SA National Defence Force Reserves current status report: Department of Defence, recommendation to ratify Arms Trade Treaty

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Defence and Military Veterans

12 November 2014
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Defence (DOD) briefed the Committee on the current status of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Reserves, and made the point that this must be considered in the context of the Defence Review. The  goal was a “Revitalisation and Transformation” plan that included a feeder system, continuation training, and leader group development and transformation. One of the programmes put in place was the University Reserve Training Programme, aimed at the recruitment and training of mainly undergraduate and postgraduate students with specific skills and to qualify them for appointment to Military Leadership positions. The major challenge was how to increase the Reserve and implement productive programmes, when the budget was being reduced. The DOD stressed that it was aiming to drop the numbers of permanent Force and increase the numbers of reservists, because it was far more cost-effective to have reservists who were paid only for the days that they actually served, even if this involved regular training. In addition, the DOD emphasised that coupled with this should be planning for incentives for employers to release reservists when needed. The DOD had managed to achieve a change in demographics, had formed Defence Provincial Liaison Councils, with employer support, and was pleased to note that deployment of the Reserve Forces had been commended. There were particular efforts to recruit youth. Regulations and changes to the Defence Act had clarified the position of the reserve force, and made it possible to enforce call-ups other than in war situations. Support was being given to the communities, and more was planned, because this programme aimed to give basic training and training in skills to reserve force members, then to send them back to their communities to use their newly-acquired skills whilst they were not on active call-up. The Defence Review had specifically considered the position of reservists. The DOD confirmed that it was compliant with stages of the Review and was confident that it would be able to put 15 000 reservists on the ground, as required. Some of the challenges were being addressed by the DOD. It had been discovered that the feeder system from the previous Military Skills Development System was not effective or sufficient and this had resulted in shrinkage, and continuous training had been insufficient. Funding remained a major concern, and this would have to be addressed.

The budget issues were a main source of discussion amongst the Committee members, with several raising queries on how the discrepancy between falling budgets and rising needs would be met, and when the DOD would be able to produce the numbers of trained people that were required. They noted that the system was not really addressing unemployment at the moment if the Reservists were not paid when they were not called up, and thus emphasised the importance of skills training or better programmes. Members were also concerned that the  rankings in the Reserves were highly imbalanced, between males and females, as well as blacks and whites. This inequality must be addressed, as raised by the Committee members. The Department of Defence assured the Committee that this was one of its commitments, but again lack of funding was the main hindrance. Members also asked if there were special considerations given to former military veterans, and questioned what was being done to address the age imbalance at present. Other questions related to whether there was budgeting for the backlogs, the need to recruit from rural areas and the less wealthy universities, training of pilots, and clarity on the rural development programmes. Members suggested that other funding options perhaps needed to be explored,and noted that the UN deployment arrangements resulted in South Africa bearing an ongoing financial burden, and there was not a contingency budget.

embers considered, and would recommend the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty. 

Meeting report

Status of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Reserves: Department of Defence presentation
Major General Roy Anderson, Head: Reserve Forces,  Department of Defence,  led the Committee through the presentation. He noted that whilst this presentation would brief the Committee on status and given an update on the South African Defence Force (SANDF)  Reserves, this must be seen in the context of the current Defence Review. The goal was a “Revitalisation and Transformation” plan.

He noted that the following issues presented some challenges to the Reserve Forces: 
-Feeder System
-Continuation of training
-Leader group development and transformation

However, he then listed the achievements made to date, which included:
- A change in demographics
-Deployment of the Reserve Forces, which had been highly rated, by the United Nations
- Defence Provincial Liaison Councils formed, with employer support
- Air Reserve Squadrons had a particular role. Their flying hours had been cut but they would be re-opened.
- The Navy Reserve Indaba had come up with a plan to revitalise reserves, and this was being developed
- Integration was achieved of Ex Combatants
- Regulations were published in 2009
- There had been a clarification on the roles of the (RFC) and the Defence Reserves
- Changes to the Defence Act enforced call ups in times other than war
- Shooting skills had been enhanced, especially through competitions, and were comparable with high standards internationally
- The Military Skills Competition had achieved local and international successes
- Support was being given to the communities, for instance in operations such as bridge building
- The Young Lions (SA Army), the Siyandiza (SA Air Force) and the Sea Cadets (SA Navy) had been formed and staffed, in pursuance of youth employment
- Reserves were addressed and supported extensively in the Defence Review and Commander’s Intent
- The SANDF Educational Trust was supporting seven children of Reservists.

