Defence Review relooks SANDF-defence industry interaction

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The consultative draft of the 2012 Defence Review again commits South Africa’s Department of Defence to develop a healthy partnership with its supporting industry. The document, released last Thursday, adds local industry will “in principle” enjoy preference where it can practicably and cost-effectively meet requirements.

The document, drafted by a team headed by former Constitutional negotiator Roelf Meyer, adds that a vibrant, focused defence industry is “a major asset to the country, strengthening defence and security capability, supporting foreign policy initiatives, and supporting the national development agenda.” It updates and – once approved by Parliament – will replace the Defence White Paper of 1996, the Defence Review of 1998 and the 1999 White Paper on the South African Defence Related Industries. As such, the final portion, Chapter 13, addresses the government’s current view on he defence industry.

The review postulates that a defence industrial sector needs to be developed that will meet the critical needs of the Defence Force; adds substance to South Africa’s deterrent posture; adds substance to South Africa’s standing as a country; and provide the ability to employ defence equipment sales as a tool of foreign policy.

In addition government expects industry will also bring valuable technological spin-offs for the wider economy and industry; play a crucial role in developing the country’s intellectual and skills capital; make a major contribution to GDP growth; generate foreign currency earnings from export sales and the support of exported equipment and systems; and, reduce foreign currency spending for defence equipment.
“The intention of government is to maintain and further develop South Africa’s defence industry as a key national asset, and all national departments will be required to invest in the process and will utilise the industry’s capabilities,” the review reads. “This will give South Africa a defence and security industrial base that will provide: strategic independence; ‘Sovereign’ capability in selected areas; optimised equipment and systems; economic benefit derived from necessary defence expenditure; and increased access for Black businesses and Military Veterans to a technology-intensive industry.” (The terms are fully explained in the review.)

The writers emphasised the intention is not to recreate “the exceptional breadth and depth of capabilities that was a feature of the defence industry during the period of the arms embargo”, as that is not essential to South Africa’s national security; would be neither cost-effective nor practicable at a time when defence companies worldwide are having to ‘globalise’ to survive; and would tend to remove the industry from relevant global supply chains, making it increasingly difficult to win substantial export orders.
“The intention is to focus on those areas and sectors of defence technology and manufacturing that offer real potential… It is also the intention to ensure that the flow of national contracts for defence and security research, development, manufacturing and support is such that the Defence Force brings equipment and systems into service at a steady rate to ensure an efficient commissioning process and to avoid block obsolescence; and the domestic defence and security industry has a viable base load of work to sustain research, design, development, industrialisation and manufacturing capabilities and capacities; renew itself in terms of human capital and capital equipment and serve as a base for export ventures.
“It is, further, the intention that the Defence Force, like all other government entities, will contribute toward addressing national strategic concerns, especially developmental drivers such as education, health and economic development. The defence industry’s range of products and services will, therefore, also reflect the collateral utility of the Defence Force to the country.”