One of the most significant defence documents since World War II will outline how Australia should rapidly acquire new long-range strike capability to deter rising threats from China, while also addressing challenges such as climate change and American isolationism.
- The 110-page review will be released on Monday, the eve of Anzac Day
- It will confirm cuts to projects like Army vehicles while funding more immediate priorities
- Climate change challenges and risks to the US alliance are discussed, but assessments on China appear only in the classified version
The public version of the Albanese government’s long-awaited Defence Strategic Review will confirm cuts to several projects such as new Army vehicles, while funding more immediate priorities that deliver “impactful projection” well beyond Australia.
An unclassified 110-page version of the “National Defence” document, prepared by former Defence Chief Angus Houston and former Defence Minister Stephen Smith, will be released on Monday, two months after being handed to the Prime Minister.
Their review warns of the rapidly diminishing warning time for strategic thinking, and the need to dramatically increase Australia’s acquisition process for new military platforms.
Labor will also release a National Defence Statement, and a separate document detailing its response to the more than 100 recommendations made by the DSR authors, including boosting a planned guided weapons enterprise and acquiring long-range missiles.
The ABC understands regional concerns such as the increasing use of grey-zone warfare, the challenges presented by climate change and risks to the US alliance are also canvassed, while certain assessments on China will remain only in the classified version.
Already the government has confirmed it will move to expand and fast track its acquisition of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket (HIMARS) system, technology used with devastating effect by Ukraine’s army.
Emerging cyber and space capabilities will also be prominent in Monday’s DSR document with the authors acknowledging the importance of the two domains during the ongoing conflict against Russia’s invasion.
With the government already committed to around $58 billion in spending on the AUKUS nuclear submarine program over the next decade, local industry is nervous about which other projects could be cut or cancelled.
Brent Clark from the Australian Industry and Defence Network warns the country must bolster local content and cannot just rely on American supply chains during times of conflict.
“We’re hoping to see a huge emphasis placed on Australian industry, the development of Australian industry, an increase in Australian industry capability and an increase in spend for Australian companies into these programs,” Mr Clark said.
Inside Defence, concerns are growing that Labor’s DSR response will contain very little additional funding meaning large cuts to existing programs.
Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie says the Coalition will be closely scrutinising what actions the government is proposing to take.
“We’ll be looking from the government for tough decisions that makes the Australian Defence Force ready for any future conflict and allows it to prevail in a high intensity war — so and we want to see the numbers add up,” Mr Hastie said.