Address to the Oslo Military Society given on 4 January 2010 by Defence Minister Grete Faremo:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to take my place on the speaker’s rostrum here at the Oslo Military Society this evening. The voters have spoken and have given the Stoltenberg II government a renewed mandate for a further parliamentary period. Personally I am new to my role as defence minister but I aim to “steer the same course as my predecessor”, as Dagbladet expressed it in its columns before Christmas. And of course I want to build on the good work done over the last period.
The Long-Term Plan for the Norwegian Armed Forces for the period 2009-2012 remains firmly in place and the work of strengthening our defence forces continues. Not least because the Armed Forces must continually adapt both to changing geopolitical circumstances and to the new demands of modern society. We are in the process of ensuring that we have very modern mission-oriented defence forces.
The new mission-oriented Armed Forces
In order to carry out the primary task of our Armed Forces, namely the defence of our political sovereignty and territorial integrity, we are developing a series of new military capabilities and upgrading others, not least those which are of particular importance in safeguarding our interests in the northern areas. There is thus a close linkage between the Government’s Northern Area strategy and the development of the Armed Forces.
Following a decade of comprehensive reforms, we are in the process of putting into place a modern defence organisation based on mission-oriented forces of high quality. The Armed Forces are going through a period of renewal with a level of investment which is without equal in recent times.
We are phasing in new frigates and missile torpedo boats and have procured new Coast Guard vessels. Our new transport aircraft meet the requirements for strategic lift capacity and the first of our new maritime helicopters will be delivered this year.
Norwegian army units will have increased firepower, mobility, protection and, not least, an enhanced capability for working with other forces in a joint operational environment. Amongst other equipment an entirely new artillery system, ARCHER, is being procured. We are updating our CV 90 armoured assault vehicles and will be acquiring new combat reconnaissance systems.
Our soldiers are getting new equipment including new hand weapons and communications equipment. This means a lot for the soldiers’ safety and combat capability.
The Home Guard has undergone a far-reaching quality reform. Two new vessels for the Naval Home Guard in 2010 constitute a further step towards a more flexible and modern Home Guard.
This defence organisation is substantially smaller in terms of manpower than the organisation in place during the Cold War period. But the quality of the units, their combat capability and their availability have been raised to a level that represents a quantum leap when compared to the old mobilisation defence forces. It is interesting, too, to note how some of the criticism of this restructuring sounds a few years on. The reduction in numbers began towards the middle of this decade. Since 2005 the Armed Forces have in fact grown in size Year on year.
The acquisition of a combat aircraft capability is by far the largest investment that we shall be making over the coming years.
The combat aircraft forms the cornerstone of a modern defence structure. These aircraft provide a flexible capability which can carry out a broad spectrum of missions associated with fire support, information gathering and the long range delivery of precision weapons.
As well as possessing the obvious capability to carry out missions independently, combat aircraft are essential to the ability to utilise sea and land forces to the full. These aircraft therefore represent a component of central importance to the overall ability of the Armed Forces to carry out fully integrated combined operations, or what we know as network-based defence.
When the new F-35 aircraft are in place, this will constitute an essential enhancement of our defence capability. In the intervening period we will be maintaining our inventory of F-16s in good shape through a continuing programme of upgrading.
Activities in the defence sector touch on many important aspects of economic policy. I have in mind the Armed Forces’ procurement of goods and services and our extensive programme of investment. In total we are talking about annual payments approaching NOK 20 billion to a range of Norwegian and foreign contractors. Our defence acquisition policy is based on the principal premise of open and free competition.
This government will follow an economic policy that stimulates the development of an innovative, knowledge-based and environmentally friendly economy. Where it is cost-effective and compatible with the requirements of the defence sector, the Government will use these procurement projects actively in, for example, furthering the development of industrial competence in Norway. In this way we can ensure that employment and exports also benefit. It is with some satisfaction that I can report that exports of Norwegian military materiel have experienced strong growth in recent years. There can be little doubt that this is a manifestation of the success achieved by the Government in strengthening the partnership between the Armed Forces and industry. It is also reassuring to know that this growth is taking place within the clear guidelines set by one of the world’s strictest export control regimes.
Industrial collaboration associated with the acquisition of materiel for the Armed Forces is important in this context. Offset purchasing is a central element and a powerful tool in our procurement policy. As a result of offset agreements Norwegian companies receive orders worth in the region of NOK 2 billion annually from foreign contractors. Either in the form of purchases of products and services or as contributions to research and development activity, or as industrial collaboration projects between Norwegian and foreign companies.
Compared with other support arrangements, the income accruing through offset arrangements represents the most important source of economic support for the defence and security related sectors of industry in Norway.
The offset agreements contribute to the strengthening of national industrial competence, the development of new technology and market opportunities. In doing so, they also benefit other non-military areas of industry. The development of military high technology often leads to products and activities that can be exploited by other technology-based industrial enterprises. Military technology can contribute to industrial innovation and the creating of added value for Norway in the future, while also providing a basis for new start-ups. Defence procurement can, in other words, act as an important catalyst for civil enterprises in Norway in a broad range of areas.
The acquisition of new combat aircraft serves as a good example. The Ministry of Defence lays down strict requirements for the industrial plan to be submitted by the aircraft manufacturer. We then, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, work actively to ensure that this industrial plan will include long-term, concrete and realistic opportunities for Norwegian industry. For I need hardly remind you that a strong and robust national defence industry is of major importance to the Norwegian Armed Forces themselves.
The Government’s objective is to ensure that Norway has a modern defence organisation with Army, Navy, Air Force and Home Guard, a defence organisation with relevant capabilities covering the whole of the crisis spectrum. That is why I called my talk “Capable and ready for action – Norway’s armed forces 2010”.
My aim has been to show that our Armed Forces today do have that capability to act – both home and away. As upholders of our sovereignty in the cold of the High North and as contributors to international missions in the barren mountains of Afghanistan and under the burning African sun.
In a Europe where defence budgets in some countries are being cut by as much as 30 percent, Norway is in a situation where real growth in the defence budget is possible. We are pressing on with the continuing development of our Armed Forces. And we are carrying out the most comprehensive restructuring process of any in the Norwegian public sector. And this includes the phasing in of a great deal of modern materiel. This restructuring naturally involves challenges.
The level of exercising is not as high as we would wish and the introduction of certain new capabilities is running late. That said, it is nevertheless a privilege to be able to make these changes without having to make budget cuts. The alternative to restructuring and modernisation is not the status quo but a gradual deterioration in quality and capability. And that is not an option. Therefore we must not lose sight of the objective. Possession of Europe’s most modern defence forces is now within reach.
In the time to come, we are thus in a situation where we have capacity to spare and with it an opportunity to focus still further on competence building and the development of ethics, openness and a culture of leadership throughout the Norwegian Armed Forces.
Norway is also playing its part in the development of European and global security policy. I have described the shaping of NATO’s new Strategic Concept as an example of this. Our activities within the UN and with the EU are directed towards the same ends. We are making a contribution to global peace and security – and that, after all, is what all our defence work is about. And behind this stand our rock solid Armed Forces, capable and ready for action.
Thank you for your attention. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full text of the speech (HTML format) on the Norwegian MoD website.