One year ago, the Minister of Defence tasked the Chief of Defence with developing a Strategic Defence Review on how the Norwegian Armed Forces can best meet future challenges.
After one year of thorough studies, hearings and internal discussions, Chief of Defence, Admiral Haakon Bruun-Hanssen handed over his final report to the Minister during a press conference in Oslo on Thursday 1 October.
"My advice to the Government is to strengthen our ability to conduct surveillance and intelligence; to improve the response times of our forces; to strengthen the manning of key structural elements, while also improving our ability to protect key infrastructure," said the Admiral.
A SOBER DEFENCE STRUCTURE
The Strategic Defence Review is based on the current security situation. It also deals with the operational capability of the Norwegian forces and the budgetary resources needed for the Armed Forces to perform their tasks and functions.
Chief of Defence recommends a sober defence structure with a new approach that addresses both current and future security challenges. The Chief recommends an increased emphasis on the defence of Norway. This requires a strengthening of surveillance and intelligence, increased readiness, responsiveness and endurance – as well as a strengthened ability to protect critical infrastructure.
"I am recommending that we continue to streamline our staff and support functions, while also reducing the number of bases and other infrastructure. This will help us to strengthen the operational capabilities. Despite those measures, however, I believe that we have to make substantial increases in our annual defence budgets," said the Chief of Defence.
Contribution to NATO
The recommended approach fulfils the mission given by the Minister of Defence. The structure will also make it possible for the Norwegian Armed Forces to solve their most demanding tasks, and it will strengthen the Armed Forces ability to contribute to NATO.
"One of Norway's primary commitments to NATO is to form a credible first line of defence in our own country, and consequently, for the alliance as a whole. We must ensure that we are able to provide robust situational awareness in our immediate surroundings, while also maintaining the ability to support the arrival of allied reinforcements if that should prove necessary," said Admiral Bruun-Hanssen.
f-35, the "future backbone"
From a military point of view, it is preferable to execute the recommended changes quickly in order to achieve the desired operational effects and cost-effective operation of the Norwegian Armed Forces.
Despite speculation that the Chief of Defence would recommend cutbacks in the Norwegian F-35 acquisition, Admiral Bruun-Hanssen stressed that he is required to keep the minimum of F-35s, due to the importance as the future backbone of the Norwegian Armed Forces.
"We remain dependent on the timely introduction of new capabilities into our Armed Forces, such as the F-35. Only by completing the acquisition of 52 combat aircraft with the Joint Strike Missile, will we be able to provide the full spectrum capabilities that we need to address our future security challenges," the Admiral underlined.
AN ADVICE TO THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP
The Strategic Defence Review is only a recommendation, but it will serve as a key input in the Government's work with a new long-term plan for the Norwegian defence sector. The Government is expected to present its proposal to Parliament in early 2016.