Cover Story: Is it time to increase Defence Spending?

This might seem an unusual question to ask in an edition for the Land Forces conference, which will feature displays of the massive amount of hardware that Army is in the process of acquiring.

31st Aug 2018


 

IS IT TIME TO INCREASE DEFENCE SPENDING?

Is it time to increase Defence Spending?

 

This might seem an unusual question to ask in an edition for the Land Forces conference, which  will  feature  displays  of  the  massive amount of hardware that Army is in the process of acquiring. As the Government likes to remind us, by raising Defence expenditure to 2% of GDP by 2020 -2021 the practical consequence is that this pays for $200 billion worth of new equipment during the next few years. This is the largest peacetime build up in Australias history, but is it enough?

 

The  rationale  for  this  is  increasing  strategic uncertainty, coupled with the ultimate purpose of defence spending: being able to protect Australia from  aggression,  including  the  possibility  of  an armed incursion. Regional conditions are far less settled than they were even a decade ago and there is a  reasonable chance that things will get much worse. The main dynamic is the rise of China and for as long as the Trump administration remains in power this is  coupled with a considerable degree of uncertainty about U.S. treaty commitments and whether a willingness to come to the assistance of allies, including Australia, can still be counted on.

 

As  discussed  with  Defence  Industry  Minister Christopher  Pyne in this issue, this is something that the Government is alert to. He refers to the concept  of  strategic  self  reliance,  which  was  a guiding principle of Defence planning following the 1986  Dibb  Review,  but  which  fell  out  of  fashion about a decade later to be replaced by the idea of  coalition  operations.  This  idea  that  all  serious military undertakings would always be carried out in conjunction with the U.S. was strengthened after 9/11 but is now starting to fade with the realisation that Washington might no longer be prepared to come to our assistance. As Minister Pyne points out, self-reliance is impossible without a strong domestic industry base and ensuring that is one of several reasons why the Government is prepared to pay a reasonable premium for Australian Industry Content in place of fully imported solutions.

 

In  an  ideal  world,  the  Defence  budget  would be sufficient to fund the ADF to the level deemed adequate to fulfil all of its goals no more and no less.  This  could mean that for a few years it was considerably  more  than  2%  and  at  other  times much less. However, for public consumption and a

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