JDF ready for anything
JDF ready for anything
A routine flight by an innocuous single-engine turboprop airplane from Rochester, New York, on Friday September 5, 2014 turned into an international incident with Jamaica at the epicentre within a matter of hours. Just over a month later, a Liberian-American tourist books a much-needed vacation in sunny Montego Bay and sparks panic amid a growing Ebola epidemic. These were two significant incidents of 2014, with seemingly no connection to each other. Or was there?
Today's global security environment is dynamic, unpredictable and often volatile. To see Jamaica as unconnected, immune and distant from that reality would be hopeful at best, and careless at worst. We are no longer simply an island in the Caribbean Sea, but rather, a key player in a region deeply impacted and influenced by events from near and far. This reality requires that the country's security-response mechanism be dynamic, adaptable and flexible, and it must do so in an increasingly austere financial climate.
Since its inception, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has been required to meet and defeat a wide range of national-security challenges. These have typically included internal security and maritime law-enforcement operations, as well as the occasional assistance to peacekeeping and peace enforcement in the relatively peaceful Caribbean.
But what does the future hold for the JDF in 2015 and beyond? A look at the 2014 global security environment gives a hint.
Since 2003, the number of armed conflicts worldwide has increased by nearly 25 per cent. This is due primarily to a rise in intrastate conflicts in many regions of the developing world, and although the threat of a large-scale invasion of Jamaica is non-existent, complex conflicts between ill-defined and non-state actors continue to threaten the way of life of Caribbean folks.
These global conflicts stem from a combination of factors such as transnational criminal and terrorist networks, the illicit trafficking of guns and narcotics, political, ethnic and religious extremism as well as intense competition for scarce resources.
When natural disasters brought on by climate change and environmental degradation are added to the mix of man-made epidemics such as chikungunya and Ebola, the outlook becomes even more unpredictable.
In this prevailing security and fiscal environment, regional military and security forces faced with dynamic and constantly evolving threats have found that a coordinated and collaborative approach to security is ultimately the most effective path to securing our borders and safeguarding our citizens.
Going forward, the JDF has bolstered its capacity for information sharing with our regional partners, as a means of dealing with these shared threats. The benefits of information sharing and stronger military partnerships are self-evident. Already, Jamaica is a signatory to a number of regional cooperation and domain awareness initiatives, ensuring that the strategic, operational and intelligence picture is as complete and as thorough as possible, and allowing for even greater effectiveness in our operational responses. This collaborative approach also governs our attitude towards internal security, as evidenced by the even tighter integration and information sharing with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). The recently created super agency, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), is a prime example of this intelligence and information sharing for investigative purposes.
MOCA will not only allow the JDF and the JCF to function more effectively, but will also pull on the strengths of our Canadian, British and American law-enforcement allies as we move to further arrest our spiralling crime numbers.
Another key aspect of the region's security environment that will impact the JDF greatly for 2015 and beyond is the Force's interoperability with other regional and international forces, as well as with local agencies. From a regional or international perspective, this will mean greater emphasis on joint training and exercises geared towards delivering standardised military training across a number of fields.
Most persons would have seen a number of helicopters belonging to Canadian forces flying across Jamaican airspace recently as the most recent example of this joint training. That exercise was not only of mutual benefit for both forces, but also signals the admission that securing one part of the world often depends on securing another distant part.
This improved interoperability can also manifest as strategic asset sharing primarily for counter-illicit trafficking, humanitarian assistance or disaster response operations, as demonstrated by Operation Jaguar in 2011, which saw Canada deploy three griffon helicopters to Jamaica to bolster our military aviation, casualty evacuation and search-and-rescue capabilities throughout the 2011 hurricane season.
Locally, robust internal security operations can be complex, lengthy, dangerous and costly, and will, therefore, continue to require an equally high degree of interoperability with the JCF in order to maximise effectiveness and diminish civilian casualties. This approach has paid dividends in the Force's operational support to the JCF over the years and for 2014 alone, the JDF's more than 7,400 patrols and almost 500 snap raids, cordon and search and special operations have removed 79 guns and magazines and over 686 rounds of ammunition from the streets.
CAPABILITY DEVELOPMENT & STRATEGIC ASSET PROCUREMENT
A final indicator of the shape of the JDF in the near future relates to the Force's approach to both capability development and strategic asset procurement. While certain future capabilities will be best realised by sharing the burden of their component parts across several nations, physically and/or financially, the JDF itself has already begun a major recapitalisation effort, focusing on certain defence procurement projects.
Efforts have already started to replace the Force's ageing V150 fleet with more capable, amphibious armoured personnel carriers and to repair and refurbish one of the Air Wing's two Bell 412 medium-lift helicopters, a vital cog in the Force's search and rescue, casualty evacuation and troop transport capabilities.
These types of investments will not only transform and modernise the JDF and bolster its operational capabilities, but will also strengthen Jamaica's national security picture in the coming years.
In the final analysis, the JDF provides Jamaica with a robust, capability-based, multi-mission utility force that can respond to a series of dynamic challenges locally, regionally and internationally. In this increasingly complex, unstable and unpredictable security environment, these capabilities are almost a prerequisite for existing in today's global village.
n Major Basil Jarrett is the civil military cooperation and media affairs officer at the JDF.