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Jakarta Post

Time to move on from '€˜military reform'€™ (Part 2 of 2)

  • Evan A. Laksmana

    The Jakarta Post

New York   /   Tue, September 16, 2014   /  01:13 pm

The lack of an institutionalized integrated tri-service culture within the Indonesian Military (TNI) means that the procurement process is reduced to a shopping list for the individual services.

According to MEF documents, arms spending until 2024 divides the pie almost evenly between the army, navy and air force.

This policy however does not take into account the different operational readiness and capability requirements of each service, Indonesia'€™s predominantly maritime geostrategic position, and the imbalance between force sizes (the army is approximately five and ten times the size of the navy and air force respectively).

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono'€™s defense modernization has eventually been directed to better equip the services (the hardware) without overhauling the personnel system and quality (the software) and the organizational infrastructure (the operating system).

For one thing, aside from the personnel issues mentioned above, the process of doctrinal revisions '€” from political to tactical level '€” has been uneven. With the '€œdual function'€ gone and the New Paradigm in place, along with the newly revamped Total People'€™s Defense, combat and operational doctrines have only recently received attention.

Indeed, the TNI'€™s regular tri-service exercises in recent years were designed to try out different variations of its joint operations doctrine.

This process is ongoing and should be supported. But tailoring long-term arms purchases in the absence of a coherent operational doctrine undermines the notion of capability-based defense procurement.

For another, if the TNI is serious about joining the ranks of advanced militaries, the process to create
the Regional Defense Joint Command '€” allowing the three services to be integrated under one command '€” to replace the existing separate territorial command structure should be accelerated.

A leaner organization oriented less toward domestic security and more toward the changing external strategic environment, staffed with better-educated and qualified officers, and guided by a coherent doctrine, can better capitalize on advanced technology.

But focusing on technological modernization alone is akin to spending generously for a new engine to be fitted onto an old car.

Bottom line, modernization does not guarantee the creation a more effective and efficient combat organization. By itself, modernization is a necessary process, but not sufficient. Equal, if not more, attention should be given to personnel development, network-centric integration of existing weapons systems and organizational overhaul.

One way to start thinking about how to design and implement these different, and arguably complex, policies is to make a gestalt switch in our conceptual basis from '€œmilitary reform'€ to '€œdefense transformation'€.

As mandated by the 1998 democratic transition, '€œmilitary reform'€ implies fixing certain aspects of the military'€™s '€œdistorted'€ roles.

As we'€™ve seen above, this meant erasing the legacies of Soeharto'€™s authoritarian rule.

'€œDefense transformation'€, on the other hand, suggests a complete overhaul of the military'€™s worldview, institutions and even missions and future development.

It implies an institutional and paradigm shift on how the military views and structures itself, educates and trains its members, how it equips itself, and how it plans to fight.

Also, the focus on '€œdefense'€ rather than '€œmilitary'€ implies that the actors we need to focus on bringing into the process are not just the TNI.

Civilian officials at the defense ministry, civil society groups, academics and scientists, as well as corporate officials working within the defense industrial establishment, all play a key role in shaping the transformation process.

More importantly however, defense transformation is something for the long haul '€” it would take around 10 to 20 years to formulate and implement.

This means that the process should not be too dependent on who the current president is. Long-term planning also helps the TNI in dealing with the sometimes unruly political process of negotiating its strategic and operational plans with the powers that be.

With this in mind, the president-elect should consider different policies to overhaul the TNI'€™s entire education and training system, accelerate and synchronize its organizational reform plans and doctrinal revisions, and revamp the Defense Ministry'€™s defense budgeting and management process, along with its acquisition and research and development practices.

These policies would lay the foundation during Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo'€™s first term for a more thorough defense transformation process. Of course, they would be better coordinated if Jokowi could make the breakthrough that Yudhoyono couldn'€™t '€” establish a professionally-led National Security Council in the absence of a long-drawn out national security bill.

That being said, critics will point out that I am omitting key '€œunfinished businesses'€ from the military reform agenda set in 1998, including the resolution of past human rights abuses, the overhaul of the military justice system and the elimination of any sense of impunity for officers acting beyond the bounds of our legal system.

The defense transformation vision offered here may not directly address these concerns head on. But overhauling the personnel and education system is a pivotal policy to prevent future human rights abuses '€” rather than remedy past ones '€” or other illegal actions taken by our officers.

More concretely, fixing promotion policies could minimize future internal dissent among the rank and file, while better education and training systems could instill a new sense of professional identity.

Replacing the territorial command structure and putting in place coherent operational doctrines could provide a new sense of mission and improve readiness amid a rapidly changing strategic environment.

In conclusion, fixating on military reform alone will hold us back in the past at a time when Jokowi'€™s election should give us more push to look ahead. A defense transformation agenda gives us the roadmap to do so.


The writer is a researcher with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta and a non-resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

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