Security Challenges
Volume 12, No.1 (2016)

The 2016 Defence White Paper—The Land Perspective

There are a number of positive aspects for Army in the 2016 Defence White Paper. The acknowledgement of a broader set of national interests beyond Australia’s immediate region that will shape force structure priorities coupled with the need for a balanced force structure is most significant. The commitment to continuing to strengthen Army’s combat capabilities is also positive. However, the inconsistency between the policy rhetoric and the investment program is of concern. The lack of depth in the examination of the force structure drivers which may be derived from supporting a ‘rules-based global order’ and ‘contributions to coalition operations’ leaves one pondering what Army’s role is beyond special forces. This point was reinforced when a high-end close combat role is explicitly called out for special forces yet it is less clear in the level of combat or close combat capabilities expected of the rest of the Army. The White Paper also makes explicit that Army has benefitted from significant investment over the last decade or so and while silent on the consequences one is left in no doubt that Army is not a high investment priority. The investment program for Army appears to be a number of disjointed projects rather than a coherent program designed and argued around a land combat system. The policy challenges for Army is that its role is still ambiguous and the schedule in the investment program leaves Army vulnerable to slippage or cancellation due to budget pressure which will severely undermine Australia’s land capability and the aspiration of a balanced joint combat capability.

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