He then noted how some of the challenges outlined were being addressed in plans of the Department of Defence (DOD or the Department). He noted that the conversion from an unemployed Reserve to a Reserve with civilian jobs was an ongoing process. It had been discovered that the feeders from the Military Skills Development Systems (MSDS) were not sufficient or effective. Consequently, this had led to limited flow of new recruits into the SA Army and SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) Reserves, and this had resulted in a 38% “Shrinkage”. In addition, the continual training was insufficient. Funds had been diluted, and were directed instead to pre-deployment training. There were inadequate funds for leader group development. Finally, the names of Army units were under review, and more reviews were pending. All of these issues would have to be addressed.

The Chairperson asked what was the status of recruitment in terms of the intake from the Military Skills Development System.

Dr Thobekile Gamede, Chief of Defence Policy, Strategy and Planning, Department of Defence, answered that because of the budget, the National Treasury insisted that the DoD cut the intake, so it would have to be reduced.

Mr D Maynier (DA) commented that the University Reserve training programme was a great innovation and was showing good progress. However, he also voiced several concerns. The first was in regard to the Defence Review of 1998. There had been excessive expenditure on personnel, which consumed more than 54% of the Defence budget. The reason for that was that the concept set out in the Defence Review of 1998 provided for a small regular force and large reserve force, but it was never implemented. He questioned why, and asserted that this was probably the origin of many of the current problems in the Defence Force.

Secondly, Mr Maynier asked about the 2014 Defence Review. The Committee was told that one of the implications of implementing the Review would mean the SANDF would be downsized, including downsizing the Reserves. He asked if General Anderson disagreed with that assertion.

Mr Maynier noted that thirdly, the Military Skills Development System had been found not to be an effective feeder mechanism for the Reserves. He wondered therefore if there were alternative options available to feed the Reserves.

Fourthly, Mr Maynier said that General Anderson made a strong point that deployment of a Reserve member was more cost effective than of a regular members, and asked if this had been quantified, and what the difference was between deploying a regular soldier for a year compared to deploying a Reserve soldier for a year.

Mr Maynier then wanted to know if the Reserve force was deployed with Special Forces. Mr Maynier was currently looking into the constitutionality of deployment of the Special Forces, because this was a matter of great concern to him.

Finally, Mr Maynier commented that he was responsible for the original complaint to the Auditor-General, which had the unintended effect of shutting down the entire Air Force Reserve Squadron. The questions raised two years ago were valid, and he hoped the situation was going to be resolved, but he wanted to bring that fact to the attention of the SANDF. If the Department was to revert to the original system, there were significant risks. At the time that query was made, there were questions about how the decision was being made in respect of the use of air craft and whether these were owned by the pilot. These risks needed to be mitigated in the future.

Ms N Mnisi (ANC) asked a question on the rank groupings of the Reserve force. There was a serious problem in relation to the number of males and females. Twenty years into South Africa’s democracy, there were no females in higher ranks. She noted that this complaint had been made in relation to other departments also, but in the Department of Defence it was even more serious, and she stressed that the DOD bore a responsibility to correct this so that the country could move forward, and wanted to know if there were plans already in place to rectify these problems.

Ms Mnisi also sought clarity on the universal training process, which she agreed was a great innovation, but she needed to know, for this was not stated, how many males and females were involved. She also wanted clarity on the comment "unknown" under the current equity status, which was given in respect of 19 people.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked about the rank groupings and reiterated Ms Mnisi’s comments. Something needed to be done about the imbalances. When looking at the ranks, he further commented that there seemed to be no hope of equality, for example, between Africans and whites. To take South Africa forward, there must be leadership. If there were skills shortages, then skills training must be provided for those who needed it, to achieve a balance. However, Mr Skosana also noted that despite the challenges, he was happy because the Department had plans to address the challenges. The problem lay with resources and funding, and that was a task for everyone to work on.

Mr Gamede commented that, in principle, the budget must cover the backlogs,and he wondered if attention was being paid to this when the budgets were drawn. He noted that, particularly in respect of recruitment, there was little mention of the traditional universities, and wondered how this would be addressed, for the DOD needed also to assist community members in rural areas. The poorest of the poor went to these universities because they could not afford to go somewhere like the University of Pretoria. There was a reason why there was a drop of black students in historically white universities, and that was a problem that had to be dealt with.

Mr Gamede asked about the budget, particularly in relation to the lack of transformation in the South African Air Force. There had not been recruitment, and there was no will to recruit Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDIs) to be trained as pilots for the Reserves. He wondered how the Department would achieve its plans if it did not show willingness.

Mr Gamede emphasised again that he wanted more explanation on the rural development programmes. They could have a very big impact on the rural areas, so he wanted the DOD to focus more on that aspect.

