Security Challenges
Volume 12, No.1 (2016)

The 2016 Defence White Paper and the ANZUS Alliance

The 2016 Defence White Paper outlines a major boost for the Australia-United States alliance in terms of its central role in Canberra’s strategic thinking. The document’s language is diplomatic but the decision-making intent is clear: Australia is increasingly hedging against a more assertive China and drawing on the ANZUS alliance as the most effective way to strengthen national security. The core of the 2016 Defence White Paper is focused on military equipment acquisitions designed to strengthen all elements of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) but with a particular emphasis on capabilities able to operate in ‘maritime Southeast Asia’ and to do so in close cooperation with the US military. The alliance features heavily in the White Paper’s sections on force posture. It highlights the US enhanced Defence rotational presence in northern Australia, although the language here is strangely less positive than on other parts of alliance cooperation. Opportunities for trilateral or multilateral cooperation in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific are also emphasised. Following the 2016 White Paper’s release Canberra and Washington DC politicians and officials should consider whether this intense alliance engagement requires a more elaborate machinery of meetings and planning cells to drive new cooperation.

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