The Integration of the Armed Forces

The Integration of the Armed Forces

Williams, R. (1992). The Integration of the Armed Forces. Paper presented at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Seminar No. 6.

 

Presenter: Rocky Williams

Rocky Williams is head of the Security Sector Transformation Programme at the Institute for Security Studies.

Introduction

The creation of a representative, national and accountable Defence Force will involve the restructuring of the Defence terrain at a number of different levels. Of particular significance during the transition is the creation and/or activation of political and constitutional mechanisms designed to ensure the accountability of the present armed forces to the civilian authorities and the political process.

However, it remains equally important – particularly in the long-term – to ensure that the Defence Force itself is restructured in accordance with the objectives of a future national security strategy. Legion are the examples of armed forces which have remained intact consequent to a transition and which have continued to represent reactionary interests – this being regardless of the political and constitutional mechanisms introduced to ensure their subordination to the political process. This envisaged restructuring must affect both the role and the organisational features of a future Defence Force.

It is argued here that restructuring remains imperative for a complex of reasons. Amongst the most important are the following:

  • A future national security strategy will almost certainly emphasise the developmental and social aspects of security. The centrality of the armed forces to this policy will be substantially diminished as will the scope of their strategic and military-technical concerns.

  • The international, regional and national components of a future threat analysis will almost certainly continue diminishing in the forthcoming decade. This will influence both the primary and the auxiliary roles of a future Defence Force.

  • State apparatuses are not inherently neutral – regardless of their bureaucratic-technical orientation. Apparatuses are constituted as power bases for certain political, ideological and social interests through a complex process of role definition; personnel composition; organisational division of labour; structural features, and personal alliances and allegiances.

The concept of restructuring extends the parameters of institutional transformation envisaged by the process of integrating of the armed forces. Restructuring will follow essentially two phases:

  • The initial steps towards the restructuring of the Defence function during the interim period. This will include the institution of a multi-party committee to oversee the activities of the armed forces during the transition; the creation of an expert commission to investigate the role and form which a future Defence Force will assume; the creation of a system of joint Command and Control over the SADF, MK and the TVBC armies, and the initial stages towards the integration of these structures into a restructured Defence Force.

  • The restructuring of the defence function in the medium- and long-term. This will be a process that will affect all aspects of defence and security within the region including policy, strategy, structure, role, composition and institutional profile.

This process, and the distinction between the two strategies of integration and restructuring, are examined in greater detail below.

Restructuring and/or Reintegration

The concepts of Restructuring and Integration are not diametrically opposed to one another. Both address themselves, strategically, to the question of transforming the present armed forces into a representative and accountable national structure. However, the logical, conceptual and strategic parameters of the Integration argument fails to address the key question of the transformation of the institutional power of the present SADF. A number of arguments can be considered in this regard.

Integration denotes the merging, whether voluntary or enforced, of two or more different structures. Integration of the armed forces, for instance, can occur in a situation in which the integration process may favour one side against the other and/or may lead to the complete subsuming of the one side's identity and features into those of its adversary. However, even a numerically equitable and just process of integration cannot address itself to the central question of transforming the very nature of the armed forces.

The SADF, for instance, has been designed in response to a specific threat scenario and this is reflected in its present organisational features – a developed Counter-insurgency function; an offensive Conventional Force structure; an extensive covert Military Intelligence organisation of tasks and responsibilities that reflects its internal and external deployment patterns over the last two decades. What is thus required in order to ensure the creation of a representative Defence Force as well as its disengagement from the present and future political process, is the redefinition of the Defence Force's role and the corresponding restructuring of its institutional and technical functions.

Such a restructuring cannot be effected from "within" the Defence Force. The will and the motive for such a restructuring must be located outside the armed forces in both political and civil society. The policy and the guidelines for such a process of restructuring must emanate from an assertive and legislatively empowered Defence Ministry or National Defence Commission. The armed forces and their representatives can make recommendations via appointed military-technical committees

Within the above-mentioned scenario, integration of the SADF, TVBC and MK structures assumes a secondary, although by no means peripheral, importance. Indeed a relatively successful integration process may well facilitate the process of restructuring envisaged above. In essence it will be the stages of the restructuring process that will determine the relative importance of the integration issue. In the short-term, during the interim government period, the integration of the armed forces will assume an important symbolic and political profile. In the long term it is the complete overhaul of the defence function that will prove crucial to the creation of a stable scenario of civil-military relations.

Redefining the Role of a Future Defence Force

The Role of the SADF at Present

The primary role of the present South African Defence Force is governed by the Defence Act (Act 44 of 1957) and subsequent amendments. The Act provides for the following:

(a) on service in defence of the Union;
(b) on service in the prevention or suppression of internal disorder in the Union;
(c) on service in the preservation of life, health or property or the maintenance of essential services: and
(d) on such police duties as may be prescribed.

Since its inception in 1912 the SADF has been deployed in all of the above-mentioned roles – with varying degrees of emphasis over the past eight decades. Auxiliary functions have, particularly in the post-1978 period, included:

  • Participation in the implementation of the state's counter-revolutionary strategy at a number of different levels namely:

    • The provision of personnel to assist in the implementation of this strategy – witness the role played by the SADF in the various reaches of the State Security Council and the National Security Management System.

    • The use of the SADF structures to assist in the implementation of this strategy – witness the role played by the SADF executive Command structures in implementation of the "Total Strategy" doctrine (regional SADF Commands as the basis for regional Joint Management Centres for instance) and SADF educational institutions in the theoretical revision and dissemination of the "Total Strategy" doctrine.

  • The deployment of SADF personnel in "softwar" or "hearts and minds" functions – upgrading projects, educational programmes, etc.

  • The deployment of SADF personnel in the border areas to assist in the policing of refugees and the curbing of smuggling and gun-running.

The Role of the SADF in the Transition

In the absence of an external threat scenario the focus of SADF deployment remains largely concentrated on its internal role as prescribed by the Defence Act. At present it acts in a support capacity to the South African Police and an estimated 50 000 – 60 000 SADF personnel are deployed primarily in the urban townships. The arguments in support of this deployment are:

  • The present shortage of police manpower in these areas.

  • Increasingly it is being argued that the SADF is less partisan in its policing function that the SADF.

It is increasingly being argued that the SADF will continue to maintain a temporary presence within the townships given the problems referred to above. It is argued here that this argument is fraught with negative implications for a future Defence Force. Of particular concern is the following:

  • That the present pattern of urban counter-insurgency deployment will become a permanent feature of a future Defence Force's role.

  • That this pattern of urban counter-insurgency deployment will further politicise Defence force personnel to the left and the right of the political spectrum.

  • That this pattern of urban counter-insurgency deployment will increasingly impel the officer corps of a future Defence Force in a praetorian direction.

  • That this pattern of urban counter-insurgency deployment will increasingly witness a future Defence Force being constituted as a low-cost, high-profile urban counter-insurgency force. This will significantly affect the capacity of a future Defence Force to act as an impartial guarantor of the nation's interests.

Defence Force personnel must be disengaged from an internal role as soon as possible. If manpower shortages persist then a commitment must be made towards the expansion of the present South African Police and the greater utilisation of SAP Reserves. Larger numbers of SAP personnel can be liberated to perform their primary task of internal policing if structures such as Border Guards are created to ensure control over illegal cross-border immigration, smuggling and gun-running. The steps towards the confinement of the SADF to a conventional brief must begin during the interim period and should not be left to an unspecified date in the future. Future roles of the Defence Force are briefly examined below.

The Role of the Defence Force in the Future

A future Defence Force will face a variety of competing demands on its resources, its capabilities and its ideal role. The primary influences in this regard will be:

  • A future Defence Force will become increasingly more representative and heterogenous in composition. The social base of the present SADF officer corps remains comparatively narrow and strong ascriptive ties exist between it and the ruling political elites. A future officer corps will be subject to conflicting social, ideological and regional demands as its members seek to define their role within the Defence Force and the role of the Defence Force in society.

