Historical archive

“A more open Defence – a more sustainable defence policy”

Historical archive

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Defence

New Year Address to the Oslo Military Society given on 6 January 2014

New Year Address to the Oslo Military Society given on 6 January 2014 by Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.

New Year Address to the Oslo Military Society given on 6 January 2014 by Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.

*Held in Norwegian - this is a translation of that speech - check against original*


Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen. A Happy New Year!

It is nine years since a Conservative minister spoke these words from this platform.

I am happy to stand at this rostrum once again and it is with pride and great pleasure that I open this year’s series of lectures in this, the spiritual home of military and defence policy.

During four years as Chair of the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs and defence, it has been my privilege to be able to visit elements of the Norwegian Armed Forces both at major bases and establishments and on deployment in smaller units, for example during exercises, at medal ceremonies, on patrol along our coast and while serving on missions abroad. In the course of my first weeks as Defence Minister I have been able to continue meeting Norwegian soldiers who are making such an outstanding contribution both here at home and in international operations abroad. They are doing a job for us all. They are putting their own safety, and their own lives, at risk in the cause of our peace, freedom and security.

Let me therefore make use of this occasion to send New Year greetings to all the men and women of our Armed Forces. I would extend especially warm greeting to all who are serving on missions abroad on behalf of Norway. Not least, my best wishes for the coming year go to the officers and crew of the frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad, currently taking part in the international operation to rid Syria of chemical weapons.

These meetings with service personnel and other employees have shown me that, in very many respects, the Norwegian Armed Forces are in excellent shape. They have shown me that the modernisation and restructuring of our forces have given us an altogether new and better defence capability. There are few, I believe, who would deny this. 

We have defence forces equipped with modern platforms. We have a highly competent organisation manned by very able personnel. The Armed Forces deliver results of very high quality. We see this on a daily basis in operations here at home on land, in the air and in Norwegian waters. We have seen it in the Gulf of Aden and today we see it in the Mediterranean, in Afghanistan, in Africa and in the Middle East.

At the start of a new year, therefore, it is good to be able to state with confidence: We have defence forces that maintain the highest standards of quality.

The picture so far is one that we recognise. This is a story that has been told many times before, not least from this platform. In recent years this description has been spiced with expressions such as “the restructuring is complete”, “fully funded defence”, and that we are “fully balanced”.

On occasions it has occurred to me that such catchy phrases do not convey the full reality – that they give the facts a superficial gloss. All too often we have been provided with what I would call an “edited reality”. Let me be clear about it. I am not comfortable with this kind of rhetoric.

My story this evening will therefore be a little different. It is anchored firmly in three important principles: openness, realism and sustainable solutions. I should like this government’s defence policy to be characterised by, and measured against, these principles. Many of you may well recognise my message here this evening. For the challenges I see today are to a great extent the same as those I saw prior to 16 October.

I am not here to embellish or put a gloss on anything. I want rather to talk about the challenges that face our Armed Forces today and in the future. I want to see the challenges put on the table. Only then can we find solutions.

We want to strengthen our operational capability. To achieve this our armed forces have to be funded on a sustainable basis. And we have to be sure that the decisions that are taken are viable in a long-term perspective. This requires realism and a generous helping of sober reflection.

In simple terms we have to know whether today’s plans and resource assumptions can ensure that Norway’s armed forces will be in a position to fulfil their tasks in a 10-15 year perspective. In other words, are today’s plans and assumptions sustainable over time or must something be adjusted?

In this government’s manifesto we write that “There is a continuing need for increased funding, modernisation and reform”. And all these factors do have to be looked at. Above all we have to take carefully considered steps towards the allocation of steadily increasing and more lasting funding.

We will prioritise the use of resources in the way that we consider right. That means that we have to look very carefully at how we can fulfil our tasks more rationally and more efficiently. The key questions must always be: “Will this enhance our defence capability?” and “Does this contribute to sustainability over time?”

It is this that I want to talk to you about this evening. I want to talk about the Government’s and my own vision for Norwegian defence policy.

