This article by Norwegian Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen was published in several newspapers in December 2020.
The Government's defense policy has one goal: To strengthen defense capability through increased budgets, modernization and reform. We have prioritized a long-term commitment to defense and security. We see results of that today, but the work is not finished. It continues with the new long-term plan for the defense sector.
I am pleased that we have now reached agreement on the entirety of the long-term plan for the defense sector, and that the plan has been strengthened with new measures in the negotiations. Although there is disagreement about some of the measures, there is today broad agreement in the Storting on the need to continue to focus on defense.
Decisions must be followed up with money. In the defense sector, investment costs are high and it takes a long time to acquire new equipment. It is crucial that the increased ambitions that came through the negotiations are financed so that the strengthening of the Armed Forces can continue.”
Norway is today better equipped to safeguard our security interests in a rapidly changing world, thanks to the fact that we have taken action and reversed developments in the Armed Forces. In recent years, the security situation has deteriorated, both in strength and scope - also challenged by the corona epidemic.
In the next few years, Norway must maneuver in a challenging security policy landscape. This challenges Norwegian and Allied security. We must take into account a further negative development in our immediate areas.
The defense in the north
The government still emphasizes contributing to a stable and predictable development in the north. The High North is Norway's most important strategic area of responsibility, and with this plan we prioritize increased presence and preparedness in the north. We strengthen the ability to establish national and allied situational awareness, and we strengthen our overall ability to assert sovereignty in the north.
The Armed Forces' increased ability to plan for, receive and operate with Allied forces contributes to increasing NATO's credibility in the High North.
We strengthen Brigade Nord's operational capability with the establishment of four mechanized battalions. To increase firepower and operational capability, we are acquiring new tanks in the Army. The introduction of long-range precision fire will further increase this capability. This will fulfill a key NATO goal for Norway.
There will be increased activity in Finnmark through strengthening the border guard, building up the Porsanger Battalion and Finnmark Land Defense. We are strengthening the Armed Forces with capabilities such as submarines, maritime patrol aircraft, upgrading of air defense systems, and F-35 combat aircraft. These strategic capabilities will be important for strengthening the Armed Forces' combat power in a joint operational framework.
We are establishing cadre-based units for host country support to support Allied reception. The establishment of the advanced base for NATO's combat aircraft readiness at Evenes is underway and on schedule. Porsangmoen and inner Troms will be further developed at the same time as we build up new units in the Army. Ramsund naval station is further developed, among other things, to house a new task squadron in the Marine Hunter Command.
Increased staffing in 2021
There has been broad agreement in the Storting on the need for more personnel in the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces' personnel structure will grow by about 5,200 employees and soldiers over the next eight years, which constitutes the most comprehensive personnel increase in the Armed Forces in several decades. We agree to increase the number of man-years in the Armed Forces to 310 already in 2021. This increase will be arranged in line with the recommendations in the Chief of Defense's Council.
I understand that some may be impatient, but it is important to remember that several of our competence environments are small after many years of dismantling after the Cold War, and this takes time to rebuild. We will train new personnel and introduce new equipment with associated new buildings, at the same time as we will maintain preparedness and operations within the allocated financial framework. It requires a lot from the Armed Forces.
A good plan was improved
Another key issue from the consideration of the long-term plan in the Storting is new helicopters. The government has emphasized that the compensation for the Bell 412 helicopter type will provide a capacity that is better adapted to the needs of the special forces. It is now agreed that a helicopter squadron will also be established at Bardufoss to support and cooperate with the Army. It will take time to train more pilots, and it will require investments in equipment, building and construction. This work begins now.
We are committed to continuing our efforts in the Armed Forces and we are committed to implementing the changes and measures contained in the long-term plan. The Armed Forces has become, and will continue to be, better able to solve its tasks. With the agreement that has now been reached on the long-term plan, we are creating the necessary predictability for the way forward. This is good for the defense of Norway. We must continue to strengthen our ability to deal with the unforeseen.