27 Aug 15. Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews revealed further details about the government’s upcoming 2015 Defence White Paper through a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Canberra. Andrews described the White Paper as “the most robust Defence White Paper in our history” and “the first White Paper to be externally cost assured to ensure our plans are affordable and achievable.”
The key details from the speech are outlined below.
Establishment and Budget
Andrews criticised what he described as “six years of prolonged under-investment” in Australia’s defence capabilities, saying this was “placing Australia’s security in jeopardy, and frustrating industry’s need for clarity and certainty.” As such, in order to follow through with the capabilities required by the new White Paper, Andrews announced that “the Government’s long-term funding commitment will see the Defence budget grow to just above two per cent of GDP by 202324.” This stated budget target is significant as Australia, designated by the US government as a ‘major non-NATO ally’, is currently trying to deepen its relations with NATO, which urges its members to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence. Andrews said the government has begun “disestablishing” the Defence Material Organisation (DMO) and creating a new group named the “Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group”. As such, acquisition and sustainment “will now be conducted on a single, end-to-end basis, where integration and interoperability will be fully and properly considered.” Other developments include “creating a new capability development life cycle, increasing the degree and level of contestability, streamlining tendering and contracting processes, and creating more opportunities to be a smart buyer and tailor and fast track projects.”
The government plans to make public “all elements of [the Department of] Defence’s major investments… in the fully-costed ten-year capability investment plan” to be released alongside the White Paper. The plan will bring together “detailed capability investment activities for the future force” and will include “major acquisitions of new weapons, platforms and systems; and our investment in information and communications technology; infrastructure; and in the enabling workforce.”
Naval capabilities were given particular focus, likely due to rising tensions in the wider Asia-Pacific region. Andrews declared that over the next few decades, the Royal Australian Navy will undergo “the biggest regeneration… since the Second World War.” The government will implement “an unprecedented continuous build of surface warships in Australia,” including Future Frigates and Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). The government will be guided by recommendations from the US-based RAND Corporation, which include: the necessity for a well-integrated designer, builder and supplier team; a preference for mature designs of vessels rather than designing new classes from scratch or large-scale modification of existing designs; and considering readily available military platforms and systems to fulfil ADF requirements. Industrial collaboration with the US
At various points, Andrews underscored Australia’s desire to enhance its strategic alliance with the US, which “will remain fundamental to our security and defence planning and the highest priority for our international cooperation.” Explicit examples include enhancing military interoperability with US forces, enhancing cooperation between the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the US Air Force (USAF), and considering “practical options” for enhancing naval cooperation. Andrews also expressed a desire to “enhance” and “broaden” the Australia-United States Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty, saying he wanted to “encourage industry participation” in further developments. Andrews emphasised that the Australian defence industry is “no longer structured or managed to provide major platforms in a timely manner,” specifically in terms of platform replacement and replenishment of precision munitions stocks. Technologies proposed by the US Pentagon’s Offset Strategy, such as unmanned systems and directed energy weapons, were cited as having “some potential to get us back into the game of developing larger quantities of cheaper, yet still very capable weapons.”
(Source: MPI – Hawk Information)