Planning For Failure

RMN AW139 MOH M503-1 landing at the RMN airwing at Lumut naval base on January 2, 2023. RMN

SHAH ALAM: Planning for failure. Even though the current defence minister said that the ministry will abide by the Defence White Paper 2019 (DWP) and its 2021-2025 strategic plan, both documents remained as talking points only.

Yes, I understand that the DWP19 document available on the ministry website, is the public version, but I have been told that even the classified one do not have a detailed funding plan. That said I have not seen it so maybe I am wrong. I have been told though the Finance Ministry officials were dead set against a detailed funding plan, and this was evident as the DWP did not include any spending target to meet the aspiration of the Parliament passed document.

The Defence Ministry had hoped that they could include a 2 per cent allocation per the Malaysian GDP for defence with the DWP but this was not approved. This was not helped further when the-then Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu told the media that the ministry wanted the defence spending allocated at one per cent of the GDP!

Do note that for the 2023 budget, the Defence Ministry and the Armed Forces had asked for 1.5 per cent per the GDP as allocation but the previous government had allocated only RM17.4 billion or 0.98 per cent of the 2021 Malaysian GDP. A two percent allocation will likely be around RM34 billion. The actual defence budget for 2023 could even be lower than proposed one.

Why am I talking about the DWP then? Newly appointed RMN Chief Admiral Abdul Rahman Ayob in his first message to the service stated that the 15-to-5 plan will continue with some modifications. He did not reveal the modifications though. Abdul Rahman said as the ministry and the Armed Forces had stated that the DWP and Strategic Plan will go ahead, the RMN 15-to-5 plan will follow suit.

“However, with the changes in the geo-political landscape, financial restrictions and industrial capability constraints meant that the plan developed in the last five years need requires reasonable changes. Major projects such as the LCS – which is undergoing lengthy delays – will need to continue and the LMS Batch 2 have been registered for funding. Work on the new naval base in Bintulu, Sarawak, which will allow shorter access to areas of interest nearby will also be expedited.”

Do note that RMN can only modify the 15-to-5 plan as it cannot deviate too much from it, as it was part of the DWP that was passed by Parliament. This is the same with the Army and RMAF though they do not have a white elephant unlike the RMN. As such despite the geo-political landscape, financial restrictions and industrial capability constraints it still needed to be carry it out. Unless a new DWP is passed or after it lapsed in 2030.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

40 Comments

  1. In private sector, there is no way a future capability plan could be approved without including an agreed budget allocation.

    Same with KPI. KPI needs to be explicitly measurable, not with vague statements that cannot be measured like “tertinggi” or “terbaik”.

  2. For years the RMN has maintained that the 5/15 would be adhered to; what else could it have said? We all know that it has been as dead as a dodo for some time now [ever since we decided to get LMSs from China] and it’s good to hear the RMN acknowledging that some ”modifications” will be made.

    It was a good plan; for the time. Driven by political and financial realities then prevalent but it was simply not workable; as was told to me by various RMN people who had grave reservations about it. Not many realise that the plan was initially rejected by the pen pushing bureaucrats who like most bureaucrats and bean counters have a horizon as wide as a toilet bowl; it took intervention from the highest level to get approved.

  3. And….
    We will hear the budget allocation is enough to maintain RMN operation but RMN cry is louder and louder.

    0.98% of GDP is still bigger than TNI which is only 0.8%….lol

  4. Might as well put PT91Ms in front of the Finance Ministry in Putrajaya as they didn’t want to abide on the DWP passed by Parliaments. What’s the point of doing the DWP in the first place if we are not gonna follow it thru.

  5. Cannot simply compare with just the percentage as their GDP is bigger than us. If we get their budget and compare it to our GDP it will be more than 2 per cent budget

  6. Hazone – “What’s the point of doing the DWP in the first place if we are not gonna follow it thru”

    What’s the point of various things we do which we announce with such political fanfare but which we neglect to properly follow through with or implement.

  7. It seems like this country’s defence is grim dark. No good news whatsoever. Even if there is one, it’s minuscule compare to the bad news. Never to be fixed. Good luck for those few good men and women trying to fix this damn problem.

  8. I have no more words to describe the Govs attitude to defence. Just let the RMN , RMAF n Army tot. When an emergency occur n we cant defend ourselves , jus5 d9nt put tge blame on the ATM

  9. what else can we do as regular citizen? seem like every political parties are the same when it comes to defense.

    those in charge doesn’t seem too passionate about it either. i’m just going to believe that our defense situation is non-remediable and pointless to even be optimistic about it at this point.

    best wishes to our men & women in service and i truly mean that. i hope they aren’t demoralized by this ongoing-never-ending issue.

