10 points on why Australia's new Defence Strategic Review is important
Australia's recent Defence Strategic Review is an indication of the country's attempt to improve its defence posture.
Australia's Prime Minister recently released a public version of the review.
The Australian government headed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently sanctioned the review of the country’s defence strategy and posture in order to take into account the contemporary realities of the Indo-Pacific. The public version of the review released by the government points to certain key considerations and developments that are set to take place in Australia’s defence posture in the near future. It has been declared within the review that the National Defence Strategy of Australia to be released in 2024 would be based on the policies developed through the recommendations of the strategic review 2023.
The Defence Strategic Review 2023 first and foremost aims to understand and locate Australia’s interests in building the conditions for a stable Indo-Pacific. The review suggests that Australia must move away from the Defence of Australia doctrine that was a narrower assumption of the challenges faced by the country and consider a broader National Defence posture that would would take into account the larger threats that persist in the region and what role Australia can play in mitigating these threats within the Indo-Pacific.
The review highlights Australia’s strategic posture which lays emphasis on defending the country as well as the region from external threats. The focus is also on building strategic military partnerships across the region in order to create an environment of security and stability. It can be said that the new posture to be adopted by the Australian government and military aims to create conditions for more cooperation with key partners and hence contribute towards collective security.
Based on the review of the existing capabilities and moderate capacities of the Australian Defence Forces (ADF), the Australian government aims to reform certain aspects of the ADF. The aim is to enhance the capabilities of the navy through investing in the “surface fleet conventionally armed nuclear powered submarines” as well as increase the optimisation of the army and the air force. The government also intends to increasingly use cyberspace technologies as well as work towards building a robust space exploration infrastructure.
The review also aims to propose enhancing the capabilities of the ADF in certain key areas- integrated target capabilities, long range strike capabilities as well as an integrated defence capabilities. The focus is to develop the capacities of all the branches of the defence forces in order to integrate them for coordinated actions.
One significant way of improving the defence force’s capacities is to invest in the skill development of the existing and new personnel in the forces. As per the declaration therefore, the government would aim to leverage the new technologies and also engage in deeper defence partnerships. The joint military exercises with partner countries is one of the most significant ways of developing enhanced interoperability in defence forces.
In order to substantially implement the guidelines and recommendations in the review, the Australian government would also look towards increasing the defence funding over the next few years. The rise in defence funding is very crucial for the Australian military. The defence budget for the financial year 2022-2023 was estimated to be about $ 30.7 billion which made up to about 1.96 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. The budget was slightly higher than the previous years and is likely to be extended even further in order to implement the changes mentioned in the review.
Apart from working internally to increase funding and enhancing recruitment within the Australian Defence Forces, the government of Anthony Albanese also wants to draw increased attention towards creating strong allies within the region. The United States has been considered to be a high priority partner in this regard. The multilateral engagements with the US under the QUAD and the AUKUS as well the bilateral partnership between the two countries add to Australia’s role in the region.
One interesting aspect of the review and the new proposed defence posture is regarding the relationship with China. Australia has given a careful consideration of its partnership with China while also keeping the room open for disagreements in their bilateral engagements. When it comes to India, Australia has given primary attention to building the mutual relationship in every domain and integrating the defence capabilities also falls into the bracket of holistic cooperation.
The new Defence Strategic Review is a very pertinent analysis of Australia’s existing defence capacities as well as future ambitions towards building a stronger and more advanced defence posture. However, it also marks a tactical shift in the perspective of Australia from focus on smaller threats to taking a broader outlook towards its key role to play in the security and stability of the whole of Indo-Pacific.