Jakarta. Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Thursday that the government was committed to boosting the portion of defense spending up to 1.5 percent of Indonesia’s state budget, almost double the current level.
Ryamizard said the Rp 83 trillion ($6.8 billion) allotted this year, although an increase from figures appropriated in previous years, represented only 0.8 percent of the total state budget.
He said that was not enough to secure the entirety of the vast archipelago.
“Jokowi is consistent about modernizing weaponry and military equipment by increasing the budget portion to 1.5 percent, in line with his platform,” the minister said, referring to President Joko Widodo by his nickname.
The budget rise, Ryamizard added, should be used not only to revamp weaponry and military equipment, but additionally to improve the welfare of soldiers and police officers.
He said a portion of the budget should also be used to encourage the growth of the local defense industry.
Indonesia has been eying development of its own defense industry to reduce its reliance on imported weaponry and technology.
“Modernization and development of [Indonesia’s] defense industry must encourage the use of local materials,” Ryamizard said.
After 15 years of little expansion in weaponry and military equipment, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched the weaponry and military equipment revitalization program in 2010, including upgrading ageing equipment and beefing up the armory to meet what is considered Indonesia’s minimum essential force.
A total of Rp 150 trillion outside the regular defense spending was allocated to support implementing the program slated to end this year.
Indonesia has inked a deal to purchase 164 combat vehicles from Germany, expected to be delivered by 2016. The country has also partnered with South Korea to build three submarines; and, most recently, placed an order for 11 Eurocopter AS565 Panther helicopters to enhance its anti-submarine warfare capabilities — all as part of the military equipment upgrade.
Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Moeldoko last month said Indonesia now met 38 percent of its minimum essential force, with the aim of reaching 100 percent by 2019.
Defense observer Bantarto Bandoro, though, thinks Indonesia should not stop with the “minimum,” but must strive to meet the country’s “maximum essential force.”
“Indonesia indeed needs to arm itself with a minimum essential force as a deterrent to other countries,” Bantarto said on Wednesday.
“But more importantly, it needs to consistently modernize its defense system up to the maximum essential force.”
The senior lecturer with the Indonesian Defense University added the maximum force could be achieved through a “revolution in military affairs.”
“It is obvious that Joko has an intention to continue strengthening Indonesia’s defense system as Yudhoyono had begun. He [Joko] has underlined that in his campaign,” Bantarto said.
“However, it won’t be enough to modernize our weaponry and military equipment and or improve soldiers’ welfare only. Our government must understand the importance of ‘revolution in military affairs,’ or RMA, so they can develop our military technology continuously.”
Bantarto also raised the issue of maritime defense, citing Joko’s stated intention of developing Indonesia into a “global maritime axis.”
The president has set up a new office for a coordinating minister to specifically handle maritime affairs.
Bantarto said this meant a lot of serious work to do, given Indonesia’s poor maritime infrastructure system, let alone systems to support national defense.
“There are still many gaps in our sea defense. [Joko] needs to pay extra concern to maritime defense development, not only in terms of improving people’s welfare or protecting sea resources, but also improving naval defense,” he said.
“Our current defense system isn’t enough [to support the maritime ambition]. We have two submarines, but for a vast country like Indonesia that isn’t adequate to monitor the situation in the sea effectively.”
The Navy chief of staff, Adm. Marsetio, said on Wednesday that Indonesia’s maritime defense capacity was far below the minimum needed.
In addition to its two submarines, Indonesia has just four frigates — all to support the country’s maritime defense. Marsetio said the country needed at least 12 submarines and 16 frigates.
“It’s not enough, [because] the government has a vision that [Indonesia] must become a large maritime nation and power,” he said at the Indo Defence 2014 expo in Jakarta, as quoted by Viva.co.id.
Aside from occasionally heated border disputes with it Southeast Asian neighbors, such as those concerning the Sipadan and Ligitan islands with Malaysia, Indonesia’s maritime security issues over the past few years have mostly concerned fish poaching — with the country’s lax maritime defense allowing foreign-flagged vessels to easily encroach into Indonesia’s waters to poach without detection or consequence.
Fish poaching is believed to have caused Indonesia trillions of rupiah in losses. Newly appointed Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti recently said she would crack down on fish poaching as one of her priority programs.
Peter Carlqvist of Sweden-based defense firm Saab, a participant in the defense expo in Jakarta, though, suggested a broader practical need for Indonesia to revamp its maritime security: to stay out of potential regional conflicts.
“In conflicts and wartime, we have sophisticated weapons that can help Indonesia stay outside the war,” Carlqvist in an interview with the Jakarta Globe.
“Those can be used for a deterrent effect, meaning that you need to scare enemies, that you have sufficient military defense to protect your civil security.
“For peacetime operations, it is important that your ships and naval fleet can also operate,” he added.
Bantarto agreed, saying that with no enemies posing immediate threats to Indonesia, the country needed to purchase more military equipment that could best serve its need for maintaining a peaceful situation and civil security, rather than offensive-type weaponry.
“Today, much of our weapons system is of the offensive type. We’ve purchased a lot of heavy stuff. However, none of these weapons will be useful because no other country is seen as an enemy to Indonesia,” he said.
“Even if the disputes in the South China Sea become critical, they won’t significantly affect Indonesia’s stance. It’s good, though, that Indonesia is also preparing itself. It’s good to be ready.”