I came across some articles relating to the Malaysian Joint Force Headquarters (MJFH) or in Bahasa Malaysia, it is called Markas Angkatan Bersama (MAB) that arouse my interest. Upon reading the articles, I think there is something amiss in the way the MJFH is currently organized and employed, as I had attended a joint warfare course overseas during my service with the army.
I may be totally wrong on what I am about to discuss and comment, and I readily acknowledge the fact that there has been lots of organizational changes, and along with it, the roles and tasks of all three services of the Armed Forces since 1998 (the year I retired). Surprisingly, while a student at Defence Services Staff College, India, we were not taught Joint Warfare, in the manner like the Australian Armed Forces of which I was a course participant. And I remembered when the subject of Joint Warfare was introduced at our very own Armed Forces Staff College, most of the Directing Staffs and including me were struggling with the subject. The subject was merely an exposure to our students, as we do not have a Joint Force Headquarters then.
MJFH is a relatively new organization of the Malaysian Armed Forces that aims to bring together elements of the three services into a single coherent fighting force. It is a modern concept (in the Malaysian context) to meet the challenges of the future battle field, where wars will no longer be single service in nature, but rather joint in nature harnessing all three service of the Armed Forces. Hence, in such a battle field scenario, a Joint Force Headquarters is required.
I think, not all armies in the world operates a Joint Force Headquarters. I would say that it is only the privilege of the ‘superpowers’. I used the word ‘superpowers’ for the following reasons. First, a joint force is expensive to maintain, and I personally think our government simply cannot afford one. Second, I think a joint force primary objective is the projection of power abroad, and not for the defence of the homeland. Under the present circumstances, our defence strategy is defensive and not otherwise. Third, for a joint force to be effective, it has to be trained as one coherent force with interoperability being the key to the success of any operation that the force is to undertake. Presently, I am told that the forces are assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters. Fourth, I think the concept of deployment and employment of the joint force in the context of the Malaysian Armed Forces today is not well understood. Fifth, interoperability can only be effectively achieved if the forces are organic to the Headquarters, and it is not the case presently. Six, under normal circumstances, the Joint Force Commander will be from the navy, and this is the case for armies of the superpower.
Now, from what I read, the forces of the MJFH are currently deployed and employed to maintain Ops Pasir; an operation to monitor and protect designated coastal areas against intrusion by undesirable illegal immigrants, piracy, smugglers and illegal fishing. Certainly, I do not classify these roles as military in nature. Rather, these are roles befitting other organizations such as the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Fishery Department, Customs Department, the Immigration Department and the Police Marine. If at all the MJFH have established a land monitoring outfit for the above prescribed roles, it would be best that such responsibilities be given to MMEA, thus relieving MJFH of such responsibilities and for them to be trained for its primary roles and tasks.
I have also been told that troops assigned to perform UN peacekeeping duties are now the responsibility of MJFH to administer. If this is true, I simply cannot understand the reasoning. Is it because the force constituted for the task have all the three service elements i.e. army, navy and air force; hence it is a MJFH responsibility? I hope that this isn’t the reason.
If I were to give a talk on the organization, roles and tasks of MJFH to some foreign students now, I would certainly have difficulties in making them to understand the Malaysian Armed Forces concept of a joint force headquarters. To cite Ops Pasir or the deployment of troops on UN peacekeeping operations as examples that I think isn’t correct.
As I have said at the outset, I may be wrong in my views and comments about our MJFH, as my knowledge of the subject is many years to old. I therefore wish to solicit comments from the current crop of military officers regarding my perception of the MJFH and to be corrected as such.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION