National Defence Industry Council sees “stabilise and sustain” as first order of business


The National Defence Industry Council (NDIC) formally set up last year following a 12 month delay, has produced a 200 plus page draft document entitled Defence Industry Strategy for comment.

It covers among others what the NDIC, under the chairmanship of Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Gulube, would like to see as a “desired end state” for the South African defence industry.

According to the document, “a vibrant defence industry remains a crucial component of an effective South African defence capability, providing the country with a defence and security industrial base that must be positioned to ensure attainment of the Defence Review and the pursuit of the Defence Strategic Trajectory”.

This includes strategic independence; sovereign capability in selected areas; optimised equipment and systems; cost effective equipment, systems and services to the defence force and other security services; economic benefit derived from “necessary defence expenditure” and collateral benefit aligned with government’s Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP).

Given the present financial constraints on government, the only practical option for the time being is to stabilise and sustain the local defence industry, the document notes. This is premised on the assumption that government “will provide adequate funding for the defence force to cover operational employment, training and maintenance, acquisition of equipment systems, spares, munitions and stores”.

The Defence Industry Strategy document also premises future government funding for research and development to secure both the future of the industry and of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

The NDIC states the intention is not to recreate the full breadth and depth of capabilities developed during the arms embargo era but to “focus on areas and sectors of defence technology and manufacturing that offer real potential to meet government’s policy intent”.
“Failing adequate funding it will not be possible to implement the ‘stabilise and sustain’ approach and it will be necessary to go over to a planned shutdown strategy,” the document states.

It then appeals for government to decide, pronounce and commit to a particular policy strategy as regards the South African defence industry “early, clearly and visibly”.

For its part the NDIC sees the defence industry embarking on four routes as part of the stabilisation process. These will see collaboration between government and the private sector on the operational and strategic level; the Team SA country brand will be implemented across the defence industry which will “develop the agility” to respond to changing trends in both warfare and the defence industry and finally, the industry will provide “urgent relief funding to prevent further loss of capabilities and capacities”.

These are pointed out by military analyst Helmoed Heitman as presently being 15 000 jobs, foreign exchange earnings, import replacement capacity and skills and technology spin-offs that can be utilised in other industrial and manufacturing sectors.

The document is currently circulating for public comment and input and according to a disclaimer further verification will be undertaken before the defence industry strategy is finalised. No dates are given for final dates for comment to be supplied or when a final strategy will be published.