New chief sets defence agenda

Editorial, Normal


AFTER Francis Agwi became commander of the PNG Defence Force last December, I paid him a courtesy call.
My desire was to find out the general’s agenda for the PNGDF in 2010 and beyond.
My impression was positive. I felt satisfied that several key aspects of defence and security I’d been promoting in the media appeared as salient points in the commander’s recent “statement to the nation”.
Judging from this, the rest of 2010 promises to be an interesting period for the PNGDF and we can expect a new defence capability plan by the year’s end.
Brig-Gen Agwi’s foreshadowed new policy developments but he is serious that the PNGDF gets “back to basics”.
He assured the Government, the military and the people of PNG that “the Force is in good hands” and that its loyalty to the Constitution remains unquestionable.
In terms of defence reform, Gen Agwi takes a different approach from his predecessor. As commander, he is not waiting for a 2030 vision but wants to see things happen in the next decade. He plans to speed up the reform.
He plans to rebuild the PNGDF on what he calls a “4R strategy – reconsolidation, reconstruction, redevelopment and reevaluation”.
Gen Agwi plans to review PNGDF roles and functions to closely align them with the Government’s long-term vision and he wants them to focus on national security, international relations, resource protection and nation building.
A new force build-up plan will be needed as, since reducing to 2000, there has been no real capacity to change. People issues also pre-occupy Gen Agwi, who is taking personal responsibility for some that demand immediate attention.
The next 10 years will see the PNGDF addressing issues of capability development, retraining and reskilling of personnel, buying equipment and introducing new technology.
In future, defence will have to decide whether to train for war against an invisible enemy or focus on defending PNG’s sovereignty, people and rich natural resources.
The PNGDF needs to measure its own success and growth through a process of self-evaluation – annual reviews, auditing and inspections.
Gen Agwi writes a new chapter for the PNGDF by continuing the reforms started in 2002 with a different strategy. If past trends are any indication, this writer believes the new commander seems serious about getting the PNGDF back on track.
He hopes to do it by speeding things up and reviewing roles; along with realistic missions, budget and future Government support.
Welcome aboard, Sir!


* Source: PNG Attitude. Reginald Renagi is a regular contributor to The National’s Letters page