Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds have outlined a major step change in the nation’s defence capability, force structure and posture renewing the nation’s focus on the Indo-Pacific.
It has been awaited with bated breath, but it is finally here, the new Force Structure Plan and Defence Strategy Update has been released, marking a major step-change in the nation's approach to the Indo-Pacific.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds have moved to outline a shift away from Australia's broader global focus, to reorientate and emphasise the nation's defence and national security focus on Australia's primary area of responsibility, the Indo-Pacific.
The Prime Minister opened by stating, "This investment goes beyond the government's long-term commitment to 2 per cent of GDP on defence spending, we need to prepare for a post-COVID world, that is poorer and more dangerous.
"Tensions over territorial claims across the Indo-Pacific are rising, regional militarisation and the risk of miscalculation are escalating, relations between the United States and China are fractuous at best and it is important to acknowledge that they're not the only actors of consequence and it is important to identify that they alone will not guide the Indo-Pacific."
The Strategic Update sets out the challenges in Australia’s strategic environment and their implications for Defence planning. It provides a new strategic policy framework to ensure Australia is able – and is understood as willing – to deploy military power to shape our environment, deter actions against our interests and, when required, respond with military force.
While the drivers of change identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper persist, they have accelerated faster than anticipated. Australia now faces an environment of increasing strategic competition; the introduction of more capable military systems enabled by technological change; and the increasingly aggressive use of diverse grey-zone tactics to coerce states under the threshold for a conventional military response.
Prime Minister Morrison identified the central pillar of the new Defence Strategy Update and Force Structure Plan, stating, "The first objective is to shape Australia's geo-strategic environment, that is Australia shaping the Indo-Pacific to ensure it is free of coercion and hegemony."
While the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are not yet clear, it has deeply altered the economic trajectory of the region and the world with implications for Australia’s prosperity and security.
The implementation of the 2016 Defence White Paper has seen substantial progress in building a more potent, capable and agile Australian Defence Force. Because of this, Defence is much better positioned to defend Australia and its interests.
However, important adjustments to defence policy are set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update to respond to the rapid changes in the strategic environment.
The Strategic Update replaces the Strategic Defence Framework set out in the 2016 Defence White Paper with three new strategic objectives:
- To shape Australia’s strategic environment;
- To deter actions against Australia’s interests; and
- To respond with credible military force, when required.
The Prime Minister said, "These capabilities must be able to hold threats to Australia at a greater distance – everything we're about doing is supporting and protecting Australia's sovereignty and resilience.
"We are again providing long-term budget certainty, enabling defence and defence industry to focus on delivering the capability.
"Australia will invest in longer-range strike, area denial and cyber capabilities, areas of traditional strength for Australia to counter emerging threats."
The Department of Defence states: "The 2020 Force Structure Plan details the government’s intentions for new and adjusted Australian Defence Force capability investments to implement the new strategic objectives.
"The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2020 Force Structure Plan will ensure that Defence can respond to new challenges as they emerge. This delivers on the government’s commitment to protect Australia and its interests."
The Prime Minister said, "The defence of Australia is a team effort, it goes beyond those in uniform, it's the responsibility of all."
More to come.