Department of Defence Budget & Strategic Plan 2007/08: presentation

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Defence and Military Veterans

21 March 2007
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Meeting report

DEFENCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 March 2007
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE BUDGET & STRATEGIC PLAN 2007/08: PRESENTATION


Chairperson: Ms T Tobias (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Strategic Plan for the Department of Defence for 2007
Department of Defence 2007/08 MTEF budget PowerPoint presentation
Department Budget Vote 21
Defence: Minister’s and Deputy Minister’s Budget Speech - 27 Mar 2007

Audio Recording of the Meeting


SUMMARY

The Department of Defence’s budget was scheduled for debate in the National Assembly on 27 March 2007 and the Committee received a briefing on the budget and its strategic plan.

The rejuvenation and exit policy, skills retention, the need for the improvement of the maintenance and general conditions of certain bases, the importance of an expansionary budget, the reduction of flying hours as well as the implementation of landward defence featured prominently in the ensuing discussion. The discrepancy between the allowances paid to defence force troops involved in peacekeeping missions, and those of other countries was also raised. The Secretary for Defence allayed Members’ fears that although commandos were being dissolved, the Defence Force remained a contributor in efforts to better patrol South Africa’s borders, the management of security at major events and in providing intelligence.

MINUTES
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that some members had visited Port Elizabeth earlier that week and had seen the new warship the Department had acquired. She urged the Department delegation to link the budget to the strategic plan as far as possible, and also to focus on any new issues that had been raised.

Secretary for Defence / Director General’s opening remarks
Secretary for Defence and Director General of the Department, Mr January Masilela, introduced the delegation which comprised Mr Tsepe Motumi (Deputy Director General and Chief Director Policy and Planning); Lieutenant General Rinus van Rensburg (SANDF Chief: Corporate Staff), Lieutenant General Mtanzima (Chief Human Resources), Mr Anton Visser, (Chief Director Strategy), Mr Rodney Rautenbach (Chief Director Budget), Brigadier Fakir (Director Military Strategy), Brigadier Meyer (Director Human Resources), Mr Barney Engelbrecht (Director Budget) and Ms Ntsaluba (Director Strategy)

Mr Masilela said that the Department’s business plan was located in the Government’s vision for 2014 and within the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The Department had just had its ten-year review and were half way through the current government mandate, which would end in 2009. He emphasised that the Department’s challenges, strategic objectives and programmes were thoroughly aligned with Government’s strategic objectives.

Strategic Plan 2007
Mr Motumi presented the Department’s strategic plan for the MTEF period 2007/8 to 2009/10. His presentation detailed the Department’s interventions as contained in its current business plan, government priorities as well as cluster and strategic objectives. The presentation also gave an overview of the outputs, risks and mitigating factors related to the programmes.

Mr Masilela added that although the Minister had approved the Department’s new structure it would be part of the Defence Update, which was a review of the Defence Review and the White Paper on Defence, which would be formally approved by Parliament. He also pointed out that the main strategy to mitigate for all the risks was the ‘operationalisation’ of the new force design and force structure. At the heart of the strategy was the Growth Core, One-force concept, which was aimed at solving the affordability problem.

Discussion

The Chairperson reminded members that those members heading sub-committees had a responsibility to have those sub-committees engage with the information received. She said that she had noted some improvements on some issues and also commended the Department for the smaller format of the hard copy presentation and urged them to move towards distributing presentations to Members on small discs, which would be cheaper.

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) praised the DOD’s strategic plan, which he thought was clear-cut. He thought that since the Chairperson had some insight into the defence update she had an advantage that the rest of the Committee did not have. He asked the Department to give the Committee a more precise indication of when its review of the White Paper on Defence and the Defence Review would be approved by Cabinet as well as when the Committee would have the opportunity to see these documents.

Mr Masilela appreciated the acknowledgement of the improvements. The Minister and one of the Cabinet clusters had already approved the Defence Update. It would now go to Cabinet’s National Security Council. It should be before Parliament within the second half of the year.

Dr Koornhof noted that the presentation had indicated that plans for the capital renewal of landward defence would be in place in the coming financial year (2007/8). He thought it “extremely important” that the landward defence be renewed and modernized. He wondered when the Department thought the actual implementation of the renewal would take place.

