Expanding role of military
By Waleed PD Mahdini

The third installment in the ever-refining process of the evolution of security roles and defence requirements of Brunei Darussalam was released yesterday that coincided with the official opening ceremony of this year's Brunei Darussalam International Defence Exhibition.

Aptly defined as 'Defending the Nation's Sovereignty', the latest Defence White Paper (DWP), which was launched by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Minister of Defence and Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, as part of the RBAF's Golden Anniversary Celebrations was themed on 'Expanding Roles in Wider Horizons' that encapsulates the current stage of the Sultanate's defence posture in terms of development and capability.

Released three years after its predecessor, the DWP update of 'Shaping the Force Today', and heeding the decree made by the monarch during the RBAF's 49th anniversary last year for the latest DWP to take into account non-traditional threats, the newest DWP was carefully prepared and formulated within the backdrop of the global economic crisis, the increasing frequency of natural disasters, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the ever-present risk to energy, resource as well as, increasingly, information security, whilst still maintaining the firm foundation towards ensuring the nation's stability by balancing the conventional defensive roles and responsibilities for a compact, fighting force of a small country, with a tiny manpower base that is seeing better judgments and careful utilisation of its finite hydrocarbon resources, as well as emphasis on technology as force-multipliers, in line with the goals of the Brunei Darussalam Vision 2035.

However, over the past half century, the RBAF has constantly upgraded and improved upon maintaining its capacity to respond to a range of lower level hostilities that have been assessed to be the most likely strategic scenarios in the immediate future.

But despite all this, in view of the increasingly unpredictable plethora of unconventional threats and risks from non-state actors, in the near-term, have shaped the DWP 2011 in identifying the need to develop a more comprehensive and recognised Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance situational awareness, in cooperation through intelligence-sharing and refinements in a joint structure of planning, training and operations with other security-related agencies to balance its capability in meeting any security gaps, particularly along the border areas and immediate maritime approaches.

Indeed this was one of the key points highlighted by many of the international speakers during the BRIDEX Conference on Wednesday.

Aside from the national security agenda, the DWP also highlights specific focus on improving the RBAF's force preparedness and mobility towards international peacekeeping missions to support regional stability, which are key requirements for promoting and maintaining lasting conditions for peace, such as through the increased national capability introduced by the arrival of the new fleet for the Royal Brunei Navy that could support the RBAF's regional troop deployments, as well as form another protective security layer to the regional efforts against piracy or other transnational crimes.

Some of the defence components for this overarching security umbrella have already been acquired, but other hardware acquisitions, such as replacing its ageing helicopter fleet, for instance, training infrastructure and planning processes have been systematically earmarked in the 2011 DWP as immediate-, medium- and long-term prerequisites for ensuring a capable and credible defence not only for the nation's sovereignty, but also as force-enablers for improving regional cooperation and networking to avert future potential threats from spilling into open conflicts.

Also present during the launching ceremony of the 2011 DWP was HRH Prince General Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and General of the RBAF.

The ceremony itself was initiated when His Majesty placed both his hands on a transparent globe after which the new DWP appeared from a nearby console.

The monarch then picked up the DWP, inspected the cover before returning it back to its stand, to signal the ceremony was over. Dato Paduka Haji Mustappa bin Haji Sirat, Deputy Minister of Defence then had the honour of presenting the Supreme Commander and General of the RBAF with a hardcopy of the new DWP. - Borneo Bulletin (7th July 2011)