An Option of Difficulties? A 21st Century South African Defence Review

Published 20 July 2011

In anticipation of the South African government’s imminent Defence Review, this Paper calls for a consultative and public review process, which should seek to establish a comprehensive national security policy framework for South Africa.

The Paper challenges the ever-greater emphasis on high tech equipment in the SANDF’s procurement strategy, given the acute shortages of highly-trained personnel in the armed forces and the likely future security threats to South Africa. In particular, the Paper argues that modest but well trained forces offer much greater capability to address the interlocking socio-economic challenges – state failure, radicalisation, rapid population growth and widening inequality – that are likely to generate organised violence in the coming decades.

Among those who have welcomed this Discussion Paper, the following write:

‘I instantly recognise the scenarios set out in Greg Mills’ thoughtful Discussion Paper. We in the British Army are wrestling with identical issues as we transform for a security environment that is increasingly complex and dynamic. Operating amongst people, in the urban areas where they live and in the information space they thrive on is challenging. And this places a premium on the quality of our people, their training and their education.’ — Lt.-General Nick Carter, Director General of Land Warfare (UK); Commander of ISAF Regional Command South, Kandahar, 2010

‘Few South Africans have ever questioned the oscillation between neglect and inflation of the Defence Force. Greg Mills' provocative paper should be read widely to awaken thought in a society where neither politicians nor the taxpaying public understand or care about military affairs. This Discussion Paper is not a moment too soon.’ — Deon Fourie, Professor Emeritus of Strategic Studies, UNISA

‘Dr Mills has provided a long-overdue analysis of the severe lack of alignment between SA’s military spending and its foreign policy (to the extent that such a policy exists). In particular he exposes the imbalance in spending between procurement, operations, and personnel – with operations the great loser.’ — David Williams, Broadcaster, Financial Mail defence correspondent, and military historian

‘Greg Mills is among the foremost African thinkers on strategic studies today. This much is evident from this Discussion Paper reviewing the likely operating environments and requirements of the SA National Defence Force. But these issues are not unique to South Africa: All African countries should be thinking about how to best equip themselves for uncertain times and challenging environments, and in the process match force postures with the right people and appropriate training, and balance their needs with budgets. This Paper should be widely read and appreciated.’ — Lt.-General Seth Obeng (rtd), Former Chief of Defence Staff, Ghana

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