  • The allocation of resources to the Defence Force and its non-productive role within society will see greater demands being made for the utilisation of its infrastructure, personnel and resources in non-traditional roles. Such demands may range from the utilisation of the armed forces to police refugee influx into the country, rendering military assistance in the support of environmental campaigns and the utilisation of military personnel in curbing smuggling, drug trafficking and arms smuggling.

  • Contemporary defence debate in Western defence establishments is witnessing a shift away from the traditional brief of the armed forces – the protection of the territorial integrity of the nation – towards the type of defence brief referred to in (2) above. These strategic and doctrinal shifts will certainly enter the terrain of South African defence debate – particularly given the strong links that exist between South African and the West.

It is argued here that a future Defence establishment and the political authorities to whom it will remain accountable will have to resist the temptation to become involved in a range of non-military and non-conventional tasks. Although such tasks may inhere in the national security strategies and doctrines of many Western armed forces, it should be borne in mind that these countries possess both a well-developed political culture and a long tradition of the military subordination to the political and civilian authorities. The recent history of the SADF, by comparison, has revealed a scenario in which the armed forces have deeply penetrated both civil and political society. The primary task with regard to a future Defence Force is therefore to ensure the disengagement of the armed forces from political and civil society in the short- to medium-term and their eventual subordination to the political process in the long-term.

A future Ministry of Defence must strive for the assertion of the primary role of the Defence Force: its role in the deterrence of external aggression. Secondary or auxiliary/ancillary roles should not extend beyond the scope of the following tasks:

  • The rendering of assistance in the execution of disaster relief operations.

  • The rendering of assistance in the provision of emergency relief support.

  • The rendering of support, in the context of national sensitivities, in support of international peacekeeping efforts.

  • The rendering of training assistance to the armed forces of the region where such training is beyond the scope and the capacity of our neighbours.

Demands for the involvement of the armed forces in other auxiliary roles must be anticipated through the creation and development of the following structures, particularly inasmuch as it pertains to police-supportive roles:

  • A Border Guard function responsible for the patrolling and policing of the country's borders: illegal immigration; drug smuggling and illegal weapons control. Such structures should resort under the command of a civilian state department such as the Department of Internal Affairs and/or Customs and Excise.

  • The creation of a National Guard militia-type structure responsible for the activation of personnel in support of police operations. Such a structure will assist in the brief of upholding and protecting the sovereignty of the nation. A militia will resort under the control of the federal or district authorities of a particular area.

  • Extending the size of the police force.

Restructuring the South African Defence Force

Restructuring and a Changing Strategic Threat Scenario

The restructuring of the Defence Force is a product of two primary factors:

  • A changed threat analysis and its reflection in the shifting nature of international, regional and national power relations.

  • The importance of restructuring the Defence Force so that it becomes representative of the South African population and accountable to the political process and the civilian authorities.

In the absence of an existing threat analysis which takes into account the realignment in international, regional and national forces, a series of broad principles can be isolated as underpinning such an analysis. Sources of violence against the Commonwealth in the future may emanate from:

A. External enemies of the Commonwealth may threaten the commonwealth in the following forms:

  1. threats of foreign invasion;

  2. external subversion and/or infiltration
  3. economic warfare

It is asserted here that the likelihood of points 1 and 3 emerging are, at the present conjuncture, slight. The possibility of foreign states seeking to exploit internal divisions through 2 cannot be ruled out in the long-term but, if and when it occurs, this should be the prerogative of the Police and the Border Guard to deal with.

B. Threats to the Constitution may level itself against the body politic in the following forms when existing constitutional mechanisms are seen by certain groups as being adequate channels via which to express real or imagined grievances:

  1. Coup d'etats launched by factions within the armed forces or civilian groupings confidence of the indifference and/or support of sectors of the armed forces.

  2. Armed rebellion launched by disaffected citizenry either spontaneously or under the leadership of a particular political grouping/s.