As my starting point I would take three fundamental questions:

Firstly: Is our national defence as it stands today an unconditional success story, or do we face obvious challenges in the years ahead?

Secondly: What trends in the development of security policy do I see as we stand on the threshold of 2014?

And thirdly: How should this overall outlook affect the Government’s choices and priorities?

Let me start by talking about the Armed Forces that we now have.


Taking stock

It is a sign of Norwegian democracy’s good health that governments come and go without undue drama. A new government and a new minister can come in, assess future choices in a new light and challenge established truths.

For me, as defence minister, it is all about taking the pulse of the defence forces we have today. Where are things going well and where are they going less well? Rather like drawing up ones estate. It is important to spend time on it. What our sector least deserves is the taking of hasty decisions.

At the same time, it is not my intention to dwell too long on the politics of previous governments. Nor to talk down the policies of the last government, at least no more than is necessary. There is much that is good and that we must keep. My aim is to change what should be changed and to improve what should be improved. And first and foremost I want to look to the future.

For me it is also important to build on the long-established threads that run through Norwegian defence and security policy:

NATO as the bedrock

The essential importance of the UN and the rule of international law.

Our cooperation with neighbours, friends and partners in the Nordic area and in Europe.

Our presence in the High North.  

A broad consensus is a strength that we shall build on wherever we can create it. Consensus also characterised the lead in to the fundamental restructuring of the Armed Forces. Changes in direction and tempo initiated some 15 years ago were essential and they have taken us a long way.

I should like to give the previous government credit for much of the work that has already been done. Together with the Armed Forces themselves and the defence sector as a whole, the last government ensured that we were well on the way to achieving many of the goals that we set ourselves in the restructuring. And together they have helped to bring us to where we are today, a country possessing flexible defence forces, equipped with modern materiel and manned by competent personnel. And the toughest tasks have been faced and overcome by the Norwegian Armed Forces themselves.

The quality of the contributions being made today by Norway in international operations has already been mentioned but is worth reemphasising. We have taken a quantum leap forward. We now have small but highly capable units. These can be deployed on international missions and on current – and no less demanding – peacetime tasks here at home.

Another of our strengths is the cross-party backing that the Storting has given to our participation in the major military operation that is now drawing to a close. Norway’s participation in ISAF has been an acid test – especially for the Army – but participation has of course touched every branch of the Norwegian Armed Forces.

Very many Norwegians can look back on time as soldiers in Afghanistan. Their contribution has also been of central importance in the establishment of a new and better policy for our veterans. We now have an entirely new organisation for looking after our soldiers before, during and following their service in international operations. This is something to which this government will continue to give a high priority.

The same applies to the emphasis placed on competence and recruiting. During the first interview I gave as Defence Minister I was asked what was the single most important area for me to address as a newly appointed minister. The answer was simple. It is “personnel and competence”.

I would put it even more strongly: For me this should be the starting point in ensuring that in future our armed forces will have the necessary operational capability. Or, as the former Inspector General Norwegian Army, Major General Per Sverre Opedal put it – from this very platform: “We must equip the man, not man the equipment.” That means that we must invest in those who will make up our future defence forces. And we must position ourselves so that our sector continues to be seen as a relevant and attractive employer.

So this government is starting out with values that differ from those of the previous government in a number of areas. I said earlier that openness is important to me. And I am not referring to openness as a comforting generality, but real openness. In particular, openness means contributing to a true picture of the reality.

I want to see openness as far as is humanly possible within the bounds that naturally exist. A good deal of defence related information is classified and access to it is regulated by law. In my view, however, there is still room for further openness within these legal constraints.

I would like to see more honest and straightforward information about the challenges facing our Armed Forces. I also hope to help close the gap between rhetoric and reality. We want to bring the real situation into the open. In this connection I want to listen both to our own personnel and to the voices of our critics. I want to know where it hurts if the shoe does not fit. We must allow plenty of room for discussion and the reconciling of conflicting views before decisions are taken but that does not mean that implementation of policy, once agreed, should resemble an endless seminar. 

