Part 3: Being prepared for potential new deployments

New Zealand Defence Force: Progress with the Defence Sustainability Initiative.

In this Part, we discuss whether NZDF met the Government's expectations for being prepared to respond to potential new deployments. This includes short-term urgent support and potential international deployments.

The Air Force and Navy mostly met their targets for improving preparedness. The Army did not meet its targets for improving preparedness because it deployed more personnel.

One reason for rebuilding military capability is to ensure that NZDF is ready to deploy forces to meet emerging needs. These needs could:

  • be short term or long term;
  • be domestic or international;
  • involve low or high security threats; and
  • involve limited or extensive combat.

Each year, NZDF and the Government agree on how much time NZDF will have to respond to each of the many scenarios it needs to prepare for. Sometimes, NZDF will need to keep its personnel and equipment ready to respond within a few hours. At other times, NZDF will have weeks or months to prepare for a deployment.1 Twice a year, NZDF tells the Minister of Defence what, if any, new deployment capability could be available during the next six months. The capability available often depends on the current number and complexity of deployments (see Appendix 2).

Preparedness for potential new deployments was meant to improve during the Initiative, and NZDF set annual targets to monitor improvements. The targets are confidential, so we cannot reveal what they were for the foundations phase. We can report that the:

  • Air Force met its targets, except for one of its units that was deployed;
  • Army did not meet its targets, mainly because so many personnel were deployed that not enough personnel remained to meet the targets; and
  • Navy met its targets, except where a vessel was out of service (because it was being altered to meet international regulations).

NZDF has a custom-built information system that it uses to monitor the status of its preparedness for new deployments. NZDF has continued to improve the system's capability as its organisational performance management system matures.

During our audit, and partly because of our discussions with NZDF, NZDF began improving the flexibility of its information system. Currently, the targets for improvements in preparedness are fixed. The targets do not alter even if there is no chance of meeting them because there are not enough resources available.

One of the main reasons that not enough resources are available is because personnel and equipment are deployed. Therefore, NZDF is working out how to adjust the preparedness targets to respond to changes in deployment rates. We support NZDF's efforts in this area and we will monitor its effectiveness as part of our regular discussions with NZDF.

1: Longer notice periods allow time for personnel to be trained for a specific deployment. This training adds to existing skills. Keeping all personnel and equipment prepared to respond at short notice is unnecessarily costly and resource intensive. This is because training must be constantly up to date, and personnel must be available to respond to events with little or no warning (for example, for counter-terrorism and non-combatant evacuations).

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