Smarter, high-tech Guyana Defence Force to be developed – Pres. Ali

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The government plans to turn the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) into a smarter and technology-driven Force to protect the country and its resources for generations to come.

Commander-in-Chief and President Dr. Irfaan Ali said the budgetary allocation for the GDF has increased to $17.6 billion this year for training and enhanced acquisition of vehicles and machinery.

“We will continue to strengthen the Force’s capability in the years ahead, we are looking at a smarter force with greater utilisation of technology and intelligence,” President Ali said during his address at the GDF’s Annual Officer’s Conference.

The two-day conference is being held at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown under the theme: Enhancing national security and development through capacity building, empowering troops, and strengthening community relations.

President Ali said the plan is for the Force to start doing “scenario modelling.” This, he explained, will help prepare the GDF to confront future threats.

President Ali along with Prime Minister Mark Phillips and Brigadier Godfrey Bess and other officials on Thursday (Photo: Office of the President/February 10, 2022)

The Commander-in-Chief also charged the Force to use current events like the ongoing Russia/Ukraine situation to develop a strategic approach to deal with such issues.

“I know in this room and in this force, we have some of the finest talent to do the work I am talking about.

“We have to understand what is happening regionally, we have to have our own thinking process and think tank as to what are the threats we see regionally,” the Commander-in-Chief said.

He further challenged the Force to develop strategies to deal with climate change and natural disasters and even food security.

The Commander-in-Chief explained that security threats are not the only ones that must be strategised. There can be a major disaster if there is no food security in the region, he explained.

“…like we are seeing with our neighbour because of economic and social condition there is mass shifting of people. What is our role in terms of food security? What are the threats that the region face in relation to food security and how do we build that in defence strategy?

The President further asked that the GDF produce an outcome document defining its roles and responsibilities in building ‘One Guyana.’

He said they must identify the tools, resources and strategies required for the realisation of ‘One Guyana.’ Further, gaps must be identified and be prioritised before the implementation of the ‘One Guyana’ agenda.

Meanwhile, the Commander-in-Chief said a key pillar of national defence is the human resource. The government remains committed to enhancing the human resources of the Force.

President Ali and Chief of Staff (ag) Brigadier Godfrey Bess (Photo: Office of the President/February 10, 2022)

In 2021, 62 per cent of the ranks of the GDF underwent military and capacity-building training with local and international academies.

Additionally, several ranks were allocated houses and house lots.

President Ali said he will continue to foster training at both the local and foreign level for ranks.

The Commander-in-Chief commended the GDF for its integral role to ensure the country remains safe with the ongoing COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile, Chief of Staff (ag) Brigadier Godfrey Bess assured of the Force’s reserve to defend Guyana. Bess said that while diplomacy remains the first line of defence, the Force must enhance its national security profile to confront any threats.

“There is always an ever-present danger of Russia deploying troops to Venezuela and Guyana being caught in the diplomatic conundrum as it pursues critical bilateral relations with the US and China,” Bess explained.

Significant challenges 

The booming narcotics industry, organised crime, illegal airstrips, border- crossing and migration issues continue to present significant challenges to the Force.

Bess spoke specifically of Venezuelan migrants who have settled in Guyana in recent years. He noted that some of these migrants are involved in illegal activities, which threaten communities and the people of Guyana.

“Therefore as a Force, we must ensure that we have the capacity and capability to combat such a diverse security threat,” Bess said.

He assured that the Force will continue to improve and increase its capabilities to be better able to monitor the country’s land, air and water territories.

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