Army Summit 2016 - Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide’s opening remarks

Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide held these opening remarks at "Army Summit 2016" in Oslo, September 20th 2016.

The Norwegian Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide speaking at the Norwegian Army Summit 2016.
The Norwegian Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide speaking at the Norwegian Army Summit 2016. Credit: Torgeir Haugaard, FMS

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Generals, admirals, distinguished guests. Good morning, everyone.

I am pleased to once again be given the opportunity to speak at the annual Army Summit, and welcome all of you to a day packed with insight, critical questions and important discussions. The Army Summit is one of the absolute highlights in my calendar every year.

This year’s Summit takes place at an especially important time. On June 17 the Government presented the new Long Term Defence Plan to Parliament, proposing a three-step strategy to improve our defence capability both in the short and long-term perspective. It is a 4-year plan with a 20-year perspective. It comes with an historic increase in the defence budget of 165 billion Norwegian kroner over the next 20 years, and represents a major strengthening of our Armed Forces beginning with next year’s budget. An increase of at least 7.2 billion between 2017 and 2020 will ensure an immediate improvement of our operational capability. That is on top of the billions in additional funding for the new F-35s. No long term defence plan has even been close to this level of budget increase.

It is no secret that our Armed Forces have been insufficiently funded for years. When we couple that with increased costs, advancements in military technology and a deteriorated security situation, it is clear that we have reached a critical point. We must make significant changes to avoid rendering our Armed Forces incapable of doing their job.

We started out by conducting an open an honest assessment of the real state of our armed forces. A lot is in good condition, but we also have some major challenges. To get these challenges on the table was and is the only way forward to gain understanding for the need for additional funding and necessary reform. So our point of departure when building up our Armed Forces, is that not everything in our structure is working today.

I am very pleased about the ongoing debate on the much needed strengthening of our military. Because our safety and security concerns everyone – it is not a “special interest”.

 

The topic of this year’s Army Summit is how technology is changing the face of war. It is a timely and relevant topic; It is high on the agenda in NATO, and high on the agenda in our own ministry. The topic has greatly influenced the overall design of the new Long Term Defence Plan. Technological development gives us new opportunities, but it also makes us more vulnerable.

 

In addition to a substantial increase in defence spending, we have been clear on the need for reform and modernisation. We have proposed necessary changes and adjustments in order to strengthen our overall defence capability. As for the Army, we are immediately increasing funding to make sure our current structure is working, and we are strengthening the Army’s presence in Finnmark. On that foundation we can step by step improve our readiness and combat power. Over the next four years we will invest between five and six billion kroner in the CV90s, close air defence, trucks and personal equipment. In addition, 25 billion kroner is set aside for other investments in the Army between 2019 and 2028.

But we need to conduct a comprehensive analysis of our future land power, to make sure we spend the money right.

There are different opinions about this and I welcome the debate. But let me also be clear: The 25 billion is not going anywhere. It is earmarked for investments in the Army, and it will be used for investments in the Army.

 

Ground forces are essential. They play a decisive role in almost all conflicts, and are therefore an immensely important part of our Armed Forces. Our ability to deploy military force, with the right capabilities and on short notice to where it is needed, is crucial in any foreseeable defence structure. That is why we, when designing the Army and Home Guard for tomorrow, need to make sure we do it right, and we need to look at them together. This is perhaps the most pressing and important issue on the table today, and I will get back to this in a minute.

But before I do, I want us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I want to highlight two key points:

 

First of all, our total, national military capability is the combined effect of the resources and capabilities of all branches of our Armed Forces. This is especially true in a modern and technology based military, where the total effect is larger than the sum of its parts. It is the smartness, versatility, combat power and sustainability of the overall defence structure that counts, and how the different parts work together as toothed wheels. For example, our new F-35 fighter aircraft is not just a major improvement for our Air Force; it is a force multiplier for our Navy as well as our Army, and thus for our entire Armed Forces. Without airspace control, we are vulnerable on land and at sea. But that does not mean we need less capable ground forces.

 

On the contrary.

It means we need more capable ground forces.

And capable is the key word here. A capable ground force, be it the Army or the Home Guard, is a force properly trained, equipped and funded. But just as importantly, a capable ground force is a force optimally integrated within a solid, joint defence structure, in an allied framework and adapted to the tasks it is set to solve.

That brings me to my second point: When designing our Armed Forces for tomorrow, we need to decide what it is we need our military to do. And that is, of course, based on our ability to analyse the world around us and predict what challenges we may face tomorrow. And, equally important, as a democratic nation we also have to agree on how much money we as a society are willing to spend on security. We need to find the balance between what is militarily necessary, economically possible and sustainable over time.

Recent years have shown us that the security situation, above anything else, is unpredictable and complex. Our Armed Forces must be prepared to handle a wide range of challenges, both at home and abroad, with little or no warning time in an ambiguous and changing security environment. The Russian military build-up, their willingness to use military force, and the regional and global threat from ISIL are all examples of this new situation. And many of the threats and challenges we meet today shows us both the role of new technology and that geographical distance no longer equals security.

It is clear that we, just like our allies, have to think differently about the structure of our Armed Forces.

The work on the new Long Term Plan has been demanding. We have turned every stone with the help of our own resources as well as independent expertise.  At no point in modern history has our Armed Forces been so thoroughly analysed.  It is clear that our Armed Forces do not have the readiness and sustainability required to face the development we have seen in recent years. It is also clear that certain key elements need a closer look still. Partly because the current defence plan was designed in 2012, after two decades of peace and stability in our surroundings, and partly because it has been insufficiently funded.