Mr B Nesi (ANC) noted that the presentation discussed recruitment, but also talked about cutting budgets, and wondered how the two would be achieved, as they seemed to be mutually exclusive. He also asked a question about regular forces and the Reserves. General Anderson had said that the DOD wanted to have a big Reserve force, which was cost effective, and a small regular force. The DoD said it was growing the Reserve force from people from other armies, but Mr Nesi understood that there were many in this community who were in fact not in the Reserves. He wondered if there would be a particular  focus on recruiting them and getting them back into the army as part of the Reserves.

Mr S Esau (DA) commented that to get to the second milestone, the Reserve Force must be increased to 30 000, to accommodate the needs of the Defence Force around deployment. Mr Esau did not have a problem with that as it seemed that the  DOD would call up the Reserves when needed. But the situation was quite different with the Regular force, since the 66 000 members of the Regular force will be dropped to 47 000, to revitalise. This meant there would have  to be a huge drive for recruitment. The Committee had previously discussed the need to use the Defence Force for the National Youth Service, in order to get more youth into those structures, to use certain skills, and also using the feeder system. There was also funding flowing from education into that, so funds from other sources must be explored by Reserves. For example, the Centre for Advanced Training has not been discussed.

Mr Esau also noted that there was R720 million Rand that had to be cut from the budget, and that meant that the DOD would not be able to fulfil all its commitments. However, he urged that there would have to be a careful balancing. Budgets were more about reprioritising than achieving an increase in everything. Budgeting is about reprioritising.

Mr Esau then asked about United Nations (UN) deployment. Currently there was 75% reimbursement which means that South Africa spent 100 % and only got 75% back. With the African Union, there was no record of reimbursement. Those funds went to deployment because there was a need, not pre-planning. However, there was no contingency for this in the budget. He suggested that the DOD needed more certainty and better planning.  that did not arise out of something; it is not planned. And, there is no contingency for this in the budget. Therefore, the DoD needs to have more certainty and planning. There could not be a competent Defence Force if there were gaps in the system.

Mr Esau commented on the possibility of international agreements that South Africa has with other countries that put money into leadership and training programs.

Mr Esau then discussed that there were people who had been military veterans, and asked what considerations were made when they wanted to join the Reserve Force, and how it was structured, particularly if there was a certain age requirement, beyond which a person was not eligible.

Mr Esau then asked what, in terms of international best practice, the ideal ratio would be, commenting that in the long term the Defence Review was aiming to have a 1:1 ratio between regular and reserve forces, by the time of the fourth milestone.

Finally, Mr Esau also voiced his concern on unemployment. There was a need to employ people on a permanent basis, and this argument was put to the Committee on the previous day. Mr Esau said that he thought the Reserve unit had been successful, and if this could be pursued, the Reserves would be a better option to meet the challenges of budgetary constraints, and had to be looked at seriously. He also thought that incentives and rebates to encourage employers to support the Reserves must also be looked at.

General Anderson firstly expressed thanks to the Committee for sending a Researcher to the Defence Symposium. 

In response to Mr Maynier’s question about the 1998 policy of the Defence Review, General Anderson said that the weakness was that that Review did not define the size of the Reserve. It used the words “sufficiently large Reserve force.” This could have been interpreted as bigger or smaller than the regular force, and had been debated since 1998. General Anderson said he was not in a position to say why it was not implemented.

He confirmed that there was no contradiction on the numbers. For the first two 2 milestones, for the Reserve, the Defence Review spoke of "active" members, and the SANDF had 15 000 active soldiers. He supported the Defence Review, and that number came from his office, so he does not think there was anything contradictory. He confirmed that the numbers would shrink, because there was no feeder system. However, he was confident that the DOD could put 15 000 on the ground, as required under Milestone 1.

General Anderson confirmed that whilst the DOD was trying to do something about the feeder systems, there was a problem with lack of money. Firstly, First, Human Resources came up with the “Reserve Development System.” That was done because if the DoD called up people through the MSDF system, at the end of the term one member may be contracted to the Reserve and the other to the Regular force, and that would not make the members happy. This plan anticipating having a separate intake for the Reserve, where members knew, from day one, that they would not be in the Regular force. DOD would build into it a skills transfer process, and link them with the employers. The system was there, but it was not funded. Secondly, the DoD would go back to direct recruitment. The battalion would go into schools in rural areas, to recruit people who would then be evaluated, and then trained. Once the training was completed, an independent team came in and evaluated again. The process was a lot cheaper than two years in Military Skills Development System. Again, however, it was not funded at the moment.

General Anderson replied to the question on analysis of cost, and explained that the Reserve was cheaper because Reservists were not paid when they were not called up. Even taking into account the fact that the members need to be retrained, it cost 60% less than a regular force solider.

General Anderson said he was not capable of answering the question about special forces, because although there were a few reserve force specialists, the details on how and where they were deployed was information that did not go past General Anderson’s office. He knew there were some, but not a large number.

