UMNO Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin has said that while he supports the Freedom of Information Act, he however cautioned ‘that several areas need to be excluded in the interest of national security, such as defence procurement’. I suppose what Khairy meant by defence procurement are the procurements made for capital items only and not the procurement of common user items that numbers by the hundreds.
If I may be permitted to get into a discourse concerning this matter, I would say that there is absolutely no reason for us to treat the procurement of a capital item for the Armed Forces as a matter of national security, which has to be kept a secret. And to say that “no country will disclose specifications” of their defence procurement is also not quite right either.
I based the above argument to one simple reasoning i.e. that today our Armed Forces is a nett importer of all major defence procurement i.e. from the basic small arms weapon (I am referring to an indigenously designed and developed weapons) to the largest of the weaponries, ships and aircrafts. Because we depend entirely on a foreign purchase for our military hardware, we therefore have to reveal our technical specification for customization (which is quite usual), without which the manufacturer could do nothing. Once our specifications are known to the manufacturer, the entire world will have full knowledge of it and this can then be available from the internet, defence magazines etc. Just have a look at Jane’s military magazines and every bit of detail can be obtained from the magazine. Or go and search the internet for any piece of military hardware and you will be surprised at the volume of information available including technical specifications. Even the country’s force level can be obtained from the internet and so what secret are we talking about?
Even for neighboring Singapore that has gone into the development and manufacturing of its own military hardware cannot strictly keep their specification a secret. Likewise, the same will apply to us if we are already into development and manufacturing, which presently we are far from it.
I think what is more important each time the Armed Forces make a new procurement is to see how the newly acquired military hardware is employed given a specific military operational environment or the future battle field environment. In a more simple term, it is the tactical employment or the optimal use of the military hardware to successfully support a battle plan. It is pointless to procure something that cannot support a battle plan, however sophisticated the hardware. It is likened to someone purchasing a Ferrari sports car and driving it along a road that is not surfaced and filled with pot holes. Surely the Ferrari sports car cannot perform for what it is constructed for i.e. speed.
And to Khairy, we can forgive him for saying something that he is not too familiar with, for the short stint of military training is certainly not sufficient for him to be an expert in military affairs. It is certainly more than just being able to use a rifle.
I would therefore conclude to say that it is how one develops the tactical use of the newly acquired military hardware that should be kept a ‘secret’, and not the specification of the military hardware itself.
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