• Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles speaking at the National Press Club.
Credit: ABC News
    Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles speaking at the National Press Club. Credit: ABC News

The government today released the long-awaited National Defence Strategy (NDS) and the 2024 Integrated Investment Program (IIP), outlining a response to the deteriorating security environment.

The government says it will deliver a massive boost to defence funding with an additional $5.7 billion over the next four years and $50.3 billion over the next decade.

That includes $1 billion over the next four years to accelerate investments in the targeting enterprise, long-range fires, theatre logistics, fuel resilience and robotic and autonomous systems.

Defence funding will reach 2.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product by 2033-34.

The IIP includes some new capabilities. The RAAF’s F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft will be equipped with long range hypersonic missiles. However, plans for a joint supply ship have been shelved.

The NDS affirms a defence strategy of denial.

“Delivering the Strategy of Denial requires credible ADF capabilities that will complicate  the calculus of any potential adversary,” it says.

“The government will achieve this by increasing the range and lethality of the ADF, strengthening Australia’s national resilience and focusing defence’s international engagement efforts on enhancing interoperability and collective deterrence.”

It says the Strategy of Denial involves working with the US and key partners to ensure no country attempts to achieve its regional objectives through military action.

“By signalling a credible ability to hold potential adversary forces at risk, the strategy also seeks to deter attempts to coerce Australia through force.”

The Strategy outlines six immediate priorities, starting with advancing nuclear submarine capabilities and long range strike, followed by strengthening northern bases and improving the growth and retention of defence’s skilled workforce.

Then there’s boosting of innovation through the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator and prioritising partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.

The IIP says unsustainable over-programming levels in past IIPs prevented effective planning, expenditure and delivery. The 2016 Defence White Paper, the recommended an over‑programming level of 20 per cent.

However the DSR revealed the Defence budget had reached historically high levels of over-programming, estimated to be more than 40 per cent in some years over the forward estimates

In rebuilding the IIP, the Government has reduced over-programming and implemented a glide path to return the IIP to the recommended level.

Through the new IIP, the government and Defence aim to improve project assurance and delivery with faster decision making without compromising oversight and strengthening assurance processes to minimise cost and schedule blowouts.

There will be a new Independent Performance and Project Management Office and a new biannual Health of the Defence Capability System report to Government.

Once established, a new Joint Statutory Committee on Defence to provide greater parliamentary oversight and scrutiny of major projects

Imposing fiscal discipline on Defence and strengthening over‑programming controls.

Defence’s perennial challenge relates to its workforce, attracting and retaining skilled personnel. The ADF is currently short around 4400.

The NDS directs Defence to improve recruiting  by widening eligibility criteria to enable more people to join the ADF. That includes developing options to recruit, where appropriate, non‑Australian citizens.

The recruitment process will be streamlined and internal processes will be improved to enable faster, targeted recruiting for critical skills gaps.

 Serving personnel with skills and expertise the ADF needs will be encouraged to serve longer through retention initiatives.

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