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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1667

Senator SIBRAA —On behalf of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence I present a report entitled 'The Australian Defence Force: Its Structure and Capabilities', together with the minutes of the proceedings of the Committee and the transcript of evidence.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator SIBRAA —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The report follows a reference by the Committee to the Sub-Committee on Defence Matters on 1 December 1983 to inquire and report upon:

The capability of the Australian Defence Force to fulfil its role, with particular reference to force structure and command and control arrangements.

This is a particularly important report with significant conclusions bearing on the defence of Australia. It covers a broad range of issues relevant to a detailed consideration of the Australian Defence Force structure, and the command and control arrangements necessary for that Force to fulfil adequately its role.

Ideally, the Defence Force structure should reflect, and be logically derived from, considerations of our national interests and our projected strategic and geopolitical circumstances. Such a process would incorporate a wide spectrum of views and interests and would typically involve the following steps: Firstly, determination of Australia's national interests and objectives; secondly, delineation of a strategic or national defence concept describing how the national interests and objectives are most effectively and efficiently promoted and defended in the light of the strategic assessment; thirdly, delineation of an appropriate military strategy and concept of operations, describing how the strategic concept is to be achieved; fourthly, development of an appropriate force structure-encompassing organisation, capabilities and doctrine-with which to carry out the military strategy; and, fifthly, the procurement and maintenance of the forces and supporting infrastructure and their deployment in peace.

In practice, the development of the Defence Force structure is more complex. Not all elements of the ideal planning process are present and others are poorly defined. Decisions are often constrained by external factors or by past choices. Moreover, the process itself is inhibited by strong interest groups which have a particular concern with advancing favoured roles and functions. In Australia's case, the planning and development of our Force structure is complicated further by the absence of any clearly defined present threat to national security. The Defence Force must be structured, therefore, to meet a wide range of potential threats without knowing what form these threats will take or when they might occur. While these factors constrain the operation of the rational model of force structure development, they do not detract from its importance. Unless each of these steps is present and structured together in a clear and coherent manner, the structure of the Defence Force is likely to evolve more by accident than by design and the probability of achieving an optimum force posture will be reduced.

In order to provide a systematic and comprehensive review of Australia's Defence Force structure, this report follows the broad format of the rational model just described, moving from a discussion of Australia's national interests and objectives, through an examination of our overall military strategy to a detailed consideration of the functional capabilities required for the defence of Australia and how these should be grouped together. At each level in this process, the considerations were both analytical, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of our present position, and prescriptive, examining alternative approaches and options.

The report begins with a brief survey of the various factors that influence the development and maintenance of Defence Force structure. A complete understanding of our present position and where and how we should move in the future is not possible without being aware of past and projected developments in our strategic environment. Any future changes to our force structure will also be subject to a range of basic constraints arising from such factors as Australia's alliance relationships, the nature of our physical environment, the resources that are available for national security purposes and the nature of the defence decision- making process. A discussion of the external and internal factors influencing Australia's Defence Force structure is followed by a brief description of the current functions, roles and capabilities of the Australian Defence Force.

The findings of the Committee's detailed examination of the Australian Defence Force structure and capabilities are then outlined with a definition of Australia's national interests and objectives. From a consideration of our military role in global and regional affairs, the Committee developed a national defence concept for Australia and its off-shore Territories. A key element in this consideration is the definition of an area of principal defence interest on which our military strategy should be focused and within which Australia's military forces would be required to operate.

The Committee examined Australia's overall military strategy for achieving our national defence concept. It concluded that our current approach is inadequate in a number of important respects and recommends that we should change the present emphasis of our military strategy from one of reacting to threats, as they emerge, to controlling our threat environment. This would be achieved by giving priority in peacetime to deterring threats to our national security and by providing a rapid response to those low-level threats that may not be deterred.

The report examines the capabilities required for this revised strategy under the broad functional categories of intelligence, surveillance and early warning, strategic strike and interdiction, maritime defence, land warfare and air defence. A number of important functional deficiencies in our present inventory are identified and an order of priority for the acquisition and development of new capabilities is suggested.

One important limitation of our existing Defence Force structure is its system of command and control. The Committee, after detailed consideration, has concluded that we should move away from the current single Service command structure towards a structure emphasising joint Service roles and tasks, with a direct line of operational command from the Chief of Defence Force Staff.

A principal finding of the report, and one that is generally recognised, is that Australia's military capabilities will increasingly depend on a range of non-military factors and capabilities such as our industrial capacity and our ability to mobilise civilian resources and services. The integration of our military and non-military capabilities into an effective whole is examined in the latter stages of the report which deal with national security policy-making and the development of Defence Force structure. The Committee is particularly concerned at the lack of clear policy guidance at all levels within the force development process which has led it to conclude that our force structure is not being developed in a clear and logically coherent manner.

The Committee appreciates the ready assistance given to the Sub-Committee throughout the inquiry by the Minister for Defence (Mr Scholes) and his Department. The co-operation and assistance given by members of the Australian Defence Force with whom the Sub-Committee dealt in the course of the inquiry was particularly noteworthy. It has not been an easy task to analyse the range of issues relevant to a detailed consideration of the terms of reference, and the Committee is particularly grateful to those who have assisted, by making submissions and by giving evidence. The nation's defence is of fundamental importance, and the Committee trusts that this report will contribute to public awareness and discussion of the issues involved. I also take this opportunity to congratulate all the staff responsible for this report. I was not a member of the Sub-Committee, therefore, I will leave it to Senator MacGibbon, who was a member of the Sub-Committee, to thank the individual staff members concerned.