Progress and Development Challenges for the Naval Force of the F-FDTL: “The Forca 2020 Perspective”

Progress and Development Challenges for the Naval Force of the F-FDTL: “The Forca 2020 Perspective” post thumbnail image

Fundasaun Mahein (FM), June 29 2016
Press Release

Progress and Development Challenges for the Naval Force of the F-FDTL:
“ The Forca 2020 Perspective”

In the initial planning to establish the F-FDTL, a recommendation from the Kings’s College study (London) in 2000, posited that Timor-Leste had no need for a naval force in for the opening period of development between 2000 to 2005. The study estimated that no more than 50 troops would be necessary to protect the country’s maritime resources and limit trafficking and contraband across the sea. However, the Timorese government disagreed, and in 2007 reformulated its poitical strategy with a contradictory opinion for development of naval forces. In the state strategy, published as “Forca 2020,” the government stipulated that the development of a robust naval force was critical for the state.

When published in 2007 by the government, the “Forca 2020” document, including the concept and mission of the naval forces, was a wild dream of a text, considered exceedingly controversial by many public critics. A number of dissenting voices posited that the Forca 2020 vision set out only long-term goals, and included no foresight as to short-term necessities for government development, nor for immediate handling of regional threats and concerns. Nevertheless, in 2008 the government chose to allocate part of the General State Budget (OJE) to establish a team to implement “Forca 2020” within the Cabinet of the Secretary of State for Defense, called Gabinete Forca 2020.

FM reports have assessed and confirmed that the Forca 2020 vision has been nothing more than wishful thinking with very little investmet in practical planning and implementation strategy. The development matrix set up for Forca 2020 included three time periods for development of the naval force (short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals) but was unrealistic in its expectations for implementation, as there was very little attention paid within the planning to setting out appropriate measures for achieving short- and mid-term goals, and even in laying out those goals to begin with.

FM has concluded that the government lacks the capacity to implement its Forca 2020 plan and must properly recognize and identify its need for further resources, both labor and financial, to meet its ultimate objectives for plan implementation. In addition, the government needs to review and significantly alter its planning for the three stages of Forca 2020—up to this point, the untethered of the wishes of the state from practical objectives has done more to sink the government’s development plans than to incentivize them.

Timor-Leste now faces the task of continued development and maintenance of its standing naval force. In this regard, the government should turn away from the goals stated in the Forca 2020 plan. The 2020 plan provides a strong overarching philsophy for development of the military, but lacks any substantial and actionable strategy and policy. The 2020 plan doesn’t even stand as a definitive policy statement from the Government—in actuality, the government is not bound to the objecives and policy goals laid out in the plan, as it is little more than a document drafted by the Cabinet alone. The document uses no evidence, analysis, or assessments to qualify its goals and objectives over the given time period.

Timor-Leste needs to assert technical reviews of the Forca 2020 plan in order to compare dyamic threats and current security measures with those of the previous period. Additionally, the government should make an honest and in-depth assessment of its finances. Setting out long-term objectives without any coherent financial strategy is a massive oversight that undercuts the annual budgeting efforts to develop the security and defense sectors every year. The Cabinet made no efforts in its drafting of the 2020 Plan document to consider the actual factors on the ground and in the region—at this point, it is largely irreconcilable with the national state of affairs.

FM has identified multiple cases of an absolute lack of coherent decision-making on behalf of the government. One such case involved the purchase and procurement of two boats from China in 2010. First, the government did not consider the state of the port in Hera before the purchase—the boats lack mobility in the port area, posing significant questions for operational activity. Second, the government made no assessment of the quality and viability of the boats (Shangahu Class III 064) before purchase. Both are older boats (designed in 1960) and the government made no assessment as to whether they would be suitable for the vulnerable maritime environment of Timor-Leste.

Another prominent case of incompetence investigated for this report has been the lack of coordination in defense of maritime territory. There exist multiple authorities with stated missions to control Timorese maritime territory, yet lack the authority to regulate those territories. The government has even recognized this issue in the past, and there has been ongoing discussion in the past few years to resolve this logisitical oversight for national maritime authorities, but to date there has been no resolution. Resources remain limited for naval forces activity, despite the ongoing concern that rising rates of illegal fishing pose the risk of serious finanical loss to the state, as well valid concerns of a lack of national security.


FM recommends that:

1. The Government promptly establish a National Maritime Authority (AMN), define the concept of maritime defense, and create multisectorial plan to to address the issues of illegal fishing and of the larger scope of naval maritime operations.

2. The Government address the maintenance issues of its naval fleet, as this poses significant limitations in the military’s capabilities in controlling maritime territory.

3. The Government improve its procurement system for naval resources, including: coordination with AMN policy, assessment of maintenance expenses, adjusting operations for long-term strategic threats as identified through the KEDSN, and adjusting the technical processes for greater transparency with specific financial regulation under the procurement process.

4. The Government assess the implementations of Forca 2020 in order to properly gauge its capacity for execution and funding.

For more details on this issue, please consult the following:


Nélson Belo
Executive Director of FM
Phone: +670 78316075 or 7756 1184

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