We politicians honestly do believe that the decisions we take are for the best. But now and then we lack the ability to admit that we were wrong. I believe that we must resist the temptation to say that we always get it right, that everything we do is good and that most things are perfect in our field, because that is certainly not the case.

I believe that we can do better in publicising just what is good and what is less good. If we are to inspire confidence in all the good aspects of Norwegian defence today, we must also talk about the challenges. We need to convey the whole picture, not just parts of it. And we want to use the right pictures and the right concepts.

The principle of diverting resources away from lower priority purposes in order to bolster our operational capability will be important to this government too, but at the same time we want to convey honestly just what this involves: really tough re-prioritisation internally and highly demanding changes to improve efficiency. It is simply not enough to move numbers from one sheet to another within the constraints of a budget that is already tight, and to call it “strengthening”. The money has, of course, to be taken from somewhere else and that must be made clear.

Instead of the creative use of pictures, I am convinced that we should talk about the reality as it is. That means that we must also talk about the assumptions on which our mission-oriented defence is based.

This means, among other things, making clear that we, like other comparable countries, have opted for a defence based on graduated preparedness and, no less importantly, that a mission-oriented defence with the whole structure at immediate readiness can never be a defence that is in “full balance”. I believe that we can safely say that such a defence would be hugely costly and substantially under financed.

So we must regularly review the assumptions underlying the degrees of readiness that we have chosen. That is to say the balance between units actually at immediate readiness and units that require force build-up before deployment. This assessment is both a military and a political one.

And what is “full balance” if, in fact, parts of the adopted structure are lacking in some respects or have a lower availability than planned? And can I really talk about “full balance” as long as we suffer from manning problems that impair our operational capability both in the Navy and the Air Force?

It is increasingly widely acknowledged that the restructuring to provide a mission-oriented defence has also had its price. The resulting structure has given us the ability to make rapid and relevant contributions to international operations. It has also given us defence forces that are good at their peacetime tasks – surveillance , the upholding of national sovereignty and the exercise of authority. The Coast Guard, the Border Guard, our Special Forces and other units whose tasks also include support to the civil community, are mostly in very good shape today.

This has been a deliberate re-prioritisation. Political developments in the world around us have made such a conscious prioritisation of these tasks essential. But once again, this has involved a cost. We see that in some areas we may have let things slip too far. Even that the very backbone of our defence, the ability to defend Norway and our allies, with staying power and in depth in times of crisis and war, is not as solid as we might have wished.

We are not alone in NATO in facing these challenges. But we should not take comfort in that. Quite the contrary. That is why the Government is particularly concerned with maintaining NATO as a strong and relevant alliance – an alliance capable of fulfilling its core tasks with particular emphasis on collective defence.

At the same time we must be honest when we ask ourselves: Are we well enough prepared to take care of our own tasks within collective defence? Have we sufficient systems and capabilities to be able to handle a situation if the day should come when we have to “press the red button”?

I think we have to be honest and admit that we see shortcomings. We see that an imbalance has arisen. Far-reaching work on the revitalisation of defence and emergency planning has been set in motion. We have to assess our capabilities and their availability on the basis of the results of this work. We want real operational capabilities appropriate to today’s needs and future challenges. Something else too is essential: we must also ask ourselves whether we measure operational capability in a way that is good enough. In other words, does the measurement give a true picture of the actual operational capability?

Let me add a further observation: Today we do not face one single concrete and direct military threat. At the same time, however, we do see clear movements in our security policy environment. We see new challenges characterised by a short or non-existent warning time. And we see more traditional challenges reappearing, accompanied by new alliances and antagonisms. One thing seems clear and that is that Norway in the longer term must reckon on having to do more of the job itself. This makes it essential that we position ourselves sensibly. Both here at home and in the wider world.


