Time for a National Security Strategy

Author: Rothery, C.
Published in National Security Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2019

Criticisms of the New Zealand national security framework

The New Zealand national security framework is based around responding to events and having the measures in place for an effective response, but it does not contain a forward-looking strategy. There are individual agency documents that do have forward-looking elements to them, such as the Defence White Paper 2016 and Biosecurity 2025, however, these are not connected to each other or any other agency plan. The in- tent behind a national security strategy would be to provide government agencies with centralised and common direction and guidance, so when developing their national security capabilities, they are coordinated with other agencies.20 There is very little in the way of strategic thinking when it comes to New Zealand’s approach to national security.21 MFAT has reduced its Strategic Policy Division, highlighting that there does not appear to be an emphasis for developing strategic direction for national security. The whole-of-society approach to national security is based around collaboration between government agencies themselves and between them and the private sector. However, there is no strategy for how this will occur, or how the government intends to develop a more inclusive approach.

It was noted by Demos, a London-based think tank specialising in social policy, that the boundaries between domestic and international politics have become blurred and interconnected and therefore it is necessary for the UK to take a networked approach to security strategy.22 It should be no different for New Zealand. Additionally, a national security strategy should include the conduct of a comprehensive review of the strategy at regular intervals. At present the reviews are ad hoc and for one particular piece of legislation or plan at a time. The Intelligence and Security Review was conducted in 2017, yet there has been no review of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, which are two legislative areas that should be viewed as interconnected in the current threat environment. The National CDEM Plan 2015 was reviewed in 2017, two years after its release, however there has been no review of the National Security System Handbook since it was released in 2016. A national security strategy would develop a timeframe for the periodic review of all national security documents.

It has been widely acknowledged within the documents and plans reviewed, that the security environment is evolving and the threats faced are broadening. It would make sense therefore to develop a framework that goes beyond the current focus of government agencies involved in national security. The Cold War era saw security provided primarily by defence, police and the intelligence agencies. Now the responsibility for security has expanded to include a range of different agencies that can respond to a wide range of threats, but it should also include private business in the national security architecture. Additionally, the referent object of national security used to be the state, its territory, borders and institutions. However, with states now developing a frame- work for security based on the broader concept of human security, the focus of national security has to expand. For this to be achieved, it is