May 31, 2010:
New Zealand's military has, surprisingly, been able to get a little more money for itself. The island nation's government has decided to increase the New Zealand Defense Forces' (NZDF) annual budget by .7 percent, to $1.89 billion (about one percent of GDP) for the next fiscal year. Ironically, the overall budget for the entire Ministry of Defense is being cut 24 percent, to $158 million.
This might sound fairly routine if only the Defense Ministry's budget is being slashed, but the fact that the defense bureaucracy is getting cut while the warfighting elements are getting a boost indicates, that the small country is trying to shift its priorities, spend its money wisely, and pay more attention to the types of conflicts its likely to face in the future. The Army is, as usual, going to receive the largest share of the new budget, since, to this very day, it continues to be the branch of service that bears the brunt of the fighting and casualties during New Zealand's military deployments, receiving $559 million, 6.6 percent more than last year. The Special Forces will see their share of the money go up by about $2.7 million.
The New Zealanders have good reason to take care of their military and take it seriously. New Zealand has never faced invasion, but has seen peacekeeping and war fighting deployments stretching back to the First World War, either in aid to the British Empire forces or as part of international efforts at counter-terrorism. New Zealand Army troops, particularly their Special Air Service, are highly prized as allies in the War on Terror.
Despite its tiny size (4.4 million population, 9,000 active duty troops, plus 2,200 reservists), the Kiwis produce one of the most well-trained, equipped, and disciplined ground forces in the world, based primarily around infantry and special forces, their own version of the Special Air Service. They bring to the field first-class training and morale, and decades of successful warfighting experience in unconventional warfare. During their experiences in World War II and the Vietnam War, the tiny New Zealand force, alongside the Australians, were considered by many to be the undisputed masters of tropical warfare, paying close attention to ambushes, patrolling, and small unit tactics at squad and platoon level.
New Zealand is eager to maintain the outstanding, successful reputation its army has developed over the years. It is starting to realize the government is going to have to spend more money for equipment, training, and manpower retention if the world is going to continue to hold its military in extremely high esteem.