Years of insufficient funding have eaten away at our operational readiness. As politicians, we have simply not been willing to pay for the decisions we have made about our Armed Forces.

 

That ends now.

 

We have already ramped up funding in several key areas. And in this plan, we propose significant changes and adjustments as well as a major increase of the defence budget, starting from next year. We are also including the actual cost increase of military equipment – or the experienced defence inflation - in our calculations, which is something previous long term plans have failed to do. This has huge bearing on the economical sustainability. Without including this cost increase in our calculations, the armed forces will continue to lose purchasing power year after year, undermining operational capability as a result. This has been a recurring headache for as long as anyone can remember.

 

Our three-step strategy starts with an immediate first step: We will make sure that the capabilities we already have are operational - especially within the Army. Today, a large portion of the army is on low readiness. We need spare parts, ammunition, maintenance and stocks. We also partly lack the logistical capabilities needed to properly respond to, and sustain, a sudden crisis or armed conflict.

Step two in the plan involves increasing the level of activity across all services. We will sail more, fly more, train and exercise more and improve our overall operational capability. But this rests on the first step: It makes no sense to talk about increased activity if our main battle tanks are not operational due to lack of spare parts.

As a third step, we will invest in new, strategic capabilities, including massive investments in the Army. The procurement of the new F-35 fighter aircraft is on schedule. Coupled with the Joint Strike Missile, it represents a dramatic improvement of our military capabilities. As do new submarines, Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and air defence systems.

We are making significant investments in intelligence, surveillance, survivability and combat power to strengthen Norway and NATO’s ability to prevent and deter use of force, and maintain situational awareness in the North Atlantic and the High North. Modern, high-end interoperable and adaptable land forces are a vital part of this picture. And as mentioned: Major investments will follow.

 

It takes time to change, adjust and adapt any country’s Armed Forces. The decisions we make today will have great consequences for the future. The security situation, however, does not wait for us to catch up. That is why the first, immediate step of improving the readiness and sustainability of our Armed Forces starts today, as our highest priority.

We are postponing, by one or two years, some of the planned, large investments in the Army pending the outcome of the comprehensive Land Power Analysis. But the funding for the investments, more than 25 billion kroner, is set aside in the plan, earmarked for the Army.

The decision to conduct a Land Power Analysis has sparked an interesting debate. We see a range of different views on the desired size, capabilities and locations of the Army and Home Guard. Some have claimed that conducting the analysis, makes the long term defence plan a downgrading of our ground forces.

 

I could not disagree more.

 

It is exactly because ground forces are so important that we need the best solution that fits our overall defence structure and the new security situation. The defence planning process revealed diverging viewpoints and recommendations regarding ground forces. The fact that there are so many different opinions regarding our ground forces only confirms the need to look at this more closely.

Still, some people claim that the analysis is unnecessary because we have analysed our ground forces before, and that we now must focus on implementing the plans we already have.

 

I understand this argument.

But I don’t think it is a strong one.

 

The security situation has changed, and we need to change with it. That goes for all branches of the Armed Forces. And when making those changes, we must look at the totality of our defence capabilities to ensure optimal integration and efficiency. We cannot rely on previous land power analyses alone. Because no previous analysis takes into consideration the new long term defence plan or the full scope of the technological possibilities and risks of today. And they do not reflect the increasingly unpredictable security situation that has kept changing also after the Chief of Defence issued his recommendations in October 2015. In addition, previous analyses have yielded very different results. These factors confirm the need to conduct a thorough analysis now, to make sure we invest the 25 billion in the right capabilities and technology.

 

We have a relatively small Army, but with some of the best and most skilled soldiers in the world. Never before in the history of our Armed Forces have we had so many soldiers and officers with real operational and tactical experience. You have been tested in some of the harshest conditions on this planet; from intense fighting in Afghanistan to extreme winter in the High North. And you have proven yourselves time and time again both at home and abroad, receiving praise from our friends and allies for your professionalism and skills. I just had visits from my good friends and colleagues Ashton Carter and Ursula von der Leyen, and they could not compliment you enough.

However, in changing times we have to challenge existing plans and concepts to make sure that our Armed Forces in sum will still be relevant tomorrow. It is the only responsible thing to do, and it opens up a lot of possibilities.

The topic of this year’s Army Summit plays right into this; how technology is changing the face of war. Though it is not a silver bullet, we must acknowledge the consequences of the staggering technological development in the military domain. And that acknowledgement, together with the rapid changes in the security situation, must be reflected in our defence planning.

The Land Power Analysis will be conducted swiftly and efficiently, and starts this fall. It will include the Army and the Home Guard, and our leading defence institutions and key experts. Not least, the advice of the Chief of Defence will weigh in heavily. I also want to include those who deal with these questions on a daily basis. So, in the coming weeks I will take my tea cup with me and come visit the Army and the Home Guard, to ask for your advice and input before shaping the mandate. There are dilemmas, opportunities and many topics to cover. Together we will challenge the strengths and explore the weaknesses of today’s structure. And together we will come up with the best possible solution for tomorrow’s land power, whether it is close to our current structure, or turns out to be something different.

 

To sum up: Ground forces are an absolutely indispensable part of our Armed Forces.

There will always be differences of opinions, and I welcome the open debate. I do, however, think that we all can agree that we owe it to our soldiers and officers, to our people and to our allies, to make sure that our Armed Forces have the right tools, training, capabilities and funding needed to keep us safe also tomorrow. Whatever tomorrow may bring. That is the single goal of the new defence plan, and the purpose of the Land Power Analysis.

I will see you again for dinner tonight!

Thank you.