  3. Riots when this entails the destruction of life, property and infrastructure.

  4. Internal subversion when this entails the subversion by internal political groupings of the existing body politic.

  5. Terrorism in either a spontaneous or premeditated form.

It is argued here that the armed forces of a future Defence Force should be strictly limited to a defensive brief with internal deployment roles being allocated to other non-military members of the security establishment. Within the above-mentioned scenario the armed forces would only be compelled to respond to 1 when such an eruption occurred within their own ranks. Points 2 to 5 would remain the prerogative of the National Guard and the Police.

C. Threats of Natural Disasters are different to A and B referred to above in that they are a heterogenous class of threats rarely brought about by the conscious intervention of human agency. Although they do not tend to affect an entire nation, they can produce considerable emiseration and conflict within particular regions. Such disasters can include droughts; famines; large-scale accidents; floods; other natural disasters (earthquakes, tornadoes, etc) and epidemics.

In such cases, and when the existing civilian infrastructure is either non-existent or clearly capable of carrying out relief work, the armed forces may use their personnel, infrastructure and equipment to render assistance in such cases. This assistance must be premised on the understanding that such assistance is only of temporary duration and will cease once regional infrastructures have been restored and supply patterns have proved operational.

The Restructuring of the Defence Force
Principles underlying restructuring

The restructuring of the Defence Force in response to the points raised above will be based on the following principles:

  • The acknowledgement by the armed forces of the supremacy and inviolability of civilian authority.

  • The acknowledgement by the armed forces of their non-partisan nature and their neutrality vis-à-vis the political process.

  • An emphasis on an economy of resources in the execution of Defence tasks in response to such threats.

  • An emphasis on a defensive strategy and posture.

  • The professionalism of the armed forces in executing these tasks.

  • A proper division of labour and teamwork in the execution of these tasks.

  • An emphasis on mobility and effectiveness of action given the terrain within which the armed forces will be operating.

It is important to note that Defence and/or bureaucratic restructuring of any form does not necessarily entail the restructuring of an apparatus either in its entirety or with regard to every function therein. Many features of the contemporary state and the armed forces could well be retained within the structure of a future institutional order. It is important in this regard to distinguish between contentious and non-contentious features of a bureaucratic structure.

Contentious features are those structures that have played an overtly or covertly partisan role in the execution of previous state policy. Within this category one would be referring to such units as the Special Forces Division and the SADF's Military Intelligence function.

Non-contentious functions are those structures which have fulfilled a largely bureaucratic-technical function in the execution of state policy and whose structures and functions can be retained within a future Defence Force with only minor modifications. Examples in this regard are the finance, planning and ordinance features of the present SADF and the functional differentiation between the responsibilities of the various Staff Divisions.

The South African security establishment: Rationalisation and redefinition

A. The South African Security Establishment at present

The South African security establishment is presently marked by a concentration of executive power at the apex of the pyramid but also by a dispersal of functions at the other levels of the structure.

B. The South African Security Establishment in transition

It is recommended that during the transition initial steps are taken to:

  • Ensure the rationalisation and consolidation of the security function. This will involve the initial steps towards the integration of the different military and police functions (central government; homeland administration and self-governing territories) and the institution of some form of control over paramilitary groupings.

  • The subordination of the activities of all components of the security establishment to that of a Security Multi-party Committee. The S/MPC will ensure that all executive reaches of the security family are subordinated to its authority.

C. The South African Security Establishment in the future

Whilst the South African Security Establishment in the future will be marked by a rationalisation of its functions, it will also be characterised by considerable restructuring within and between its various components. Important elements in this regard will include:

  • The consolidation of the police functions under the aegis of a centralised police authority.

  • The consolidation of the military functions under the aegis of a centralised military command structure.

  • The creation of a national militia entrusted with the responsibility of assisting the police during periods of civil unrest.

  • The creation of a Border Guard function entrusted with the responsibility of policing the nation's borders.

  • The disbanding of the Civil Defence network in the light of the creation of a national militia.