Security policy challenges and priorities

Tomorrow I travel to the United States to meet my American colleague Chuck Hagel. I shall be meeting with a Secretary of Defense who is a sworn Atlanticist. I am glad of that. In our government’s manifesto we stress the importance of the transatlantic relationship in our defence and security policy. This follows a long tradition for the parties now in government. This government has the transatlantic bond firmly bedded in the very marrow of its backbone because we have absorbed the lessons of history and know the value of true community.

At the present time this is perhaps more important than ever. My visit to the United States takes place against a background that is both interesting and demanding.

Just before Christmas, Secretary Hagel undertook a major tour that included, among other theatres, the Middle east and Afghanistan, two parts of the world in which both the United States and Norway are deeply engaged.

The same applies not least to the conflict in Syria. The situation there is critical. The job of destroying the chemical weapons is important and here Norway is making a major contribution. But that does not solve the crisis for millions of innocent victims of the war. The situation in Syria, together with other political upheavals in the region, has created a self-sustaining vicious spiral of closely interwoven regional conflicts which have the potential for dramatic escalation.

Where Afghanistan is concerned, I get the impression that we politicians describe every single year as being decisive. For 2014, however, I believe that we have good grounds for this assertion. The presidential election in the spring will give some indication of the state of democracy in the country. Recognition of the handover of power as being legitimate, and an election conducted without too much violence, will be of decisive importance.

The end of the ISAF operation represents a political landmark. It will afford us an opportunity both to look back and to consider the future. Looking back, a chance to evaluate the operation from our own viewpoint here at home and in a NATO context. And looking to the future, a time for us, together with the other ISAF partners, to consider the detailed concept for possible participation in the new operation Resolute Support Mission.

Norway will stay the course together with its allies and will contribute in an appropriate way. Everything now depends on President Karzai signing the bilateral security agreement with the United States because this agreement will provide the framework for NATO’s continuing presence in Afghanistan.

My visit to the United States is also important in helping to gain a better understanding of the major long-term changes that we are seeing in international politics. What challenges do these entail and what can this government do? Let me spend a little time in answering this.

The global security picture today is complex and unpredictable. The range of actors is far more complicated than before. The distinction between national and international security is no longer so clear. We are more exposed to events in remote parts of the world and geographical separation is no longer an automatic guarantee of safety. The conflict in Syria, for example, has mobilised a number of Norwegian citizens to take part in the civil war as jihadists. This is a disturbing development.

Looking further afield, we see changes in the geopolitical picture. We see new locomotives in the global economy. The centre of gravity is shifting towards Asia and the Pacific region. In contrast to Europe and the West in general, this region is not characterised by institutions that foster cooperation. Instead we see emerging nationalism linked to unresolved border questions. That is not a good combination.

More clearly than for many years we see power struggles in areas some of which are not so far away. The situation in Ukraine is a serious example. There is still a lot to play for in Europe’s back yard. This underlines how important it is that we continue to follow closely these developments in our own neighbourhood.  

Economic growth provided the foundation for increased military investment. The trends are clear. We see some countries and regions increasing their defence budgets while others have to cut theirs. One thing, therefore, seems clear: we are entering a time in which our relative military superiority is less than it was. Our advantage in military and technology terms is shrinking. The security margin in our part of the world is becoming more slender.

Some talk of a world order without a lynchpin. Others point to a multipolar world order. Whichever view one takes, it is quite possible to discern the risk of great power rivalries. Western values and interests are likely to face growing challenges.

At the same time there is another feature of the global scene worth noting: over time the number of armed conflicts has fallen. Most of today’s conflicts are intrastate, very often characterised by weak government, a multiplicity of warring parties and violence against the civilian population.

As ever, though, we cannot know what the future may bring. And in such a period of uncertainty I think that the choices we make are especially important – and they are going to be difficult.

We have to understand what the shift in the global balance of power entails. And, internationally, we have to position ourselves with prudence. At the same time we must maintain our stance unyieldingly in the community of values and interests of which we already form part. Norway must remain our friends’ friend. This requires work, commitment and consistency over time.

Our bilateral relations with the USA is of such a character. Today the relationship that we have with the United States in the field of security and defence policy is very good. Our transatlantic cooperation extends across many important areas.

