Defence White Paper: Government unveils $20b defence plan for new planes, boats and cyber security

CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ.

Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee release the defence white paper outlining future spending.

The Government for the first time has confirmed New Zealand is capable of launching its own cyber attacks as a deterrent to cyber terrorism. 

It's unveiled a $20 billion investment plan in defence force capability, which will see the military establish a new cyber support capability, bolster intelligence units and digitise the army on the battlefield, giving it network enabled navigation and communications systems. 

It will also continue with programmes to replace New Zealand's aging fleet of Boeing 757s, C-130 Hercules and surveillance aircraft, the Orions. 

Cyber security is a major focus of the defence whitepaper
123RF

Cyber security is a major focus of the defence whitepaper

It's the centrepiece of a military modernisation programme, which will also strengthen New Zealand's interests in Antarctica, against the backdrop of a AUD $2.2 billion investment by the Australian Government in its own Antarctic programme.  

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The Government released the Defence White Paper on Wednesday - a 100-page document laying out the strategy and direction out to 2030.

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17 Globemaster III transport plane carrying donated aid for Myanmar's flood ...
SOE ZEVA TUN/REUTERS

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17 Globemaster III transport plane carrying donated aid for Myanmar's flood victims lands at Yangon international airport in Yangon August 10, 2015. A C-17 has long been considered one of the options to replace the air force's aging Hercules, though there is only one left now available for purchase. Exactly what the replacement will be however, has not been outlined in the white paper.

Prime Minister John Key said it was a big spend, but over a long time. 

Successive budgets would have to boost defence spending.

"But I think also, you think about what the military do other than just giving us sheer protection, they also have a big humanitarian role in what they do. 

"We're going to Fiji tomorrow, and when Cyclone Winston hit we sent our military to help with the rebuild and the support of people. The Christchurch earthquakes we saw the military provide that capability."

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New Zealand's defence spend was about one per cent of GDP, lower than most of its defence partners, including Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

CYBER TERRORISM: A NEW THREAT

At a press conference launching the Defence White Paper, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed the ability to launch cyber attacks on other targets was part of an overall strategy to "deter". 

He also confirmed New Zealand had some capabilities in cyber warfare already, but there had been no recent attempts on military systems by foreign hackers. 

"As we move forward, cyber is now a significant weapon," he said. 

It was a "much wider concept than to say it's to protect or it's to attack". 

"We need to know what other people are up to, particularly in a military sense. But we also need to know that if we have a plane in the air, with its glass cockpit, that it's not going to be interfered with from outside. Similarly with a ship, or for that matter, our land troops in their deployments. 

"You'd expect in a circumstance where you knew that someone was trying to attack you're communications system or your operational system, or whatever it might be, that you would be able to deter that."

New Zealand has reached a "tipping point" in cyber warfare, says Brownlee. 

The increased threat of cyber attacks and cyber security issues was the "major point of difference" from the white paper released in 2010. 

"It's not unreasonable to assume the greater capabilities will be required in coming years, to meet an increase in this type of threat.

"You only have to look how the likes of [ISIS] use the online tools to their sinister advantage, from which New Zealand is not immune," Brownlee said. 

In the white paper itself, the defence force described technology advances as both an asset and a liability. 

"Advances in technology continue to enhance the ease with which knowledge is able to be transferred. This is a positive development, and has a number of advantages in the military context. 

"However, increasing reliance on technology and information networks is creating new vulnerabilities. The threat to systems that rely on networked technologies such as the internet, industrial control systems and global positioning satellites has increased markedly since 2010. 

"New Zealand therefore has an interest in contributing to international cyberspace and space efforts to protect this infrastructure from being exploited or disrupted," it said. 

Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating said a resilient defence force was New Zealand's "insurance policy" at times of increasing international instability. 

Secretary of Defence Helene Quilter said the white paper "forecasts a geopolitical environment" that was "increasingly interconnected, unstable and uncertain". 

Brownlee could not yet provide specifics on what New Zealand's new cyber support capability would look like. 

"Some of that is to be determined, as we work through the next phase of introducing that enhanced capability. 

"So I can't say it's 10, I can't say it's 100, but it will be a significant number of people that are deployed into the armed forces, from the armed forces, that will supervise and to a greater extent [take part] in this sort of deterrent activity." 

WHITE PAPER "TELLS US NOTHING". 

But while the White Paper outlines what is to be replaced, and the areas the defence force intends to bolster, it makes no reference to possible replacement or purchase options. 
 
Labour's defence spokesman Phil Goff has hit out at the lack of detail.
 
"The Government has announced $20 billion in capital expenditure over 15 years, but in the absence of what it will spend this on, we have no idea of whether it represents value for money. 
 
"Huge capital expenditure in this area is inevitably at the expense of other spending the country needs in areas like transport and housing," he said.
 
"While the White Paper says there is no foreseeable military threat to New Zealand in the next 25 years, we nevertheless need an effective Defence Force. 
 
"This is particularly so in new threat areas such as cyber-warfare.  With cuts in expenditure and capabilities in recent years, much of what the Government is intending to spend is simply catch up."

 

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said New Zealand had a defence force, and so it should be well equipped. 

"And defence equipment is really expensive, so we know it's a significant expenditure."

The money had to be well-spent, and the Government needed to be accountable for it, he said. 

 ACT leader David Seymour said $20b was a "good spend". 

"Defending New Zealand is one thing the Government has to do, and it looks from the white paper that they're modernising our defence.

"The threats are different, and they'll be even more different in the future. Cyber-security for instance is very important."

PROTECTING THE OCEANS, MIDDLE EAST

Brownlee said a major challenges were New Zealand's ability to protect its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and interests in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. 

The White Paper also highlighted the Middle East as an "increasingly challenging and higher threat environment for defence force deployments".

New Zealand has troops stationed at US base Camp Taji, helping train Iraqi troops and supporting operations against terrorism group the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq. 

The Government set a two-year time limit on its deployment, but the White Paper has left the door open for operations to be expanded.

It also outlined existing plans to replace major capabilities, such as the Anzac Navy frigates, and outline new investments. 

"These include new cyber support capabilities to improve protection of defence force information networks, and ice strengthening for a third Offshore Patrol Vessel and a naval tanker as we look to better support our interests in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica," Brownlee said.

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 - Stuff

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