By FARRAH JOHNSON
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames yesterday said his ministry is working towards increasing the number of Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) officers to at least 2,000 by the year 2022.
Speaking at the RBDF’s annual church service yesterday, the minister told officers the government recognises the force’s need for additional “human capital” to effectively carry out their duties.
“Acting commander of the defence force, officers and marines, your organisation has grown from 47 members in its embryonic stages in the late 1970s, to 250 shortly after becoming an official entity by an act of Parliament in 1980, to today standing at just over 1,500 strong,” he said.
“The force is earmarked for continued growth and an intake of 120 recruits are expected to enlist within the ensuing weeks.
“Your force compliment is performing exemplary, but we are aware of your demand for additional human capital required to adequately achieve your mandate. Therefore, we are supportive of your needs to increase your force’s strength to at least 2,000 by the year 2022.”
Mr Dames said the government is also committed to ensuring that “succession planning is in place for the next generation of officers and marines.”
“In terms of maritime interdiction operations, officers and marines spent 1,513 days at sea and conducted 801 boardings and it continues,” he furthered.
“Through joint operations with national and regional partners, there was an increase in migrant arrests by 33 percent. Illicit drug arrests surpassed 2018 figures by some 50 percent. Illegal firearms arrests increased by some 92 percent and ammunition confiscation increased by some 14 percent, compared to the statistics in 2018.”
Officers were also commended for their relief efforts in Abaco and Grand Bahamas since the passage of Hurricane Dorian last September.
“I am reliably informed that some five months after the passage of the storm over 100 of your men and women remain deployed in Abaco and more than 30 in Grand Bahama and are projected to continue their deployment until adequate recovery and security stability are achieved in both places.”
Mr Dames said the government has pledged to do whatever is “necessary” to ensure the RBDF is equipped with the tools and manpower needed to “cushion natural disasters”.
He also announced that the force is transitioning into a “new era of modernisation to address current threats” and encouraged officers to embrace the shift.
“The security of the southern border of the Bahamas remains a top priority for our government as it understandably creates a choke point in enforcement efforts,” he said.
“Towards this end, in April of 2019 the country’s first long-range radar was installed and commissioned.
“...This is a necessary component in the fight against illicit activities, extends the force’s literal line of sight and allows patrol vessels to concentrate their efforts on deep water quadrants.”
Mr Dames explained that the radar improves the RBDF’s maritime domain awareness at a “strategic location” in the country.
He added that a second radar will be erected in Nassau “within several months” and revealed that officials are currently discussing plans for a third and fourth radar system.
According to the minister, acting RBDF Commander Raymond King and his team are also “working on promotions” for members of the force.
“It is hoped that very shortly you will have a promotional exercise,” he told officers.
“And to those petty officers and below, a promise that we made as a government since coming into office that we will extend your years and give you an additional five years of service.
“I want to just tell you at this point, that the Cabinet would have approved that amendment to the legislation and I hope to lay that shortly before the honourable House of Assembly.”
Insisting the country was grateful for the RBDF’s service, he encouraged officers to continue working diligently.
He also applauded officers for their search and rescue efforts, disaster relief operations and for providing security assistance to more than 20 government and non-government agencies.