That does not mean, of course, that we agree about everything. Good friends should be able to say if they feel that something is not as it should be. In the light of the Snowden revelations, which have caused unease in many countries, not least here in Europe, it is natural that I should discuss intelligence cooperation during my American visit.

My message will be as follows. We want our deep and effective cooperation in the field of intelligence to continue. But, at the same time, it is essential that this activity should be subject to strict political control and that sharing of the information takes place against a background of national priorities and control. We must be able to rely on the fact that all who share or receive such information will safeguard it in a proper manner.

In these times we need things that bring us together rather than drive us apart. The transatlantic relationship runs deep but, even so, cannot be taken for granted. We must work to preserve, renew and strengthen it.

In parentheses, there was of course one party in particular in the last government which, on principle, made a point of being critical of the United States – regardless. Our government instead follows the broad consensus that has existed for more than 60 years and desires a good and close relationship with our largest and most important ally.

Today we see a United States of America facing internal challenges in its domestic policies. The economy is bedevilled by high unemployment, a high level of debt and substantial budget deficits. It is a United States that must implement wide-ranging cuts in public expenditure including its spending in the defence sector.

And there is something else that is important. When problems mount up at home, what is happening in more remote parts of the world tends to assume less importance. We witnessed this phenomenon as the financial crisis inundated Europe. And we can see it now in American politics. The country is redefining its interests in a changing world.

For Norway it is important that we have a vigorous USA. It is in our interest that the United States can play a leading role internationally. This is just what the United States is now doing as it turns its eyes towards Asia and the Pacific region.

NATO and Europe, however, are not unaffected by this. It means that more will be expected of us. Not least that we prepare ourselves for a time in which America is less willing to pay the lion’s share for the protection of Europe’s security. The economic situation in Europe makes this especially challenging.

We must remember that as many as 15 European members of NATO have cut their defence spending by more than 10 % since 2008. Another thing that should worry us is that as many as 11 members of the Alliance spend less than 10 % of their defence budgets on new investment.

In other words, the defensive capability of our European allies has been reduced. As if this were not enough in itself, this development also exacerbates the burden sharing problem still further.

Few countries in Europe are, like Norway, in a position to increase or maintain their defence budgets. Amongst the European members of NATO we are now in ninth place with regard to the size of the defence budget, close behind Poland and the Netherlands. This is good for our overall standing. Our relative position within NATO has never been stronger. But, more important that the size of the budget in isolation, is the fact that we have the resources to fulfil our tasks and obligations.

A relatively large defence budget also means something else – more is expected of us. We attract the attention of our allies. It puts us under an obligation here at home and when we are called upon abroad.

The Government will invest more in bilateral cooperation with the United States. I would say that perhaps the most important thing today is to ensure that NATO remains the basis for America’s security and defence policy involvement in Europe.

We want to engage America’s decision makers in European security challenges. And we want to develop further the practical aspects of cooperation. This means, among other things, more training and exercising both in Norway and in other locations where United States forces train and exercise. That is why, for the first time, a Norwegian frigate will be taking part in the world’s largest naval exercise off Hawaii.

We also want to play an active role in NATO. In the run-up to the September Summit meeting in Britain, we shall be working for an Alliance that is able to reposition itself for the post-Afghanistan period. It is not just Afghanistan, of course, NATO means so much more. It is first and foremost a political alliance. It is its political community that forms the bedrock of the Alliance. Without it the Alliance would not be sustainable.

A reduced operational tempo calls for more training and exercising in order to maintain the capacity for cooperation between allies – and with other important partners. Preparations for this are now being made through NATO’s Connected Forces Initiative (CFI). It is through further training and exercising that the gains achieved through operating together over many years can be consolidated.

For me this initiative is not just about the need for military cooperation and visibility. Deep down it is about the will to understand and acknowledge each other’s security needs. It is also about burden sharing and about working together to build collective security across the Atlantic.

