Thursday, May 23, 2024

Colonel proposes radical transformation of BDF

The Botswana Defense Force (BDF)’s current organizational structure, equipment and its involvement in anti-poaching operations has not only deviated the army from its traditional military roles, but has also misaligned it from its vision of being a professional, prompt and decisive force, an academic paper has shown. The paper, titled “Is now the right time to transform the BDF,” was written by Colonel Joseph Seelo at the United States Army War College.

It warned that resistance should be expected since transformation would result in change of organizational structure, operating concepts, processes and procedures. The paper states: “It has been over 36 years since the formation of the BDF, and throughout these years people were comfortable with established defensive routines and will therefore resist change with its challenges, including cultural change for those who may have to separate from their branches. Transformation will be met with a lot of resistance.”

However, the report said individual comfort zones cannot be an impediment to the process of transformation because it is not about personal needs but rather organizational needs. It also said transformation would never be complete without human resource development that should not only drive it, but be part of it. “It is not only about mixing capabilities, but also about injecting new ways of thinking into the organization, with emphasis on doing better things rather than doing things better,’” it said. Although previously indicated that transformation should not include new acquisitions, the paper revealed that there will be an initial need to increase training funds so as to bring everyone to the same skill sets for operating in a combined environment. It said suitable training areas for combined arms have to be sourced, and these will definitely have budget implications. Also implied was the acquisition of new communication equipment for interoperability.

While transformation of the BDF may be delayed by costs, it can be accomplished. The risk here is that before the process is completed, there will be times when the BDF will be a force with different incompatible structures and skill sets. However, said the paper, it should be appreciated that some of the risks are unavoidable as long as the end product is a balanced and effective force. It further said there is no doubt that integration of various arms yields an overall force that is greater than the sum of its parts because it achieves an effect greater than if each element of combat power was used separately or sequentially. “Some costs may be incurred in the movement of personnel and equipment from one location to the other.

However, movement will only affect one field artillery regiment which may have to move from Francistown to Gaborone (450 kilometers) to join 1st Brigade. All other movements will take place within the nation’s capital, Gaborone.” The paper proposes that there should be a formation of combined arms brigade groups and the formation of a unit dealing with homeland defense (ways) while the means and ends remain unchanged. It further posited that due to its geographic and economic position in Africa and the world at large, Botswana should consider homeland defense as a stand-alone entity which needs a permanent, well structured and equipped organization with capabilities to respond to future security challenges.

“Although the BDF Act has a clause dealing with the reserve component, not much has been done to activate it, and through the restructuring process, this provision could be utilized. These reservists could be part of the homeland defense unit. The unit would continue to grow under the mentorship of the BDF, conduct joint patrols with military units to build capacity and confidence while at the same time gradually taking over some domestic operations from the BDF,” the report says.

It further said this should continue until such time that the unit is well structured and resourced to independently conduct homeland defense, and proposed that the unit should fall directly under the Ministry of Justice Defense and Security.” The paper also warned that the current BDF posture limits it from conducting joint and combined operations because there is no habitual relationship between combat and combat service support arms. It further said it has also proven difficult to synchronize training schedules, border operations and garrison duties because the current posture lacks span of control and unity of command.


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