification other than to keep them in their jobs. Essentially most of this stage is about re-arranging deck chairs under the focused force structure. No immediate changes of personnel or equipment would be required.

Phase Two

Early Retirements

An early retirement age of 55 would be introduced to the defence force. This is a permanent measure designed to ensure the defence force remains young and flexible. This would not apply to the Defence Academy, the NZ Arsenal or Veteran's Affairs.

Exit Process

The permanent defence exit process would be established developing the four year retraining process and the reservist force. This would allow staff to retrain for civilian work.

Asset Sales

Assets surplus to requirements would begin to be sold. This includes the LAV IIIs and NH90s. In the meantime civilian helicopters would fill the NH90 gap. The MEKO 200 (Anzac) frigates would be sent on a sales tour.

Asset acquisitions

New assets especially including the KC-390 aircraft  and Aurora Orion UAV, plus the MH-60s helicopters and the Okotar armoured vehicles would be acquired. Projects to build the Damen Schelde LSV and KV Svalbard type EPV would begin.

Phase Three


New aircraft and ships are delivered, acceptance tested and their predecesor craft retired.

Transition teams exit

The transition structures are removed and the new structures begin work.