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Military restructuring and national priorities

Publication Date : 14-06-2012


News reports on the high-profile corruption investigation into the construction of a sports facility worth 1.52 trillion rupiah (US$161 million) in Hambalang, West Java, combined with reports about the continuing security disturbance in the restive Papua province and the ongoing Euro 2012 soccer tournament have effectively captured the attention of the general public. Amid such events, the ongoing organisational restructuring within the Indonesian Army has drawn minimal, if not zero, media coverage.

The limited restructuring process in the Indonesian Army is focused on expanding the scope and responsibility of nine Military Resort Commands (known locally as Korem) — a military unit lower than and under the supervision of a Regional Military Command (Kodam) — which are commonly led by a colonel.

The nine Korems affected by the “special restructuring scheme” are Biak, Merauke and Sorong in Papua and West Papua provinces; Manado in North Sulawesi; Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara; Tanjung Pinang in Riau Islands; Pekanbaru in Riau and the provinces of Lampung and Yogyakarta. Under the new restructuring plan, each of the nine Korems will be led by a one-star general.

There has been no comprehensive explanation regarding the ongoing restructuring process, with both the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the Army headquarters offering little justification for elevating the ranks of commanders of the nine Korems.

TNI spokesman Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul only recently provided a brief explanation that the policy was implemented due to the Korems’ (excluding Yogyakarta’s) strategic locations, which border other countries. Yogyakarta is a special case due to the province’s status as a special province within the country’s governance system.

That was it and no more than that. It also remains unclear whether the House of Representatives’ legislators — as the representatives of the Indonesian people in the country’s political system — are aware of the restructuring plan.

A glance look into the restructuring plan will lead general Indonesians to a conclusion that the move is technically OK and will not have a shocking or significant impact on the overall policy, particularly related to the State Budget, as it will affect only nine of the total 43 Korems across the country.

But in reality, the ongoing restructuring process is not as simple as it looks. The Army was the third and final force within the TNI’s tripartite forces that selectively elevated the ranks of commanders whose scope and responsibilities were on par with those of a Korem commander. At least one Navy base in Papua and an Air Force base, also in Papua, have been led by a one-star Navy admiral and an Air Force one-star general, respectively.

Such limited information on the new restructuring process has obviously led to speculation that the Army did not want to lose face and remain one step behind the other two forces, and that the process would not stop at the nine Korems, but would continue with the remaining 34 Korems. Once all of the Army’s Korems are restructured, it is very likely that the Navy and the Air Force will follow suit.

If that is the case, the limited restructuring scheme within the Army — and the Navy and the Air Force — will spiral beyond its initial small scale and will trigger an overall restructuring of the TNI. This will in turn lead to an expansion of military units nationwide, including supporting personnel and equipment, and costs to the State Budget.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with the TNI’s, or currently the Army’s, restructuring process, especially when understood in the context of needing to adapt to the increasing size of the population and new administrative regions (provinces as well as municipalities and regencies) as well as new global challenges that require better organisation. Everything changes and develops in time, including the country’s military. The only problem is that the general public has limited knowledge of or even access to information on the new policy.

It should also be remembered that expanding the military’s structure and organisation is only one element of a complex and interrelated development program within the country — meaning that any military buildup or expansion program should also consider the larger context of the country’s development.

Problems in the country’s border areas, for example, include poor or minimal access to infrastructure such as roads, markets and hospitals — essential elements for remote regions, especially for those that border a more prosperous region of a neighbouring country.

What has been happening in our border regions is that our citizens have to cross the border in order to meet their basic needs for food and other commodities, a condition that is not conducive for the unity and integrity of an archipelagic nation like Indonesia, where the fruits of development have yet to equally reach the all regions.

In these cases, priority should be put on developing border regions, rather than hastily pursuing strong military presence in the absence of critically needed infrastructure. The key word is priority.


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