The transition from the Afghanistan conflict places the Australian military at an historic ‘inflection point’ requiring nothing less than a re-evaulation of its goals, strategy, structure, and resources, according to a new report by a leading Australian security analyst.
In a Lowy Institute policy brief, to be released tomorrow (Thursday 29 March), Alan Dupont warns that the risks of failing to adapt the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to new security circumstances are especially high.
Professor Dupont, a non resident Senior Fellow at the Lowy Institute and Professor of International Security at the University of NSW, warns against repeating the mistakes of the post-Vietnam era whereby the Army was hollowed out, hard won counter insurgency skills were lost, and Australia was left with a poorly equipped defence force.
He writes: “There is a real danger that post-Afghanistan uncertainty about future strategic challenges will lead to a similar period of drift and misplaced spending”.
The paper is timely considering the ADF must prioritise actions needed for a stronger Australian-US strategic relationship, as announced during President Obama’s inaugural visit in Australia in November last year, and calls for a vigorous public debate about the priorities of the ADF in time for the new Defence White Paper in 2014.
“To enable the ADF to meet the challenges of the future there ought to be a much more informed and open discussion about defence strategy, the overall balance of the force, and external enablers such as the US alliance and our relationship with regional defence forces.”
Dupont recommends that Australia should reduce its planned acquisition of 12 ‘future submarines’ and 100 Joint Strike Fighters, including to ensure the Army is properly funded for likely contingencies in Australia’s neighbourhood.
He concludes: “An unhealthy preoccupation with China could take us back to a discredited strategy of the past which held that the ADF should only be configured for state-on-state-conflicts and defence of the maritime approaches to Australia.”
Professor Dupont’s paper, “Inflection Point: The ADF after Afghanistan” will be available on the Lowy Institute’s website from 9am Thursday 28 March.
Professor Dupont will present his conclusions at a launch at the Lowy Institute at 12:45pm on Thursday March 29th. Media are invited. Please RSVP to [email protected]