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NZDF looks to the stars and cyberspace in policy refresh

Friday 6th July 2018

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The New Zealand Defence Force will venture into new frontiers under a policy refresh, which will need the military to lift its ability to meet threats and opportunities in space and online, to reflect the new government's foreign policy and national security priorities. 

“We live in turbulent times, the world is changing and there has been a re-emergence of Great Power competition. It is also important that we align defence strategy with the values and principles of the new coalition government,” Defence Minister Ron Mark said. 

"The Defence Force is also expected to play an important role in protecting New Zealand's connections to the rest of the world, both physical and electronic," according to the strategic statement. 

The document, released today, points to increasing vulnerabilities and opportunities in cyber and space environments, saying "New Zealand's security and prosperity require reliable electronic communications links, both terrestrial and space-based." The defence force is expected to work alongside other agencies and New Zealand's international partners to promote cybersecurity and resilient access to space-based systems.

The aligns with a broader government strategy to develop the nation's digital capability to reach more New Zealanders in more places, and ultimately make a bigger contribution to the economy. 

The defence force strategy statement said New Zealand's secure access to space-based systems will depend on the development of international norms that influence behaviour in space. It notes that a rules-based approach supports the protection of New Zealand's interests and matches the nation's broader interest in reinforcing the international rules-based order. 

“As a small state, New Zealand relies on the international rules-based order and multilateral approaches – alongside its international partnerships – to protect its interests and amplify its ability to be a positive global contributor,"  said Mark. 

According to the statement, the Defence Force supports the promotion of New Zealand's interests through its engagement on space issues with a range of international partners, most notably via the Combined Space Operations Initiative and the Schriever Wargame, which involves the Five Eye states - the UK, UK, Australia and Canada - as well as France and Germany.

"As New Zealand's defence partners move towards closer interoperability in space, Defence must ensure it has the right people with the right expertise to contribute domestically and internationally on these issues," it said. 

It also noted New Zealand is developing its national space policy and Defence has an important role to play in this process.

New Zealand is a recent entrant to the global space community, passing legislation to create a regulatory system last year in what was described as a permissive regime and enabling Kiwi firm Rocket Lab to operate a commercial launch site on Mahia Peninsula.

Among other things, the document said Defence should explore how space capabilities could be developed and used as part of its capability mix and ensure the Defence Force is able to continue to operate effectively in space-denied or degraded environments. These could include supporting communications or maritime surveillance or the ability to contribute Defence staff to support partners' capabilities that benefit New Zealand. 

On cyber capabilities it said across all tasks required of it by the government, the Defence Force will face an increasing cyber threat and environments in which cyber activities are increasingly part of day-to-day military activity. 

"Physical distance is no protection in cyberspace and New Zealand is subject to a growing cyber threat from state-sponsored and other malicious actors," it said. 

Separately, the government is consulting on a new cyber-security strategy and may start naming-and-shaming state-sponsored cyber attacks as a deterrent. 

The document noted the Defence White Paper 2016 set out an increased capability for protecting Defence's networks, but did not expand the range of cyber activities it was to be able to undertake.

"To maintain relevant combat capabilities, including interoperability with close partners, into the future the Defence Force needs to be able to conduct a broader range of cyber operations," it said. This would give military commanders a broader set of tools. 

The statement also looks at the issue of climate change, something it said is a complex disrupter. 

“Not only will the impacts of climate change contribute to instability and insecurity around the world, climate change will increase the demands on the New Zealand Defence Force to respond to natural disasters here at home and in the Pacific," said Mark. 

There will be a need for more humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and stability operations in our region, and greater need to plan for and respond to civil defence emergencies, the document said. "New Zealand may be faced with concurrent operational commitments, which could stretch resource and reduce readiness for other requirements."

The government is now reviewing the Defence Capability Plan which will determine which capabilities the Defence Force will need to implement the updated settings, and the review will be wrapped up by the end of this year, Mark said.. 


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