  • The disbanding of and/or institution of executive control over paramilitary groupings (private security companies, etc.)

The South African Defence Force and constitutional control

A. The SADF and constitutional control at present

The SADF at present resorts under the Ministry of Defence which, theoretically, provides the SADF with direction in the sphere of defence policy. The Cabinet formulates policy on defence and security issues via the Cabinet Committee for Security Affairs.

Technically the SADF is subject to parliamentary control, but little debate over substantive defence issues has taken place in the last two decades. No Parliamentary Defence Committee exists and the Defence Parliamentary Study Group is little more than a toothless watchdog. The Auditor-General inspects the expenditure of the Defence Budget on a yearly basis but has little control over the allocation of monies from the Defence Special Account (constituting more than half of the present Defence budget).

The present Ministry of Defence, despite the high hopes generated by the appointment of Roelf Meyer as Minister of Defence, has proved incapable of imparting real policy direction and/or assertive control over the SADF Command Council. In effect it has become in certain crucial arenas a captive of the SADF's Command echelons.

B. The SADF and constitutional control in transition

During the transition it is recommended that the initial steps be undertaken towards the restructuring of the defence environment and the integration of diverse military formations into a single Defence Force. Control over the armed forces should be exercised via the following structures (which will also be responsible for either recommending or implementing appropriate legislation in connection with the restructuring of the SADF):

  • The institution of a Security Forces Multi-party Committee responsible for oversight and control over the armed forces during the transition. The S/MPC will have executive control over both the Ministry of Defence and the Command structures of the different armed forces within the country.

  • The activation of the Defence Council (legislated into existence in 1912) to act as an advisory body in the sphere of defence and security issues. The DC will remain an autonomous body, desirably civilian in composition and will proffer and/or be available for advice to any body involved in the defence and security field.

  • The creation of a Military Ombudsperson to provide recourse for both civilian and military personnel who feel that the armed forces have violated their individual or constitutional rights.

  • Because the present Ministry of Defence will gradually assume a more residual role under an interim government, it is recommended that an interim government also undertake the initial steps towards the creation of a new Defence Ministry consisting of civilian experts drawn from a wide range of areas.

The initial stages of an interim government may also witness the integration of the TVBC armies and MK with the present SADF. Initial steps in this regard include:

  • The creation of a Joint Command Council responsible for the command and control of the command structures of the SADF, MK and the TBVC armies.

  • The establishment of a Joint Monitoring Commission responsible for the investigation of any violations of the National Peace Accord and the spirit and letter of CODESA.

C. A New SADF and constitutional control in the future

It is difficult to speculate as to the precise form of constitutional control which a future elected assembly will exert over the armed forces. However, given the strong institutional, historical and political ties that exist between South Africa and the West it seems likely that this "model" will approximate that of conventional Western models. Suggestions in this regard are:

  • The upgrading of the Defence Council to constitute a supreme decision-making body similar to that of the "High Defence Council" in France and the "Defence Council" of the United Kingdom.

  • The creation of a civilian Ministry of Defence, the emphasis of the division between the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Defence and the appointment of a civilian Secretary of Defence to oversee the activities of the military Department of Defence.

  • The creation of a Parliamentary Defence Committee which will have multi-party powers to oversee, approve and initiate enquiries into matters defence-related.

  • The empowerment of the present Auditor-General's function with regard to the investigation of Defence expenditure. A suggestion could be the creation of a sub-section of the Defence Ministry which is solely concerned with the allocation and approval of all defence expenditure.

  • The establishment of the Military Ombudsman as a separate function within the civilian structures of the state.

Restructuring the SADF Executive Command structure

A. The SADF Executive Command Structure at present

The SADF Executive Command structure consists of the following features:

  • Ultimate responsibility for the command and control of the SADF resides with the Chief of the South African Defence Force.

  • The C/SADF is assisted in his command over the SADF by the Defence Command Council. It is chaired by the C/SADF and its other permanent members are the Chief of Defence Staff, Chiefs of the Army, Air Force Navy and Medical Services; the Chiefs of the Six Staff Divisions; the General Officer Commanding the Special Forces; the Inspector General of the SADF and the Sergeant-Major of the SADF.

