By REG RENAGI
AS PNG progresses further towards the next decade and beyond, the roles of our armed forces in developing and maintaining a credible defence capability will no doubt go through a significant change.
Since Independence, the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) has changed little in both structure and character.
It is time for our PNGDF to face up to some real issues, make long-term decisions and get on with them.
Defending our national security in the next decade calls for a complete reappraisal of the PNGDF – not just of its present capabilities but also how it intends to operate in the future.
The PNGDF must adapt to changes which affect military performance.
The leaders must manage changes affecting the attitude, motivation, “spirit” and moral values of those seeking a career with the PNGDF.
The defence environment needs to change and the spectrum of change is both broad and dynamic.
Leaders must ensure the military moves away from old management maxims.
Our defence organisation must learn to live with rapid changes, profit from them, thrive on them and not be absorbed with maintaining the status quo.
Being comfortable with the status quo could get us killed.
Our experience tells us that the PNGDF is not good at handling change quickly. To manage change, it needs confidence.
Recent major events tell us that the level of professionalism in the PNGDF remains much to be desired.
The most important change that we need is a winning mentality.
If we are to win on the battlefield, the PNGDF must be able to utilise its resources well and implement processes efficiently.
The PNGDF faces social engineering problems.
It needs to revamp the whole organisation to meet the aspirations and expectations of the people.
Let us not kid ourselves here.
The PNGDF has been weakened because good people have lost their commitment to this once proud and professional organisation.
Unless the defence community comes to grip with decentralisation and the PNGDF is streamlined to enhance its capability, frustrations will continue. In the end, the PNGDF will become a second-rate loser in the new corporate environment.
The PNGDF is becoming uncompetitive not because it is doing the wrong things but because it is not doing things right.
It is not placing its people in an environment where they can feel like winners. There seems to be a growing feeling that the PNGDF is becoming a second-rate team.
Today, many service personnel perceive that the military is increasingly misunderstood by an uninterested public and increasingly cowed by a Government which does not recognise the uniqueness of the military, and make allowances for it.
We need a professional team of men and women who are highly educated, trained and motivated. Only with such people can we hope to have a truly professional Defence Force in every sense of the word.
To ensure we have such people to consider for the PNGDF, we must have appropriate education and training programmes.
Not only should we train these people locally, but we must also send them overseas.
The future of our Defence Force hinges greatly on the Government and leaders in defence investing heavily in developing defence professionalism.
It must start now.
Finally, I urge the new Defence command to continue to develop military professionalism through integrated and creative programmes of education and training initiatives.
I am hopeful that this will be given top priority as the PNGDF gears itself to face the new challenges ahead.
*Reg Renagi is a former PNG Defence Force chief and is now a trainer at a private school and researcher. He writes as a part-time hobby