This is a post that ties in closely with my other posts regarding the military and the police. because I would see a National Guard service taking over, as well as supplementing, a number of the roles that are currently carried out by those existing institutions. For the military, there are currently a number of roles they perform that are really policing functions, these should be split off and transfered. Likewise, for the police, there are a number of roles that are currently in their portfolio that are not properly policing functions, but do fall under the umbrella of “to serve and protect”. Certainly you could argue that the roles that both these existing organisation perform are being achieved perfectly adequately, so why would you go to the trouble and expense of disrupting that when there was no guarantee of achieving anything worthwhile. My answer is because if you are an organisation that has a specific core function, then being sidetracked into additional peripheral roles threatens your competence at all of them. I believe the policing role needs to be very tightly focussed and so does the military. That leaves a good number of roles left over that need to be done, but which would be better achieved within a separate organisation. Yes that will mean a lot of dog end and disparate functions swept up into this organisation, but better here than where they currently reside. An organisation that is structured from the start to encompass a wide variety of roles is the better solution, particularly when they do infact all hang together on a common theme, serving the community.
The National Guard would be the umbrella organisation for what would be not just some functions split off from the police and the military, but also a lot of separate existing organisations. The National Guard would incorporate: Civil Defense, the Coast Guard, Search and Rescue, Mountain Rescue, Air Ambulance, the Fire Service, Limited Service Volunteers, Fisheries Protection, Marine Pollution Control, Surf Lifesaving. (I’m sure there will be a number of other small organisations that would fall within this orbit as well that I haven’t thought of just yet, I will be sure to add them to this list as I think of them) Being a services organisation like the police and military, but being civilian as well, this could offer a continuing career pathway for police and military personnel after they have completed a standard 20 years service career (or sooner). It could also accommodate short service contracts, commercial service contracts and youth training opportunities.
It could also conceivably even tie in much more closely to the military and have a division that handled the logistics, supply function for all military forces. That is a much more speculative suggestion, but it would immediately mean a number of things. The military could not get involved in any conflict without the the immediate and direct support of the National Guard, duly authorised by parliament. But on the other hand the National Guard would be a source of experienced reserve personnel (ex military) who while they may no longer be fit for frontline combat duty, they would have the connections and experience necessary to effectively provide the necessary second tier operations. Also, the roles of supply and logistics for the military could be integrated within the whole civilian qualifications framework. Everything from driving licenses, food handling and preparation, stock management and storage, logistics planning and shipping, freight forwarding/transportation, IT systems, accounting, finances and accounting. The roles and functions are many and varied, they are basically civilian functions carried out every day in the civilian sector, incorporating rules, systems and qualifications that there is no good reason to duplicate in a parallel structure in the military. That might be a difficult concept to swallow for old school military types and they will immediately say that dragging civilians into a battle just wont work, there has to be direct control of their own resources or you are inviting disaster. I do appreciate what they are talking about, but there are ways and means of getting it to work. And in any case, anything like a major conflict is always going to encompass either green young recruits or drafted civilians. So you are not really necessarily that better off having your “own” people. Having competent, dedicated and experienced personnel is much more important than some theoretical organisational diagram.
Interestingly, the people who get involved with the Services and service organisations are typically the types of people who are genuine, hard working and dedicated. They enjoy knowing that they are serving and protecting their communities. In many ways, the tragedy in this country is the manner in which we currently short-change these efforts and people. Also, at present these organisations are often isolated in penny packet groups, run by volunteers and precariously funded by charities and donations, they deserve better than that. Yes there is a very real danger that a large National Guard organisation could become bureaucratic, autocratic, bloated and expensive. But that is a dynamic that already exists across all government departments and is something we as a nation are going to have to deal to and resolve in any case. That needs to be addressed, must be addressed, and if we can succeed in doing so across the board, then a National Guard would benefit accordingly. Additionally, when so many organisations that contribute towards the national good are administered completely separately, inevitably there is going to be waste, duplication and patch protection. Incorporated into a single organisation, the budgeting and accounting can be much more quickly and easily organised, assessed and audited. Better centralised organisation offers the chance to let skilled and dedicated people get on with doing the jobs they are good at and care about, rather than being sidetracked into things like fundraising and admin.
Perhaps most significantly, it can provide a opportunity and pathway for young people into service to the community at many different levels. It is inherent in young people that they want to feel included and useful, so make the most of that. From the fresh faced, fit and earnest kids that want to be surf lifesavers, to those young adults that are in danger of falling off the rails and opting out, give them an opportunity to belong and contribute. Don’t leave the organisations, that try their best to do something for our young people, struggling at the margins. Bring them together, recognise them and value them. Even if they don’t all become fully integrated units of the Guard, at least they can benefit from affiliation and support, be that administratively or financially. There are a lot of community organisations that would probably be best left to run their own affairs, but almost inevitably they would also benefit from having access to a wider pool of opportunities, connections and, yes, funding.
Serving and protecting is something of an amorphic concept, some of it is straightforward and obvious, some of it less so. At one point some-one came up with the concept of the Limited Service Volunteer. It was an adaption of the National Service requirement that existed for a number of years after WWII, and is still viewed by many as having been worthwhile. There are counter arguments that national service was of very limited value and that so too now, is the current Limited Service scheme. There is truth actually in both positions. If you are energetically progressing on from secondary school into a bright and promising career, then taking time out to march up and down a parade ground is a waste of time. However, if you are a youngster who has dropped out of school and has no prospects and no real community connections, then now – just as then, limited/national service could be the making of you. It is all relative to circumstances and the expression of that involvement. There are many reasons why a teenager might want, or not want, to be involved, but don’t underestimate the public service instinct of the young, the American Peace Corp is a prime example.
With the Limited Service Volunteer scheme, it was a program assigned to the army, which they had no say in, that diverted resources from their other missions and which produced half trained youngsters who were then dropped right back where they had started from after a few short weeks. Sucked into a system, made to feel included for a short period and then dismissed and rejected. Nothing could have been designed to have been more pointless and destructive really. It wasn’t that the basic concept was without merit, but it needed to be comprehensively thought through, and it never was. Yes, take disadvantaged, vulnerable youths and give them some military style training, give them some discipline, physical conditioning and exercise, a small unit community they can bond with and an opportunity to separate from their past. But most importantly, give them something positive to progress onto once they have completed the basic training. A large National Guard organisation would have the opportunities and connections that could provide for what happens afterwards. Be it channeling into some form of post secondary training like polytech, a job within the National Guard, or even just an introduction and connection with organisations like Surf Lifesaving. At least do something positive with them while you have them in your care, it is the last chance you will get, particularly if their schooling and life up till then has been a failure.
Our society can do with a lot more community spirit and involvement, so lets make efforts in the direction of creating an institutional sense of commitment to the national good. Something that reinforces the social compact and doesn’t disperse the efforts and organisations that exist to serve the community into disparate and secret-squirrel entities. I am sure none of the organisations I have listed would consider themselves secret squirrel, but stop your average man or woman on the street and ask then to recite what these organisations do, where they are, how they are funded and how you would contact them and see just how effectively secret they actually are. Not from choice, but just simply by circumstances. And for what..? Why would you not have them structured under a unified national umbrella? New Zealand isn’t that big, it wouldn’t be some horrendious logistical burden and nightmare to establish, albeit it might take away a number of peoples pet little fiefdoms- that might engender some resistance and hostility. Still, if NZ can reorganise Auckland into a Super-City, then we could certainly (and for much the same reasons) organise a National Guard.
(Perhaps Civil Guard might be a better name? Just so that there is no implied connection to the National Party 🙂