  10. “It was a feel-good project for those in power at that time…”
    Indeed its also what I said long ago and yet some forumers had the notion it will change our defence matters. Haha.

    I will repeat again, the DWP is nothing more than for PH politicians to shout back then and for rakyat consumption that they are “different” but for the Armed Forces it is lipservice and they only cared for their respective plans (15to5, CAP55, Next4Gen).

    “When an emergency occur n we cant defend ourselves”
    Nobody will have time to blame ATM. Those whom voted for politicians that didn’t care, than has the means would scramble and jump ship to another country if things get that bad. The politicians & leaders would be on the 1st plane, they would be on the 2nd & 3rd leaving, that is if they have left already by then.

  11. “Indeed its also what I said long ago and yet some forumers had the notion it will change our defence matters. Haha”

    Can’t blame them. Like with the 5/15 which some viewed as a panacea they were hoping that the White Paper would be a genuine concentrated attempt to provide some clarity and direction as to how we’d handle defence.

    Way before it was even rephrased i cautioned against over expectations and getting too excited over it. Unfortunately I was right but it is a good start nonetheless; something we should have done long ago.

    As I said then; the White Paper didn’t contain much of what we already didn’t know and was ambiguous in various areas.

    Imbalance – “those in charge doesn’t seem too passionate about it either”

    It’s the attitude and mindset which has to do with economic, social and historical factors we’ve been grappled with as a nation.

    Imbalance – “i’m just going to believe that our defense situation is non-remediable and pointless to even be optimistic about it at this point”

    You’ve described other things in this country as well.

  12. “some viewed as a panacea they were hoping”
    Simply because they thought all our nation’s problems are caused by one party and if they were removed everything would be better and fine & dandy. I cautioned that, and again proven right that everything was just smoke & mirrors illusion tricks to fool the rakyat. And well it worked since they got voted back again.

    “the White Paper didn’t contain much of what we already didn’t know”
    Again I did cautioned either it will be detailed and useful, not only to us but to any adversaries, or it will be syiok sendiri stunt not worth the paper it was printed on.

    “It’s the attitude and mindset”
    Indeed. We can blame it all on the politicians but those in charge are there because they were voted in by like minded rakyats. So who is really to blame.

  13. “Again I did cautioned either it will be detailed and useful”

    Kudos. I lack your foresight and powers of deductions; I merely guessed that it wouldn’t tell us much of what we already knew and that a lot would be ambiguous. I also pointed out that the key would also lie in reading between the lines : seeing what wasn’t mentioned.

  14. “Because the rot is so deep that it cannot be removed in a short time”
    It certainly doesn’t help when certain someone goes onto hiring his daughter into an unelected specially created position under flimsy pretense. If both sides of the divide does the same shit, then God save Malaysia.

  15. The slippery road to hell is paved with good intentions and if nobody raises the warning, by the time people realised it is too late.

  16. You know a position is flawed when 30 years of mismanagement is preferable to 2.5 years of attempting to be different or fix things. One can easily deduce why such a position is preferable based on the component parties of the different governments. People actually get confounded as to why why the country is going no where.

  17. ”The slippery road to hell is paved with good intentions and if nobody raises the warning, by the time people realised it is too late.”

    The road/hell” cliche aside; what if warnings are issued and are ignored/brushed aside because of a lack of transparency and oversight which are on paper intended to safeguard against the possibility of things going ratshit. We have seen this time and time again.

    kel – ”You know a position is flawed”

    ”You know a position is flawed” when there is a tendency to repeat the same mistakes over and over again even after billions have been squandered and when so called national imperatives takes precedence over issues of security.

  18. A position is truly flawed when one hopes those who screwed it up to be the ones to fix things. Still think one side is better than the other? Laughable. This is the reason why people gets their hopes disappointed and the country going nowhere.

  19. Actually no one is saying one party is better than the other. Most of the people here don’t take sides when it comes to political parties (at least not explicitly) because all parties are equally bad as I assume most have lived through the many administrations and experienced the many screw ups over the decades such as the F18/Mig29 split buys, NGPV, Nuri replacement, Hercules upgrade, SU-30, Scorpene, MRCA, SPH, MD530G, LMS1, LCS, Condor replacement, CSAR helicopter, LAH, MRSS, ASW helicopter, LCA, LMS2, etc, many of which remain in the pipeline for more than a decade, to see the issues plaguing national defense as a systemic issue not a political party issue. The screw ups has less to do with who is in power and more on how national defence is treated by society, and how the procurement system is set up. In other words, its not a political party issue, but a systemic issue.

  20. Personally procurement wise it mostly a political party issues. But even if the political issues is settled the MY public at large would still put precedent on national imperative then purely defensive posture.

  21. Zaft – “Personally procurement wise it mostly a political party issues”

    Incorrect. It’s not “a political party issues” but an issue tied to national policy as laid out or introduced by Dr.M decades ago.

    Zaft – “But even if the political issues is settled the MY public at large would still put precedent on national imperative then purely defensive posture”

    Yes, by now most here understand this.

    As I pointed out; public mindset/attitude towards defence matter is formed by economic, historical and social factors unique to the country…

  22. A systematic issue that nobody wants to touch and nobody can fix, but it doesn’t have to have one side go and makes things even worse. Buying wrong is bad, buying less is bad, but not buying anything is worse, and we are all clear which side wasn’t keen to buy things. Reason: because we’re not at war with anyone mah!
    Both sides are rotten just that one side stinks more in defence related matters.

  23. Hence the need to change the narrative. Need to stop the narrative that there is enough assets, everything is under control, there is no threat. The narrative needs to shift to we have underinvested in decades and it is affecting our effectiveness. Our threats continue to invest while we have not. We need to catch up or its a matter of time before we loose control. That may sound alarmist, but it is what’s needed to change how people think.

  24. Kel “Hence the need to change the narrative. Need to stop the narrative that there is enough assets, everything is under control, there is no threat”

    Narrative are set by the general public mindset/perception which as Azlan had explained “formed by economic, historical and social factors unique to the country” thus it much more democratic, not to mention easier to just complied with the voters wishes then to try to change their mindset.

    I don’t think that in general Malaysian believe there is enough asset nor there’s no threats but at the same time Malaysian also believe there’s always would be a white knight helping them as always and thus the lack of desire to invest in defense at the expense off free healthcare, less welfare or more taxes for example. Why would you when you could piggy back on the white knight? You could say it a very European mindset but still it still workable if the policy is done soundly.

    But our policy can’t be done soundly as Malaysian political class has historically been very powerful. Too powerful that often they would embarked on defence spending, agenda & policy that goes against the general public wishes that they claim to serve. For now these kind of political interference that’s need to stop and the voters need to retake their right to set the agenda rather than having the agenda set for them.

  25. Also what is the alternative? To depend on policy change but admit it will take a long time to change? Better to get the voters to change their views of security then to depend on policy to change voters views.

  26. Nobody claimed the other side wasnt shitty, furthermore they were already regarded as shitty anyways. But this side is torpedoing their goodwill by resorting to such tactics.

    “Better to get the voters to change their views” Policies are set by politicians, who are placed there by voters. The idea shouldn’t be to change policies everytime we change governments, that is why we remain a standstill cuz going from BN to PH to PN to BN to PH keeps on turning policies 180degrees. No, a more informed and matured voter base would be choosing governments that will set sound macropolicies and maintain them even if the flip flops each time. That is why matured democracies, whether it be Dems or Reps, would have the same foreign policies regardless who is in Government.

  27. In matured countries foreign and military policies do change when government change. But the policy change will still be guided by the strategic goals. Put it another way, different parties have different approaches to achieving the same big picture strategic goal. For example, ABC wants to remain number 1 superpower for the next 100 years, and the biggest threat is XYZ. That’s the big picture strategic goal. Different parties will pull different levers to achieve that goal. For example adjusting the economic (sanctions, restrictions, tariffs), diplomacy (like building and strengthening alliances), military (interventions, forward basing, aggressive military posture), information (subversion, narrative control) levers. The problem with Malaysia is there is no strategic direction or goal. Decisions are tactical and random. Strategic goals and security requirements are worded vaguely and generally for the purpose of not binding policy response to a specific goal. Yet, there is no desire to change that. There is nothing wrong with being more specific and forceful in stating strategic goals and security requirements.

  28. kel – ”In matured countries foreign and military policies do change when government change. ”

    Not necessarily…. Certain aspects might evolve or be revamped but will not necessarily change with a new government; irrespective of whether ”mature” or not. ”Mature” has zero to do with it.

    kel – ”Put it another way, different parties have different approaches to achieving the same big picture strategic goal. ”

    All parties; whether UMNO, DAP, PKR or Benny Hill’s are generally indifferent towards defence and in some case downright clueless due to historical, economic and social factors unique to the country. Unless we are confronted with a clear existential threat; all parties will continue to view defence as secondary and arms procurement will continue to be politically drive; part of the patronage system and will be a bit but never enough of anything; plus we will continue not to get the best value for what we’ve paid.

    Kel – ”The problem with Malaysia is there is no strategic direction or goal. Decisions are tactical and random.”

    Incorrect. The problem with Malaysia is that defence has traditionally been secondary for reasons that I’ve alluded to. We do think strategically but we don’t follow through and priorities lie elsewhere. The Peta Baru, declaration of the EEZ and other numerous things which have laid policy and strategic direction are BTW not ‘tactical and random” as you incorrectly claim.

    kel – ”There is nothing wrong with being more specific and forceful in stating strategic goals and security requirements.”

