2020 Defence Strategic Update

Released on 1 July 2020, the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, combined with the 2020 Force Structure Plan, outlines a new strategy for Defence and the capability investments to deliver it.

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.

While the long-term impacts of the coronavirus 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.


2020 Defence Strategic Update (PDF 9.03 MB) 2020 Defence Strategic Update Factsheet (PDF 1.85 MB) Australia’s Defence Force Posture and Engagement 2016-2020 Factsheet (PDF 1.86 MB)