Defence strategy homes in on Australia's greatest risks

17 April 2024

The Australian Government has released the inaugural National Defence Strategy (NDS) and 2024 Integrated Investment Program (IIP). 

As set out in the 2023 Defence Strategic Review, the current strategic environment demands a new approach to defending Australia and its national interests. This approach is based on the concept of National Defence

The NDS articulates the Government’s adoption of a Strategy of Denial, which aims at deterring conflict before it begins. 

To achieve this, the Australian Defence Force will transition to an integrated, focused force designed to address Australia’s greatest risks.

The NDS also involves working with military partners to ensure no country attempts military force to achieve regional goals, while protecting Australia’s strategic lines of communication.

The rebuilt IIP lays out spending allocations to help achieve the Strategy of Denial, resulting in a number of projects being re-prioritised. 

Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell said while some people’s roles may change, it will be critical to retain personnel and their skills and experience to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving strategic environment.

“The NDS reinforces the need for growth and retention of highly skilled people to deliver Australia’s national defence,” General Campbell said.

“We must grow, reshape and reskill our workforce to transition to new platforms and build capacity in emerging capabilities across our five domains. People are, and will remain, our most important component of capability.”

The strategy follows the release last year of the Defence Strategic Review, and new national defence strategies will be published every two years to keep pace with changing geo-politics.

Focus on people

NDS highlights the need for growth and retention of a highly skilled workforce to deliver Australia’s national defence. 

It also acknowledges the need for change to improve recruitment and retention. 

The eligibility criteria will be widened to broaden the recruit pool including, where appropriate, non-Australians. Recruiting will be streamlined to take advantage of this wider pool of potential applicants and fill crucial skills gaps. 

Other NDS considerations include options to improve personnel housing support through subsidised housing and home ownership, on top of the existing $50,000 continuation bonus and expanded health benefits program. Further retention initiatives have also been recommended.

The rebuilt IIP provides guidance for Defence to realign workforce allocations and capability requirements, creating career opportunities.

Enhancing organisational culture and improving workforce wellbeing are also areas of focus. Defence is invested in suicide-prevention programs and is responding urgently to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

Acquisition priorities 

The Government will prioritise introducing next-generation capabilities as soon as possible rather than upgrading existing ones, such as replacing Anzac-class frigates with new general-purpose frigates.

Defence will evolve from domain-centric approaches to an integrated force meeting prioritised, strategic needs. 

Prioritisation includes bringing minimum viable capabilities into service rather than waiting for the ‘perfect’ solution.

Conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines are part of this, along with acquiring Army’s littoral manoeuvre and Air Force’s long-range strike capabilities. 

Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty said the changes would provide meaningful contributions to Defence. 

“We recognise that all of the Defence organisation have a role to play with the delivery of the National Defence Strategy,” Mr Moriarty said.

“Our Defence leadership looks forward to working across the department, and with industry partners, to implement the inaugural strategy and the rebuilt IIP.” 

Until 2025, current forces will be enhanced, before the accelerated acquisition of critical capabilities from 2026-2030.  By 2031, it is envisaged the Australian Defence Force will be fit for purpose across all five domains.

The 2024 National Defence Strategy and the 2024 Integrated Investment Program can be viewed here.

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