In the run-up to the Summit meeting, therefore, we shall be advocating greater European willingness to take part in training and exercises which are relevant to the United States. Such activities might sometimes be conducted on the other side of the Atlantic and occasionally, as with next year’s exercise based on Hawaii, in another part of the world.

We have to abandon the idea that collective defence is only about the United States’ contribution to Europe. Europe can no longer be a net importer of security. We have to show to a much greater extent that we have the capability to be an exporter as well.

At the same time we will continue to work to ensure that the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to European security in the years to come. CFI is thus also about the United States’ prioritisation of training and exercising in Europe as well as about paying greater attention to its adjacent areas and the need for regional situation awareness within NATO. 

The Government therefore intends to promote Norway as a host country for major allied exercises. We see it as being of fundamental importance that NATO should maintain its combat effectiveness throughout the whole of the Alliance’s core area.

Next year NATO is due to hold one of its so-called high profile exercises in Portugal, Spain and the Mediterranean. As I see it, it would be natural to hold the next exercise, in 2018, in the northern region. We have therefore signalled to NATO that Norway will consider offering to act as host country for this exercise when it next takes place.

There is nothing to suggest that the Alliance will be allocated more money for its operations in the future. Finance and the use of resources are therefore important topics to address in the run-up to the Summit meeting. I hope that we shall see Europe supporting the transatlantic community in this respect too. We need a Europe that demonstrates its willingness to ease the burden on the USA.

European allies must consider new and more creative ways in which to use their resources. Here too we need to look beyond traditional solutions – to think outside the well-known box. Investments and procurements are one thing. But perhaps there is even greater potential in bringing in integrated solutions within military units and their support.

I believe that European allies are depending increasingly on the larger countries to step up and take the lead. The United Kingdom, France and Germany are each capable of acting as focal points for joint projects involving groups of smaller countries.

A German initiative, known as a Framework Nation Concept, is of interest in this context. Briefly it envisages larger nations bringing together clusters of smaller nations with the aim of developing further defence capabilities.

I look on this as an initiative which could open the way for more structure and greater efficiency and predictability when new capabilities are to be developed. Some countries might see this as being at odds with their national sovereignty, but equally it might simply be necessary to follow this route.

It is therefore absolutely essential that joint initiatives and possible reductions in national capabilities should be closely coordinated between the countries concerned. My fear is that concepts such as “pooling and sharing” and “smart defence” could become excuses for doing nothing. There is nothing smart about a long series of uncoordinated cuts. On the contrary, such a course would weaken the defence capability of the Alliance.

For Norway it will be important to strengthen cooperation with particular emphasis on our own region. Norway needs to be fully engaged and to play a real leading role in the development of NATO and the Alliance’s north European dimension.

We want to play an active part in strengthening our ability to act both in NATO and in an EU context. We believe it be in Norway’s interest to participate in relevant initiatives within the framework of the EU.

The Government will continue to prioritise Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO). We take over the Chairmanship from Finland in 2014 and this gives us the opportunity to influence the orientation of the cooperation.

Another important aspect of this defence cooperation relates to collaboration in the areas of Nordic capability and materiel. The Government’s decision to withdraw from the Archer joint artillery project with Sweden was made on logistic and technical grounds and in no way implies any lowering of the priority attached to either Nordic or Norwegian-Swedish defence cooperation. An example of the importance we attach to this cooperation is the fact that, on the previous day, we signed an agreement on Nordic cooperation regarding the operation and maintenance of transport aircraft.

Another example I would particularly like to mention by way of Norwegian-Swedish cooperation is the acquisition of new CV90 armoured combat vehicles for the Norwegian Army which we are purchasing from the Swedish defence industry. In a way this is the Army’s “combat aircraft project” with a total cost in excess of NOK 6 billion, making it the Army’s largest investment ever.

The Nordic countries will continue to prioritise a joint capability to make effective force contributions available for international operations. Through participation in Afghanistan, such cooperation, especially on the logistics side, has highlighted some important lessons. We intend to build on this.