    ”There is nothing wrong” is living healthy; not giving bribes and not getting influenced by alcohol; so? As has been explained; a major issue is we do not have an existential threat or challenge to focus on; in contrast to other countries. In the past internal security was a focus; we lost that focus. We’re in a neither here nor there situation; we have and have long had some level of strategic direction [i.e. ties with Uncle Sam; partnerships with other countries; participation in various multilateral exercises and dialogues; etc] but we lack focus and drive. We’ve long lived a benign neighbourhood and historical, economic and social factors colour our mindset.

    Thanks awfully for splitting your long posts in paragraphs to make it easier for others to digest. It’s not that hard.

  29. Again paraphrasing. The different parties quote is in reference to matured country in which Malaysia isnt. It is followed by an example using the US although not explicitly, to illustrate. It is not a reference to Malaysia. The correct political parties reference should be Democratic and Republican. Both parties do have different policies but share the same strategic goal. Another paraphrasing that changes the meaning is on the policy change. The next part says any change will still be guided by the strageic goal. Which implies not all policies will change. If the exisiting policies in in line with the strategic goal and the party’s model, then maybe there is no change. You already justified the reason to change the narrative. We have lost focus. You also said we have some level of strategic focus. You already said unless we face an existential threat change will not come. So how? The problem is known. Society is ambivalent to strong military. There is historical context and politics to such behaviour. What is the solution? Do nothing? Hope politicians change the policy? Wait until existential threat before change? How has the worked out in the past 20 years?

  30. Has saying a country is a threat led to collapse of economic relations between countries? Who are the top 3 trading partners of the US, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Australia, and India?

  31. Kel – ”Again paraphrasing.”

    Absolute bullocks. Just because you on a different script; are going off tangent or are unable to fathom what’s being said don’t make rubbish claims of ”again paraphrasing”.

    Appreciate the tome but make the and understand the distinction between ”strategic” and ”tactical” with regards to national and geo-politics. Also; thanks for the lecture [reminds me of being in a international relations lecture when I was in university] but overall national policy with regards to this country has not changed fundamentally – I’m assuming we’re talking about the same Malaysia here?

    Thanks awfully for splitting your long posts in paragraphs to make it easier for others to digest. It’s not that hard…

  32. Republicans & democrat shares the same strategic goals in regards to China because that’s is what popular with the US voters. Their burocrat & military also wanted the same thus everyone in that country is on the same page regarding the issues. US economy afterall is highly reliance on it military strength & thus the ability to set the rules of the games.

    US like SG is a very stable country. Has stable economics & demographics with not much issues at home thus why they can afford to spend attention on external issue. We however are in the mids of democratisation, economics reform to escape the middle income trap & changing demographic thus even though we have strategic goal on external issue our attention is often drawn to domestic issues.

    But then again even if we solve our domestic issues we aren’t likely to stray far from our current strategic & tactical goal. We aren’t going to play a seclusive asymmetric defense position nor we going to be a strong US allies.

  33. zaft – ”nor we going to be a strong US allies.”

    And the U.S. will continue to be – after Australia – the one we train/exercise with the most and also the one we have the most extensive exchanges/dialogue with. Something Dr. M was lay the groundwork foe close defence ties; following a 1984 visit to the U.S. [including the Pentagon]; a relationship which has endured despite strains in bilateral ties.

  34. kel – ”You also said we have some level of strategic focus. You already said unless we face an existential threat change will not come. So how”

    I’ll tell you ”how”. We haven’t made the needed transition in a meaningful or tangible way; that’s ”how”. We make cosmetic and small changes but rarely beyond that. We say the obvious; we’re a maritime nation but fail to put the cash where our mouth is. Until or unless we face a clear threat; we’ll not change our ways and we’ll continue to get jokers who justify our very self defeating defence policy which has left the MAF is a neither here nor there position.

    On strategy/international relations/geo-politics you’ll have noticed that for the past few years we’ve been overly focused on domestic issues and have slipped a bit on regional ones. Also doesn’t help that we don’t have the same level of quality in the diplomatic service.

    kel – ”What is the solution? Do nothing? Hope politicians change the policy? Wait until existential threat before change? How has the worked out in the past 20 years?”

    You have the knack for sounding like a motivational guru at the type of talks which leave the audience spellbound under the – temporary – illusion they can do anything if they’d just put their minds to it.

    kel – ”How has the worked out in the past 20 years?”

    It worked quite well the last 20 years because the last 20 years we still lived in a relatively benign environment; unlike today when there are rapid changes in the geo-political scene.

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