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A stronger army: two more battalions.



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PRIME MINISTER

A STRONGER ARMY: TWO MORE BATTALIONS

The Government has decided on a major increase in the size of the Australian Army.

In order to fully meet future regional and global security challenges, the Government has decided to increase the size of the Army by two additional battalions. The Army will increase to eight battalions, with an additional 2600 soldiers recruited.

Ever increasing security challenges mean the Australian Defence Force must be stronger, more versatile and adaptable. As recent events in East Timor and Solomon Islands have again shown, Australia has, and is seen to have, a leadership role in contributing to security and stability in our region. Regional states will continue to look to Australia for help, and we must have a capability to act in a manner commensurate with those responsibilities. At the same time, the ADF also needs the capacity to contribute to coalitions in areas further afield where our interests might be at stake.

The new battalions will be raised in two stages. The headquarter elements of the first battalion will be established later this year. The battalion will be manned by the end of 2008, and will be ready to deploy overseas on operations in 2010, if necessary.

The precise timing of the establishment of the second battalion will be determined once the core capabilities for the first battalion are substantially in place.

This increase in the size of the Army is in addition to the enhanced capability for the land forces that was announced late last year as part of the Hardened and Networked Army initiative.

The cost of raising the first battalion is expected to be about $6 billion over 11 years, with initial expenditure to start in 2006-07. The total cost of the two battalions is expected to be about $10 billion, depending on the time frame for the establishment of the second battalion. These cost estimates include personnel, equipment, facilities and other support services.

The Government has also decided on a number of innovative recruiting and retention initiatives to ensure the ADF is able to attract and retain the people that are central to the maintenance of our defence capabilities. Retention will be a particular focus. The broad scope of these initiatives will be announced by the Minister for Defence over coming weeks.

Today’s announcement is further evidence of my Government’s commitment to the defence and security of Australia.

24 August 2006

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