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By Mr A. Sweeney


‘Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi. Engari, he toa takitini – My Strength is not the strength of one, it is the strength of many’ – Maori Proverb

In order for the NZ Army to remain viable and relevant within an integrated coalition out to 2040 it will be critical to construct an interoperable force, highly capable in specific refined capabilities that are valued by its coalition partners. It would be unwise for the NZ Army to continue to spread its finite resources across an increasingly widening collection of operational outputs. The NZ Army is already struggling to maintain comparative capability with its coalition partners and soon risks becoming a hindrance to coalition operations rather than a valued partner. Providing specific capabilities within an integrated coalition provides the NZ Army the ability to add value, whilst at the same time, leveraging the ‘strength of many’ through its coalition partners to achieve its strategic interests. Rather than focusing on the specific capabilities that the NZ Army should develop, this article outlines the considerations and methodology necessary in order to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks associated with this approach. 

Aligning Specific Capabilities
Choosing those specific capabilities that the NZ Army should develop necessitates a balance between New Zealand’s national interests and the interests of its coalition partners. In many cases the priorities of New Zealand’s coalition partners out to 2040 will not easily align with its own national interests. There are also competing interests between New Zealand’s coalition partners themselves to contend with, which have the potential to widen further into the future. Therefore, the greater extent to which the NZ Army is able to identify and develop specific capabilities that align across a wider spectrum of its key stakeholder’s needs, the better off it will be. An example of this is development of an expeditionary-capable amphibious task force that is able to meet New Zealand’s national interests of providing stability operations (e.g. Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief) in the South-Pacific independently, whilst at the same time, is capable of providing a combat-ready amphibious unit that would be of significant value within an integrated coalition. 

Figure 1. An amphibious task force could align both to New Zealand’s national interests as well as the interests of its coalition partners. Source: New Zealand Army. 

An Incremental Evolution
As New Zealand’s strategic interests and the nature of warfare change into the future, it is necessary for the NZ Army to maintain the flexibility to modify any specific capabilities that it develops. The NZ Army risks becoming irrelevant if it becomes too entrenched in specific capabilities and rigid structures that make it difficult to adapt to changing circumstances. The worst-case scenario being that the specific capabilities to which the NZ Army invests, themselves become completely irrelevant through a sudden drastic change to the nature of warfare. This necessitates a phased or incremental approach to the evolution of specific capabilities, whereby, the NZ Army has available ‘off ramps’ that allow it to increase, decrease or discontinue its pathway of investment at critical junctures. An example of incremental evolution of capability development is the NZ Army Network Enabled Army (NEA) Programme. The NEA Programme uses of a tranche system of capability development (as shown in Figure 2) that builds upon the last. At the completion of each tranche, the NZ Army is able to reflect upon the capabilities developed and if necessary enhance, decrease or discontinue investment along one or several of its capability streams without compromising the integrity of its outputs achieved to date.

Figure 2. The Network Enabled Army (NEA) Tranche System provides a useful template for the incremental evolution of specific capability development. Source: New Zealand Army.

Maintaining Strong Roots

‘Ko te tumu herenga waka – Like a tree stump to which the many canoes are tied’ – Maori Proverb

Arguably most important in creating the conditions necessary for the successful development of specific capabilities as part of an integrated coalition out to 2040 is for the NZ Army to remain deeply rooted in its culture. Ask any coalition partner as to the NZ Army’s greatest asset and almost all will agree that it is its culture. Ngati Tumatauenga (Tribe of the God of War) instills the NZ Army with a powerful group identity. The two great warrior cultures of the Māori and the British combine within the NZ Army to create a truly unique soldier.[1] As seen by its successful application as part of coalition stability and security operations within the South Pacific, this unique culture provides the NZ Army with a competitive advantage within coalition operations. As part of an integrated coalition operating within complex and ever-changing fighting environments, the NZ Army Ngati Tumatauenga culture will continue to be of significant value and should be fundamental to any specific capability developed. 

Figure 3. The NZ Army Ngati Tumatauenga culture provides a competitive advantage within an integrated coalition. Source: Soldiers Without Guns. 

As the NZ Army manages shifting strategic priorities and the changing nature of warfare into the future, its strength as a relevant and viable force as part of an integrated coalition relies heavily on its ability to develop specific capabilities that are valuable to its coalition partners. For a force the size of the NZ Army, the development of specific capabilities provides a platform to add value and leverage the strength of its larger coalition partners. In order to maximise the chances for success and decrease the risks associated with this approach, the NZ Army should invest in specific capabilities that best align across the often-competing needs of its key stakeholders, whilst at the same time, apply an incremental evolution to the development of any specific capability. Critical to any approach the NZ Army chooses is that it remains rooted in its culture, an integral capability and its greatest asset within an integrated coalition. 



1. Way of the New Zealand Warrior, New Zealand Army, 2020.