WikiLeaks cable: National party defense policy continues Labour course

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

October 16, 2007
National party defense policy continues Labour course


date:2007-10-16T18:46:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:07WELLINGTON763
destination:VZCZCXRO0962 PP RUEHCHI RUEHFK RUEHHM RUEHKSO RUEHPB DE
RUEHWL #0763/01 2891846 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 161846Z OCT 07 FM AMEMBASSY
WELLINGTON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4809 INFO RUEHZU/ASIAN
PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 0697
RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA 0663 RUEHBN/AMCONSUL MELBOURNE 0118
RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY 0581 RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC RHEHAAA/NATIONAL
SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC RHHJJAA/JICPAC
HONOLULU HI RHHMHBA/COMPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM
HONOLULU HI
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:07WELLINGTON757
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000763

SIPDIS

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PACOM FOR FPA, PACFLT FOR FPA, OSD FOR JESSICA POWERS
E.O...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000763

SIPDIS

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PACOM FOR FPA, PACFLT FOR FPA, OSD FOR JESSICA POWERS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2022
TAGS: MARR, MASS, PGOV, PREL, NZ, US
SUBJECT: NATIONAL PARTY DEFENSE POLICY CONTINUES LABOUR COURSE
REF: WELLINGTON 757
WELLINGTON 00000763 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: Classified by DCM David J. Keegan. Reasons E.O. 12958, 1
.4 (a), (b), (C), and (d).

1. (SBU) Summary. National's recent "discussion paper" on foreign policy, trade, and defense, committed the party to continue the rebuilding of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) initiated by Labour PM Clark. National MP Wayne Mapp argued that it was Labour who began its term in 1999 by accepting and implementing a new approach proposed by National. He endorsed Labour's emphasis on a maritime patrol and logistics support role for the Navy and said that the abortive F-16 sale of 1999 was an ill-conceived effort to buy American friendship. The challenge ahead would be to deepen capabilities without substantially expanding the defense budget much beyond the current 1.1% of GDP. Approaching 2011, the government would confront the need for a new maritime patrol aircraft, a possible second multi-role vessel, and
perhaps a frigate. He agreed that reliability and sustainability for all services would be key challenges. End Summary.

2. (SBU) National Party Defense spokesman, MP Wayne Mapp, told DCM that National's defense policy laid out in its recent discussion paper (see Reftel for overview) was the product of many years of discussion dating back to a Parliamentary Select Committee that National Party MP Derek
Quigley had chaired in 1999. He noted that many of the decisions taken by the Labour Party in 1999 were in fact National Party initiatives. Thus it made sense that National is now largely endorsing the approach that Labour has pursued over the past eight years. After all it is the approach they designed.

F-16s and Buying Friends

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3. (SBU) The exception was Labour's decision to cancel the sale of F-16s, which the then National Government had wanted to secure. Mapp explained that only the long time it took for the first delivery gave Labour the opening to cancel the contract when it came into office. He noted that National chose in its last days in office however not to push to accelerate lease/purchase arrangement, which would have gotten at least a few aircraft to NZ and made the contract impossible for the incoming Labour Government to cancel.

4. (SBU) Mapp said that the National Government had been considering either a third ANZAC class frigate to improve relations with Australia or the F-16 purchase to improve relations with the U.S. They decided that the politics of the U.S. relationship made the F-16 purchase more important. He said he shared, albeit very quietly, Labour's judgment that the F-16s did not make operational sense for the NZDF. They
would simply soak up too much funding.

Labour Policy is Correct

------------------------

5. (SBU) Mapp gave credit to the Labour Government for following through on the approach that the National Government had developed in the 1990's. It emphasized certain key competencies: a small expeditionary ground force, with both special ops and mil/police expertise; maritime surveillance and patrol using both air and sea; and a limited transport capability using the MRV and the C-130s. He said
that a new National Government would continue that mix.

6. (SBU) He added that he was confident that a future National government would keep military funding at the current 1.1%, perhaps a little more, which would be sufficient to continue and even deepen the support for the New Zealand Defence Force's current capability mix. Adding a combat air would require going up to 1.5% of GDP, which would
not be politically sustainable.

The Future for the NZDF

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WELLINGTON 00000763 002.2 OF 002

7. (SBU) The challenge would be two-fold. First, before 2011, NZ would need to decide on the next generation of acquisitions. He cited particularly the need to replace the current Orion maritime patrol aircraft with the new generation of U.S. aircraft, Poseidon, which are also being acquired by Australia. The second challenge would be whether
and where to deepen capabilities. He noted that there could be a real value to acquiring a second MRV, a sister ship to the Canterbury. A second option would be a third ANZAC class frigate.

8. (SBU) Any of these choices would only make sense in close coordination with Australia. The Poseidon would most effective if its use were coordinated with the Australian military The MRV would provide a capability to the combined Aus/NZ military, but would not really be appropriate for NZDF use alone. The frigate would need to be completely
interoperable and logistically compatible with Australia.

The Challenge of Sustainability

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9. (C) DCM noted that the approach Mapp laid out made sense and seemed to track very closely with the current Labour Government's approach to defense strengthening, which we believed had been valuable. The challenge was to ensure that it was sustainable. Mapp said that he was confident that current levels were sustainable, but 1.5%, even 1.3% would be very difficult. DCM also noted that we pay very close attention to NZ's efforts to ensure that its forces are logistically sustainable. We recognized that the could not do everything, but it was important to continue recent progress in that area. In addition, intelligence coordination and NZ's recent efforts to provide insights to the U.S. were highly valued.

KEEGAN

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