  • The Defence Planning Committee is responsible for the fact that the SADF's five year plan, its procurement policy and its budget fall within the financial limits set by Cabinet and are in accordance with the policy formulated by the Defence Command Council. It is chaired by the Deputy Minister of Defence and includes the Chiefs of the four services; Chiefs of the Staff Divisions and the Chairman of ARMSCOR.

  • The Defence Manpower Liaison Committee consists of the Chief of Staff Personnel and the Chiefs of Personnel from the various services and representatives of 21 employer organisations. It is concerned with the establishment of communication and understanding between the SADF and the private sector over the utilisation of manpower. It was known, until 1980, as the Defence Advisory Committee.

B. The SADF Executive Command Structure in the transition and future

The present SADF executive command structure exhibits a high level of centralisation and unity. It is desirable that such a concentration of power be fragmented during the transition and in the future for the following reasons:

  • The centralisation of power in the hands of a small executive function greatly facilitates the ability of the armed forces to mount an effective intervention against the civilian authorities.

  • The centralisation of authority in the hands of a small executive function greatly facilitates the ability of the armed forces to forge links with other such structures within the security establishment – the Police for example.

The following suggestions are made in this regard regarding the restructuring of the command echelons:

  • The post of Chief of the SADF could be scrapped. In place of a vertical concentration of power in the post of C/SADF, a system of horizontal differentiation could be introduced along the lines of the Indian Defence Force and the British Armed Forces. In this scenario each service is functionally, operationally and bureaucratically separate from the others and such co-ordination that is effected is effected through the Chief of the Defence Staff.

  • The scope of the present Defence Manpower Liaison Committee could be extended beyond its present armed forces/big business composition to include civilian representatives from other spheres of the community who lay just claim to being included on matters of defence deliberation (trade unions, church groupings, civics, etc.). The scope of this forum could be extended to include joint military/civilian consultation on a wide range of defence issues that directly and indirectly affect the community.

  • Civilian representation could be ensured on those internal bodies within the armed forces that are responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy. A similar situation inheres within the Indian Defence Force where operational and strategic questions pertaining to the IDF are jointly decided by joint civilian/military armed forces committees.

Restructuring the South African Army

The SA/Army remains the primary focus of restructuring both due to its size and its centrality in executing the "Total Strategy" project in the past. Although it will continue to remain the senior service of the SADF in the future, its role, structure and composition will have to be drastically reduced. The role of the SA/Army must be redefined both during the transition and in the future.

A. The SA/Army at present:

The SA/Army at present is divided into three basic components:

  • Its HQ and support functions (logistics, signals, engineering and training formations).

  • A Conventional Force divided into three divisions of two brigades each.

  • A Counter-insurgency Area Force divided into ten Territorial Commands.

With the diminution of the external threat scenario the SA/Army is increasingly finding itself utilised in the capacity of a counter-insurgency force – especially in the townships.

B. The SA/Army in the transition

A number of steps could be initiated during the transition to ensure the reduction of the SA/Army's size and its disengagement from politics. These would include:

  • Increasing the size of the South African Police and its budget thereby providing the motivation for the removal of the SA/Army from its urban counter-insurgency deployment role.

  • Eliminating the system of whites-only conscription.

  • The disbanding of the SA/Army counter-insurgency structures such as its Commando Force and its Territorial Command system.

C. The SA/Army in the future

The following steps are recommended with the reconstitution of the SA/Army in the future:

  • The SA/Army will be concerned solely with an external defensive brief and this will be reflected in its composition, training and deployment.

  • The structure of the SA/Army will reflect its conventional role – Divisions, brigades and regiments. Where smaller task groups are required, the SA/Army can constitute these along the lines of its present system of combat formations.

  • No reserve forces will be constituted from existing conscription patterns. Reserve forces will be voluntary and could be constituted along the lines of the Territorial Army system.

