Australia Releases Defence Strategic Review

By Dan Middlemiss, 24 April 2023

As it promised, the Australian government has released its much anticipated Defence Strategic Review ( The report paints a sobering assessment of the current state of Australia’s defences, and outlines a series of corrective steps to address glaring shortcomings. In the maritime sphere, the report recommends sweeping shipyard reform to improve this vital defence industrial sector (pp. 78-79).

            What is most striking, however, is the report’s blistering critique of Australia’s capability acquisition system as a whole. Here are a few excepts (pp. 91-92):

“12.3 Once projects have entered the IIP, capability managers have too much latitude to make design changes, tinker with capability outcomes, and indulge in the quest for perfectionism. These behaviours result in delay and strategically significant capability outcomes not being achieved in a timely manner, or at all.

12.4 Clear direction from the Government and clear expectations placed on Defence for acquisition and delivery are critical to resolving this issue. To achieve this, in the first instance a threshold judgement must be made at the joint senior level, and agreed to by the Government, on what minimum viable capability is required and what is readily available.

12.5 When capability is readily available there should be an emphasis on getting it into service without delay and achieving value for money. Defence must, where possible, acquire more platforms and capabilities via sole source or off-the-shelf procurement, and limit or eliminate design changes and modifications. When subsequent design changes or enhancements to capabilities are proposed, we recommend these be independently tested by sceptical and trusted advisers.

12.6 In our new strategic circumstances the focus must be on the capabilities of the Enhanced Force-In-Being, with an emphasis on incremental upgrades through the life of a capability rather than pursuing longer-term solutions. This does not mean that Defence can lose sight of the future force’s requirements, but rather it must rebalance priorities for our current strategic circumstances

12.8 Australian industry content and domestic production must be balanced against timely capability acquisition. Previous government direction to meet mandated Australian industry content skewed the capability acquisition process so that capability outcomes were secondary to creating opportunities for Australian industry – even when a clear rationale was lacking.

12.10 Defence must consider Australian industry content when it makes sense and delivers capability outcomes on time. It is essential to ensure Australian sovereign defence industry capability is supported where it makes strategic sense.”

Canada could learn a great deal from this wide-ranging review.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

33 thoughts on “Australia Releases Defence Strategic Review”