The National Defence Policy; Dasar Pertahanan Malaysia

SHAH ALAM: For those who wished to read full text, please do so here. Its in Bahasa Malaysia only at the moment so I guess who cant read Malay has to bear with my analysis.

Since its 54 pages long, I had to take some time to read it before I could make any comment on it. For a document that is very important, the silence is deafening. I guess thats what happened when the unveiling was held on the same day as a visit from someone as important as the US Secretary Defence. Perhaps those in Mindef will be more careful when planning the Defence Minister’s schedule. The Indonesian trip can wait…

Any how back to the NDP. It is the first comprehensive defence policy ever published in Malaysia so claimed Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his successor at Jalan Padang Tembak, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi. The NDP was formulated I believed in 2006 when Pak Lah was the Defence Minister cum PM. I believed there is a classified version of the NDP as the link on the Mindef website stated its DPN-Terbuka.

Since its 54 pages long I do not wish to comment on everything just what I believed is important.
From the foreword:

“Malaysia has set that maintenance of the national interest is the core to its sovereignty and independence. In connection thereto, the main objective of the National Defense Security is to protect and secure Malaysia’s area of interest from any threats either from abroad or domestic.

Malaysia’s areas of interest are as follows :

• The main area
• Offshore economic zone
• Strategic routes waters and air space

The main area covers Malaysia’s land area i.e. Peninsula Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak including its territorial waters and air space. These areas must be protected and secured best from any form of external invasion.

Offshore economic zone is the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the country’s continental shelf. This area is located at the South China Sea which is rich with fishery resources and hydrocarbon, and major contributor to the country’s economy.

Malaysia’s strategic routes waters and air space are as follows :

• water and air routes linking the Peninsula Malaysia and Sabah/Sarawak;
• Straits of Malacca and accessibility; and
• Straits of Singapore and accessibility.

The physical separation of Peninsula Malaysia with Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea requires the country’s main attention towards water and air space routes between both the territories. Any threats and interference at the water and air space routes will affect the integrity of both territories and Malaysia as a whole.

Based on the national interests that need to be maintained, Malaysia must have a level of defense capability that can ensure the key areas can be protected in any way. Malaysia also has to maintain and increase the capability to protect the sovereignty rights on the land and water territory including EEZ, continental shelf and all its strategic maritime and air space routes. Thus, capability development of MAF has to be based on the main purpose to protect the national interest of the three regions. In the meantime, the national defense is not limited to preparedness to face any conflict that might occur but a guarantee of independence and sovereignty, defending national interest and catalyst for national development programmes.”

The foreword sets the stage for the rest of NDP which stated the Malaysian defensive posture is based on deterrence and forward defence, which sounds pretty much like what our southern neighbour had been advocating for some time now.
The NDP however failed to pinpoint what kind of threats that Malaysia should deter and defend for apart from the now ubiquitous terrorist threats.
It does say that with a Forward Defence posture MAF need to develop a quick reaction force to response to such a crisis. Dominating the air, sea and land battle is the core strategy in winning such crisis, the NDP stated.
So what kind of force structure then? The NDP is silent on this issue just stating that we must have the capability in all three areas. Again, maybe and could be are not good enough.
So how many fighters we need to be able to defend the whole of Malaysia? How many ships to prevent any intrusions? Perhaps they have it in the classified NDP. Its a big mystery to you and me.
But as the NDP politely point out that since we are heavily involved in “peace time engagement” I am guessing that the powers that be feels that current MAF equipment is good enough during this hard times.
As usual the requirements do not match our funding reality. Its an open ended mission statement, a carte blanche, to spend money on defence without rhyme or reason, when money is available not because we have to to but because we are able to.
What is wrong with buying a few Super Hornets or a submarine? “Hey the NDP says we need to develop our forces to defend our interests….

Reading the NDP my impression is that the Army need to be down size to match the our new defensive posture. However I believed Mindef will not downsize the Army as it is eyeing an internal security role for the soldiers. Under the Internal Security chapter, the NDP warn that country while peaceful and prosperous still faced threats which could erupt at any time if not curbed from the beginning.
The threat according to the NDP is “The country current political climate showed a huge gap between the races. The unpredictable political situation has the potential to threaten the social stability and peaceful co-existence of the various races in the country.
It went to state that the situation was being exacerbated by leaders who played up sensitive issues to the point that they can disrupt harmony and public order. The situation it claimed was further fanned by NGOs which made various claims which can disrupt the racial harmony and endanger the national security.
However, the NDP did not make any recommendations on how to tackle the issue but when on instead to focus on the issue of illegal immigrants which it claimed was also a national security issue.

The NDP was also silent on how the government to set up a network centric operation infrastructure and cyber warfare which it stated were an important part of the national defence strategy. The requirements are identified but the five Ws and one H remained missing (What, where, why, when, who and how).

What does that all mean for MAF then? In reality nothing. After reading through the pages, one can make certain assumptions based on his or her understanding on the matter but one cannot be certain. One may surmised that the Army’s role has been marginalised by the NDP. Yes, it remained an important element of the MAF’s posture but advocating forward defence meant that funding should be focused on the air force and the navy. We cannot be funding MBTs when it is already decided that any fighting must be done as far away from the country. The boys in green must be livid…..

Budgetary wise, the NDP also failed spectacularly. It failed to state why the country need to allocate a certain amount of the budget for the MAF, even for the sake of maintaining current operations and equipment. There must be a minimum amount we need to spent every year or is that too hard to calculate?
Stating requirements and needs is one thing but being silent on mandatory allocation and allowing the government to dictate it on its whims, to me is dishonourable.

As the MAF is expected to be above politics, the NDP as a mission statement for the armed forces, it must state categorically how much its needs annually for it meet to the strategic needs of the nation instead of shying away from it. As it is the government will be under pressure to reduce defence allocation whenever the economy goes south, especially it cannot readily identify threats that necessitated a spending spree in spree. For example, why do need to buy a Super Hornet when the threat is a few men armed with rifles and suicide vests?
Implying that conventional crisis , could or may happened due to unresolved regional issues, will not inspire sympathy for MAF needs

As stated in the final chapter of the NDP, the budget, the government admitted that affordability is the basic considerations for any arms procurements. To me that its not enough. Considering whether we can afford a weapon system at the point of procurement is unwise.The government must consider a full service life cost as the main criteria. For example, the 18 Migs we purchased in 1993 was very affordable at the point of procurement but it was certainly not affordable in the long term.

And yes, before I forget, the NDP does not even mentioned UAVs.

–Malaysian Defence

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