For me Nordic cooperation is synonymous with improved operational effectiveness at a better price. I am looking for concrete and practical areas for cooperation. That means more exercising and training across national borders, and with third party countries where appropriate.


Difficult choices – important decisions on the way ahead

Until now I have described some of the challenges here at home and in our own security environment. One conclusion might be that, as defence minister, my future life is not going to be boring. Another might be that everything in the garden is not quite as rosy as we might wish.

Unfortunately I cannot promise simple solutions, nor any “quick fixes”. Because, as you well know, in matters of defence policy these things rarely exist. To create a real state of balance requires continuing reform and restructuring, hard choices and tough prioritisation. Above all it calls for smart thinking.

We are now looking carefully at the status of measures, time limits and costs in the current Long-Term Plan. There is a great deal of material involved and reviewing it will take time. We have to take the time it needs. My message has been that the review will be undertaken without prejudice to what has already been done or what we said when in opposition.

Our point of departure must be the situation as it now is, and the professional assessments that we make will reflect this. And I have made it clear that I wish everyone to challenge their own assumptions, to think creatively and outside the box, when proposed solutions are to be presented.

My approach is that where assumptions have changed we must look at timescales and, in extreme cases, consider the need to change decisions. This applies especially to the Air Force which is currently in the middle of a demanding restructuring in which taking the right decisions and implementing the right measures in the right order and at the right tempo is absolutely essential.

I would emphasise that this must not be taken as an invitation to revisit decisions that have been unanimous all along – or those decisions about which political views have differed. And just in case anyone should be in doubt – the decision to purchase the F-35 combat aircraft remains firm. What I do want to be sure about, however, is that the structure surrounding our new combat aircraft is as it should be.

I would wish to see the decision-making basis in its entirety. And I want to know the status of the activities that we propose to move, build up or run down. I want to know the probability of changes in costs and timescales. I want to know how the restructuring will affect the Air Force’s force production and operational capability. To put it in a nutshell – do we now know something that we did not know when the Storting endorsed the Long-Term Plan in June 2012?

We embark on this knowing well that history will be able to judge us harshly when it comes to our ability to calculate the time and cost involved in moving or closing down elements of our defence organisation. That is why I have asked for good, realistic estimates. I would also like to avoid pre-prepared political answers or conclusions.

We want to know that what we decide today will be sustainable in a longer term perspective and contribute towards a Defence with a real balance between tasks, structure and resources: namely a Defence with a high level of operational capability.

I have also said that we must challenge our own assumptions in other areas. Because in order to achieve such an aim we must, among other things, renew our way of thinking about how we administer and run the defence sector.

An important point for me is how we can more successfully integrate the Armed Forces with society as a whole. I should like to see defence forces more open to the civil community. Not just because it is an important democratic principle but also because it would open the way for cooperation and some beneficial joint activities. In the longer term I believe this to be a precondition for a strong and sustainable Defence.

I believe that there are gains in efficiency to be made in a number of areas. Extended use of public-private partnership is one avenue that we want to explore. Another is to evaluate discontinuing services and functions where suppliers in the civil sector could meet the needs better and at lower cost. At the same time, though, we must make sure that the special needs of the armed services are safeguarded.

I believe that there is a need to look more closely at the way in which we procure modern materiel. Costly and lengthy development projects must be balanced against “good enough” off-the-shelf solutions where this is sufficient.

We would also like to abandon a practice involving parallel structures for the Armed Forces branches except where preparedness issues make this a necessity. We will professionalise key functions in the administration of the Armed Forces and improve the efficiency of purchasing processes in all sectors, not only our own.

We ought to establish where the Armed Forces, together with other sectors of society, can find good and perhaps less costly common solutions. I believe that this will yield results which, taken as a whole, will be better for Norway Ltd.

Alliances and new cooperation interfaces must also accompany the work of competence reform. My basic aim here is the same: a more open Defence and a Defence which is to an increasing extent integrated with the rest of society.