Mr Masilela said that the army had some time ago completed its own landward forces modernisation programme. In the light of the findings of the force design and force update, the Department had taken the decision that all capital programmes had to be reviewed so that that they could be in line with these initiatives. By the end of March they had to come up with a complete costing and redesign of all these capital programmes. Some programmes had already started with the redesign. There would also be a number of upgrades.

Mr A Botha (DA) pointed out that while a new facility for fighter pilot training had opened at Makhado Air Force Base (Slide 7), the presentation also indicated that flying hours would be scaled down (Slide 37). Chapter 7 of the Strategic Plan indicated that despite flying hours being scaled down, the Department would, through the Defence package, be getting brand new training and fighter planes. He found this an area of extreme concern. He wondered how 100% capability would be achieved and how pilots could be trained at a new air force base if flying hours were being scaled down. Most alarming however was the statement that the reduction of flying hours meant that according to present strategic priorities, basic flying, training and air mobility for diplomatic missions would be fully funded while the output of other air capabilities had again been reduced to fit in with the available budget. He was surprised that the Department could so boldly make that admission.

Mr O Monareng (ANC) said that in the past two years there had been some accidents in the air shows. He wondered why flying hours were being reduced when they should be perfecting their flying skills. He wondered how the decision to reduce flying hours had been arrived at.

Mr Masilela responded that the Department shared the concerns raised. Part of the reprioritisation would include a reconsideration of this matter, which remained a key challenge that needed to be resolved immediately. Members would be kept informed.

Mr Botha said that he did not want to unnecessarily prolong the issue but he did have serious concerns. It had been almost 100 years since the world discovered that air defence was the most important form of defence. Without it one left the ground forces exposed. He was not satisfied with the answer he had received and felt that the matter should be responded to in writing and in great detail. He was concerned by the statement that the reduction in flying out put effected the extent to which the air force could satisfy the air capability requited by joint operations and other clients and that that in turn effected their ability to meet force preparation objectives. That statement clearly indicated that the air force would fail mainly on the account of the reduction in flying hours. He feared that the Department would not be able to equip its pilots with the necessary highly modernised skills. The Department should inform the Committee in writing of how it would go about defending South Africa despite the reduction of flying hours.

The Chairperson emphasised that she held a different opinion to that of Mr Botha. Defending a country went beyond buying equipment and flying as much as one could. Other important defence mechanisms included creating a strong and sound economy and not making unnecessary enemies. Making reference to radar and satellite technology, she added that there were many far more advanced ways of detecting threats from afar. While the air force was considered as an important leg of defence many years ago - today there were many more sophisticated and advanced defence theories. She reiterated that ensuring that one lived on a peaceful continent was of vital importance. She felt that the discussion should move to other issues of importance.

Mr Botha asked whether the Chairperson suggested that the Department did not have to answer his question. He pointed out that they had already done so and that was now merely indicating that he was not satisfied with that response.

The Chairperson responded that she was merely expanding on the question by pointing out that there were sophisticated ways of defending one’s country. These included high technology systems for detecting the enemy from afar. She agreed that cost cutting should not negatively impact on defence and added that the Department would not be able to give an adequate response until their budget was not increased. In terms of government priorities the Department did not have authority over their budget. Politicians should try their best to persuade their colleagues who could, to increase the budget. She added that it would be very difficult for the Minister of Finance to prioritise defence, when it had already been agreed that South Africa’s biggest enemies were poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment.

Mr Masilela said that since the Chairperson had adequately dealt with the question of flying hours he would not spend much time on it. The Department would provide a written response. He added that when they started in 1996 one of the key priorities had been the re-equipment of the air force and the navy, both of which had been badly run in the past. They had made great progress in terms of the very sophisticated systems acquired since. The concern around the flying orders would be put in context in the written response.

Mr Monareng reminded the Committee that there had been a time when the Pentagon, despite its powerful air force, could not protect itself from attack. South Africa was moving away from a too militaristic approach. They were moving towards greater human security.

Mr M Booi (ANC) said that the Committee continued being concerned about skills. He was not sure where skills were lacking. There was talk of paying professionals retainer fees. How would that work and who would be the targets of such a scheme? Some documentation had indicated that professionals within the DOD’s legal division were “leaving in droves”.

The Chairperson pointed out that the Department would not be able to retain health professionals if it underpaid them. It was common knowledge that in such cases the private sector swallowed professionals. If additional funds were not made available, creative ways of retention should be explored. The performance management system should be used in order to find additional ways of incentivisation.

Mr Masilela said that the

 

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