The South African Air Force in the future

At present the SAAF occupies a largely offensive position vis-à-vis its equipment, deployment patterns and training. This has been borne out of its pivotal role in supporting SA/Army operations in the past. There are indications, however, that the SAAF is adapting in a relatively creative manner to the changed strategic threat scenario – the role of the SAAF in disaster relief operations, for instance.

Future changes to the SAAF could include:

  • The confinement of the SAAF to a defensive brief. This would be reflected in the reorientation of many of its present squadrons and the shutting down of some of its forward area of offensive bases – AFB Louis Trichardt, Hoedspruit and Pietersburg, for example.

  • An emphasis on the role that it could play in the sphere of regional air co-operation. To build confidence in the area and reduce the psychological threat posed by South Africa, it is recommended that the present Botswanan Air Base under construction be used as a HG for air commands in the region.

  • The utilisation of its structures in the interests of regional co-operation. Its Joint Air Reconnoissance Command, for instance, could provide the basis for collation of all air intelligence in the region.

The South African Navy in the future

The South African Navy will fulfil a largely ceremonial and coast guard function in the future. Although a navy will have to be retained for reasons of foreign policy it appears unlikely that it will assume greater proportions than it does at present. There appears to be a recognition of this fact within the present Admiralty and the manner in which the SA/Navy is being reorientated during the transition.

The South African Medical Services in the future

Any future Defence Force will require a medical function. The Medical Services could either remain constituted as a separate arm of the service or could be structurally integrated into each respective service as a service function. The size of the present SAMS will be vastly reduced both because of its primarily conscript nature and because of the role it played in supporting the S A Army in the past. The SAMS has acquired considerable experience in the sphere of operational medicine in the past two decades and this experience can be immensely valuable to other armed forces in the region.

The Force Structure of a future Defence Force

A. Force Structure of the SADF at present

The small permanent cadre provides the command and control, training and administrative functions for the SADF. The conscript musterings (national servicemen; Citizen Force and Commandos) provide it with the bulk of its combat and operational manpower.

B. Force Structures in the future

It is advisable that a future Defence Force be professional and volunteer in composition. A conscript army with all its attendant divisions could severely undermine the legitimacy and internal unity of a future Defence Force. However, certain arguments are raised in favour of a selective system of conscription that require careful consideration:

  • The system of the "nation in arms" proves to be a powerful countervailing force against the prospects and/or successful outcome of a coup occurring.

  • The system of conscription proves to be a less expensive option than that of a regular professional army.

  • A system of conscription provides the nation with a ready system of reserves should they so require it.

The points referred to above are powerful and valid arguments. However, it is possible to achieve an army that, although professional and non-conscript in nature, meets all of the conditions referred to above. These points are expanded below:

  • The system of the "nation in arms" or the "Citizen in uniform" can be met without introducing conscription in any form. This could be done either by:

    • A system of short service where the bulk of the manpower for the armed forces is provided by troops and NCOs signing on for 3 or 5 year periods. This ensures a continual flow of manpower through the base of the Force Structure pyramid and ensures the ongoing civilianisation of the armed forces.

    • The institution of a Territorial Army whereby civilian volunteers provide the armed forces with their manpower on a part-time basis.

  • The present Permanent Force system within the SADF can be redefined in such a manner that the PF continues to constitute the "core" of the Defence Force whilst much of its potential manpower can be drawn from Territorial Army units – volunteers – based throughout the country. This is not a system of conscription but actually relies on volunteers to staff many of the functions of the armed forces without having to pay them a regular salary (they are only called up when needed). The experience of the Territorial Army in Britain has proved considerably less expensive than maintaining a full-time regular army.

  • Within the Territorial Army system it is no longer necessary to use conscription as the basis for your reserve system. TA units are volunteer and provide that reserve capacity.

Force Structure debates will require ongoing analysis involving a broad range of actors. However, expense should not prove the primary determinant at the end of the day. An expensive Defence Force that remains aloof from politics is certainly more desirable than an inexpensive one that does not.

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