We can no longer take it for granted that personnel in the future will wish to pursue a lifelong career in our sector. In order to make the Armed Forces stand out as an attractive employer for more of our young people, we need new ideas and a new direction.

That means more integrated knowledge and competency centres. Look for example at the Norwegian Cyber Force at Jørstadmoen, the Norwegian Defence School of Engineering and Gjøvik College. Around lake Mjøsa and in “Inland Norway” there is a concentration of technology centres and establishments, both civil and military, that together contribute to the prosperity of the area.

We want to be ambitious. We want to see a Defence that, to a growing extent, plays an active part in building the nation’s knowledge base over the whole range from education to a common labour market.  We aim to make the exchange of competency between the civil and military sectors simpler and more flexible.

The Armed Forces as a labour market must have an open door both in and out. Today the number of those leaving the Services is too high in some personnel categories. We are losing technicians from the Air Force and the Navy. The Army is losing junior technicians and non-enlisted officers at a young age. The situation is far from ideal. Therefore we need both short-term measures and more lasting action to stem these losses.

We need capable officers. We need both generalists and specialists with solid military training behind them to fill posts where military competency is a requirement. At the same time there are a good number of posts in the support structure in different areas where it is both possible and desirable to recruit personnel with civilian backgrounds. The Armed Forces already employ many civilians who carry out important tasks.

We have to show that we have both the ability and the will to make changes. We must accept that change is the norm, not the exception, in all areas of society. This is a dynamic that we must face up to if we are to remain relevant in the future.

Society’s needs are changing. Knowledge and technology based businesses represent a growing proportion of value creation in Norway. Similarly, the needs of the Armed Forces are also changing. The demand for top-level skills and competence in depth are growing. Specialisation is a clearly discernible trend. Are we today in a position to respond to such needs?

My short, and perhaps oversimplified answer to this is No. A longer and more precise answer is that we currently do not have a system that is good enough to take care of the needs of the specialists. Today we lose all too many specialists because we cannot offer an attractive enough career path for this group. The result is that our defence forces are also losing invaluable experience and expertise.

The Government wants to introduce a Specialist Corps. The existing conditions of service for officers and other ranks are being revised in order to ensure that such a Specialist Corps can be made to match conditions in Norway and the needs of the Armed Forces.

At the same time we will open the way for greater diversity. Here too we will be in step with Norwegian society at large. We have already made good progress in this area. In fact the Norwegian Armed Forces have been awarded the 2013 Diversity Prize. However, it is not enough simply to establish greater diversity. We have to become better at making use of this diversity.

Part of the competence reform also includes the adoption of universal military service in which obligations and rights apply equally to both genders. Military service must be gender neutral, appropriate and relevant and we are now working on identifying the model for the new arrangements.

It is important to me that the future scheme for military service should be based on fundamental principles and our future needs, rather than on a historic response to the needs of a past age. Military service must be matched to the real needs of society.

For me the competence reform represents perhaps our greatest challenge as we look to the future. And the most demanding one. Our tasks, our collective ability to ensure a sound Defence for the future, stand or fall depending on how well we do in this area.


A more open Defence – a more sustainable defence policy

Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I have not given you any glossy pictures today. I have praised what I believe to be good – and, if I may say so, that covers quite a lot. And then I have drawn attention to some of the important challenges that we face in the future.

My message has been the following: We must have a defence structure that enables us to  meet our security policy challenges in a way that is both durable and financially sustainable over time. Some might say that this is stating the obvious, perhaps even banal. Nevertheless, this is the yardstick against which my tenure as Defence Minister will be measured: That Norway’s Armed Forces can deliver when they have to.

Anyone who has been in the Storting for a few years cannot have failed to witness some political horse trading or other to do with defence. But what the Armed Forces need are rational choices made in the interests of our Defence. That gives us, as politicians, a responsibility. We must live up to that responsibility to the very best of our ability.

Developments in the world around us simply do not permit us to adopt the next-best solutions. The challenges ahead are just too clear and unmistakable. That is why my primary aim is to espouse openness, realism and sustainable solutions.