On the issue about closing squadrons, General Anderson said that he understood the problem, but, even if the pilot arrived with a different aircraft, it was still cheaper. If it was suggested that a pilot needed to arrive with his own plane, the implication was that the pilot would be white. Black pilots would be disadvantaged because the fact was that they often could not bring their own aircraft. These were the unintended consequences. The Chief of the Air Force was addressing this.

In regards to the rank groups, General Anderson commented that most senior ranks in Reserves were males. The males came from former regulars, and those regulars that were exciting also tended to be males. The DoD would not get the female to male ratio right until there was money to do so, but the Department is conscious of  the need and committed to changing the ratios. 

Ms Debbie Molefe, Director of Defence Reserves, also commented that the DOD acknowledged the ratio was incorrect. For the university Reserve training programmes, there were 27% female and 73% males. Also, she noted that for recruiting the 2014 intake, the DOD did go to the rural universities in KwaZulu Natal, having recruited at the University of Zululand, Durban and Kwazulu Natal.

General Anderson replied on the question on the 19 “unknowns.” Those were the respondents who, when asked their race, indicated their objection to being racially classified.

General Anderson said the imbalance in the rank group could again only be rectified if there was money to train black youngsters. The DOD had trained some, but needed money to give them practical experience. The President said that the budget must cover backlogs. There was always a waste in the system. The Defence Forces’ budget was penalising it, in the sense that it was actually losing capabilities because the budget was not there to retain them.

General Anderson said that he could not comment on the transformation of the Air Force,  and unfortunately the Director of the Air Force Reserve was not present at the meeting. The question of how to get historically disadvantaged members into the Air Force was a question that only the Air Force could address. The DOD was trying its best to get young and HDI members to the Reserve training programmes and was focusing on engineering students, most of whom were black.

Mr Gerhard Kamffer, Director of Army Reserves, Department of Defence, commented on the rural development plan. The DOD developed a concept aligned with goal 4 of the Defence Review. DOD was going to address the whole spectrum of rural development. However, it would not deviate from the core business, which is to train soldiers. DOD would use the collateral utility to try to make a contribution to the developmental agenda. The whole spectrum would address firstly the HR development, where the DOD was to recruit youth into the Reserve and reskill them to be utilised in that province. For example, the DOD was going to start a pilot project in the North West province, which had water purification issues. The idea was to recruit reserves, train them as soldiers, then place them back in the community when they were reskilled so that, when they were not called up in the Reserves, their new skills would be utilised in that community, although they would still be a part of the Reserves family, but would also be involved in infrastructure development, like building bridges. In relation to procurement, he noted that the DOD was spending more than R800 million a year on military units. Emerging farmers around the military units were not able to benefit from these bases, from which they could procure. The DOD was going to address the whole spectrum of rural development without deviating from the core business, starting with the pilots outlined.

General Anderson then addressed the question of how to reconcile the fact that the budget had been cut, when the Reserves also wants to recruit. The answer was - with great difficulty. It was a very real challenge. On the question about how to balance matters with the budget cut, the DOD was at the stage that when the Chief of Defence said something, the Department had to do it, and could not turn down any instructions given by the Commander in Chief. There needed to be incentives for employers. The DOD had meetings with employers  like Transnet, and the South Africa Post Office also included a number of Reserve members.

On the comment on the ratio between the regular and Reserve force design, General Anderson said that what presently was biasing the number of regulars was that the core skills were retained in the regulars. Therefore, training institutions would be regular force-heavy, and the ratio in the army needed to be broken down.  Then, it would be evident that in the Reserve lay 60% to 70% of the conventional fighting force. General Anderson also noted that, at the moment, there was no recruitment problem in South Africa, but the DOD did not know if this would be able to be sustained. Therefore, the Reserve system needed to be more employer friendly.

General Anderson responded to the question on the age profile. The reality was that age is catching up with the Department, and it would have to embrace the veteran system and get involved in and invest in it.

General Anderson said that he was confident that in the foreseeable future, the DOD would be able to put 15 000 Reserves on the ground.

He then commented that the National Youth Service does not fall under the Reserve, but under Human Resources. The point that was made about getting funding from education was very valid, it was not his domain, but it was being addressed.

The Chairperson said that the Committee must agree that the Reserves was a very important part of the Defence force. The Committee would need to have regular interaction with the Reserve Force. The Chairperson suggested having quarterly interactions, because there were matters raised today that would need follow up. He wanted to remind Committee members that, in their constituencies, they needed to popularise the programmes discussed today.

Arms Trade Treaty
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had a report on the Arms Trade Treaty. 

Mr Maynier said he would be strongly recommending to his Caucus that his Party should support the adoption of the Treaty.

The majority of Members present indicated their approval for the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty and adopted the Report.

The meeting was adjourned.

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