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Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 21:38 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 21:38 | SYDNEY

Defence's big secret: There is no plan

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This post is part of the The military numbers game debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

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12 April 2012 08:52


This post is part of the The military numbers game debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

I share Rodger Shanahan's suspicions about submarine arithmetic. I am sure that the number 12 was reached simply by doubling the number we ordered last time with the Collins class. And we bought six Collins because we had six Oberons before that. So yes, it was as arbitrary as the decision in 2000 to make provision for 100 Joint Strike Fighters. And yes, this is not good enough. 

But the problem goes deeper than Rodger perhaps believes, because it is not just about numbers. Here is Defence's deepest secret: there is no plan. 

There is no plan for how the ADF will be used to achieve Australia's strategic objectives. And that is because no one has decided what our strategic objectives are. In other words, we do not know what the ADF is supposed to do. That is why there is no systematic way to decide how many of anything we need. But even worse, it means there is no systematic way to decide what we need at all.

The solution is simple but not easy. Before we can decide capabilities and numbers for the ADF, we must first decide quite clearly what we want the ADF to be able to do. This is a particularly difficult question to answer right now because our strategic circumstances are unusually uncertain in one very important regard: should our defence planning assume that America will continue to play the same role in Asia's strategic order and Australia's security over the next forty years as it has over the past forty years, or not?

If we assume it will, then 12 subs and 100 Joint Strike Fighters are more than we need. If we are not willing to make that assumption, then they are way fewer than we need, unless we are willing to forsake our claims to be a middle power. There is no point talking about numbers, or capabilities, until we have answered this question.

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