Australia Releases 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan

Australia has released its 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan on July 1, outlining a new strategy for the Department of Defence and the capability investments to deliver it.

The Strategic Update sets out the challenges in Australia’s strategic environment and their implications for Defence planning. It provides a new strategic policy framework to ensure Australia is able – and is understood as willing – to deploy military power to shape its environment, deter actions against its interests and, when required, respond with credible military force.

The 2020 Force Structure Plan details the Government’s intentions for new and adjusted Australian Defence Force capability investments to implement the new strategic objectives.

The Force Structure Plan builds on investments made in the 2016 Defence White Paper in response to rapid changes in the global strategic environment. The FSP will provide flexible options to deliver the new strategic objectives set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update.

Under the plan, the Government will provide Defence with total funding of around $575 billion over the next ten years. This includes approximately $270 billion investment in Defence capability to 2029-30.

According to the statement from the Department of Defence, the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2020 Force Structure Plan “will ensure that Defence can respond to new challenges as they emerge”.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison releasing the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan at the Australian Defence Force Academy on July 1, 2020. Austalian Department of Defence (DOD) Photo.

Full Department of Defence statement:

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan, released on 1 July 2020, outline a new strategy for Defence and the capability investments to deliver it.

The Strategic Update sets out the challenges in Australia’s strategic environment and their implications for Defence planning. It provides a new strategic policy framework to ensure Australia is able – and is understood as willing – to deploy military power to shape our environment, deter actions against our interests and, when required, respond with military force.

While the drivers of change identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper persist, they have accelerated faster than anticipated. Australia now faces an environment of increasing strategic competition; the introduction of more capable military systems enabled by technological change; and the increasingly aggressive use of diverse grey-zone tactics to coerce states under the threshold for a conventional military response.

While the long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are not yet clear, it has deeply altered the economic trajectory of the region and the world with implications for Australia’s prosperity and security.

The implementation of the 2016 Defence White Paper has seen substantial progress in building a more potent, capable and agile Australian Defence Force. Because of this, Defence is much better positioned to defend Australia and its interests.

However, important adjustments to defence policy are set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update to respond to the rapid changes in the strategic environment. The Strategic Update replaces the Strategic Defence Framework set out in the 2016 Defence White Paper with three new strategic objectives:

+ to shape Australia’s strategic environment;
+ to deter actions against Australia’s interests; and
+ to respond with credible military force, when required.

The 2020 Force Structure Plan details the Government’s intentions for new and adjusted Australian Defence Force capability investments to implement the new strategic objectives.

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2020 Force Structure Plan will ensure that Defence can respond to new challenges as they emerge. This delivers on the Government’s commitment to protect Australia and its interests.

Statement from Prime Minister and Minister for Defence

The Morrison Government will invest $270 billion over the next 10 years to upgrade the capability and potency of the Australian Defence Force to keep Australians safe while protecting the country’s interests in a changing global environment.

In its 2020 Defence Strategic Update, released today, the Morrison Government will signal a key change in Australia’s defence posture, as it prioritises the Indo-Pacific region.

The update provides a new plan to tackle Australia’s defence challenges while increasing investment and personnel across the entire ADF.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Strategic Update would also mean more job opportunities as Australia’s increasingly capable and sovereign defence industry grows.

“My first priority is keeping Australians safe,” the Prime Minister said.

“The Federal Government is committed to ensuring the Australian Defence Force is equipped to meet our growing regional challenges in the Indo-Pacific, and to achieve our goals of regional stability, peace and security.

“Whether it’s our Pacific Step Up, our engagement with regional neighbours, or our deepening cooperation with partners new and old, our focus must be on the Indo-Pacific – it’s where we live and where our interests are.

“Our new strategic defence policy ensures that the Indo-Pacific is front of mind for our ADF and is prioritised in the decisions we make on our deployments and our force structure and capabilities.

“We are also providing Defence with the funding certainty it needs to deliver on our new strategic defence policy.

“This will ensure we are able to shape our environment, deter actions against our interests and, if required, respond with military force.

“More broadly, we are ensuring Defence has more durable supply chains, while further strengthening Australia’s sovereign defence industry to create more high-tech Australian jobs and enhance the ADF’s self-reliance.”

These new policy settings will be a long-term undertaking for Defence with implementation underway.

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the recent bushfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a further dimension to what national defence entails, now and into the future.

“Defence thinking, strategy and planning have shifted gears to respond to our constantly changing and deteriorating strategic and defence environment,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Australia’s security environment is changing quickly, with militarisation, disruptive technological change and new grey zone threats making our region less safe.

“That’s why this Government will invest in more lethal and long-range capabilities to hold adversary forces and infrastructure at risk further from Australia, including longer-range strike weapons, offensive cyber capabilities and area denial capabilities.

“We will also invest in capabilities to give Australia better awareness of our region and to support regional engagement, while substantially increasing our air and sea lift capability to ensure we can rapidly respond to events across our region.

“These investments will provide significantly increased opportunity for Australia’s Defence industry, which the Morrison Government is committed to further strengthening.”

Australia’s defence industry is growing with over 4,000 businesses employing approximately 30,000 staff. An additional 11,000 Australian companies directly benefit from Defence investment and, when further downstream suppliers are included, the benefits flow to approximately 70,000 workers.

Defence planning will prioritise Australia’s immediate region – ranging from the north-eastern Indian Ocean, through maritime and mainland South East Asia to Papua New Guinea and the South West Pacific.

As a result, the new strategic policy will require force structure and capability adjustments, which are focused on the region, responding to grey-zone challenges that threaten our national interests, the possibility of high-intensity conflict and domestic crises.

The long term implications for Defence capability and force structure are outlined in the 2020 Force Structure Plan, which has also been released.



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