Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations and regional engagement

Budget Review 2013–14 Index

Nathan Church

The Government’s May 2013 Defence White Paper outlined a significant reduction in future ADF deployments which has shaped the Budget’s resourcing of Defence operations. In addressing the implications of a drawdown of major operations, the Defence White Paper states:

Over the next two years, Australia will conclude the most substantial of [its ADF] operations. Defence will assess lessons-learned, implement observations drawn from those lessons and reposition for both current and future security challenges … A key opportunity will be an enhanced capacity for Australia to contribute to stability and security in the Indo-Pacific.[1]

Operations

The 2013–14 Budget estimate for the total additional cost of all ADF operations is $918.5 million, of which $886.2 million (96 per cent) comes from new and existing Government funding. The remainder (about $32.3 million) will be absorbed by the Department of Defence.[2]

The largest expense continues to be Operation Slipper, Australia’s military contribution to Afghanistan and the Middle East more broadly (including regional anti-piracy efforts). For 2013–14, the Government has allocated $874.9 million in Operation Slipper funding.  Of this, $534.2 million is new money, with the remainder being previously agreed funding.[3] While most of this funding will support international stabilisation and counter-terrorism efforts, $192 million has been earmarked for the complex task of extracting ADF personnel and equipment from their current areas of operation in Uruzgan Province.[4] Although the impending drawdown of Australia’s presence in Afghanistan will create savings in the mid to long-term, Australia’s commitment to providing in-country security assistance over the next four years is forecast to cost some $1.4 billion.[5]

In addition to the Afghanistan drawdown, the ADF will also wind back operations in Timor–Leste (Operation Astute) and the Solomon Islands (Operation Anode) over the next two years. In 2013–14, Operation Astute funding will reduce by $116.2 million to just $5.4 million, to pay for equipment repairs following the drawdown of ADF personnel in March 2013. Similarly, Operation Anode funding will also decrease—from $42.9 million to $11.3 million,[6] in alignment with the ADF component of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) drawing down from mid–2013.[7]

During 2013–14, the cost of Operation Resolute—the ADF’s contribution to Australian border security—will rise slightly to $9.9 million. However, unlike Operations Slipper, Astute and Anode, the Government will continue to not provide any funds for Operation Resolute in the 2013–14 Budget.[8]   

Regional Defence Cooperation

As stated in the 2013 Defence White paper, reduced ADF operations will present new opportunities for Defence engagement and cooperation with partner nations.[9] This is reflected in the Budget, with an almost $16 million (20 per cent) nominal increase in the 2013–14 Defence Cooperation Program budget.[10] This program—with a 2013–14 estimated budget of just under $94 million—incorporates ADF support to partner nations through advisers, training and capacity building initiatives.[11]

In terms of dollars spent, Australia’s biggest individual program partner is Papua New Guinea (PNG), with a forecast budget of just over $27 million. In addition, PNG and the wider South Pacific is Australia’s biggest regional program partner (approximately $64 million) compared to just over $17 million for the entire South-East Asian region.[12]  During 2013–14, Australia will also incorporate Myanmar into its Defence Cooperation Program, with an initial outlay of $172,000.[13] This aligns with the Government’s broader Defence engagement with Myanmar, as signalled by the Prime Minister in March 2013.[14]   

However, the Defence Regional Cooperation program is only one aspect of Australia’s broader engagement strategy, as noted in related commentary:

We’ll need to do more than allocate some additional resources if we want our neighbours to welcome our extra attention … Making the most of our renewed focus will depend on innovative approaches [and] honing genuinely expeditionary joint amphibious capabilities and defence partnerships.[15]



[1].       Department of Defence, Defence White Paper 2013, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2013, p. 35, accessed 15 May 2013.

[2].       Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2013–14: budget related paper no. 1.4A: Defence Portfolio, p. 16, accessed 15 May 2013.

[3].       Australian Government, Budget Measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, 2013, accessed 15 May 2013.

[4].       Ibid.

[5].       Portfolio budget statements 2013–14, Defence Portfolio, op. cit., p. 16.

[6].       Ibid.

[7].       S Smith (Minister for Defence), Budget 2013–14: Defence operations funding, media release, 14 May 2013, accessed 15 May 2013.

[8].       Portfolio budget statements 2013–14, Defence Portfolio, op. cit., pp. 15–16.

[9].       Department of Defence, Defence White Paper 2013, op. cit., pp. 35–36.

[10].     Portfolio budget statements 2013–14, Defence Portfolio, op. cit., p. 116.

[11].     Ibid.; Nautilus Institute For Security and Sustainability, Defence Cooperation Program–South Pacific, Nautilus Institute website, accessed 15 May 2013.

[12].     Ibid.

[13].     Portfolio budget statements 2013–14, Defence Portfolio, op. cit., p. 117.

[14].     J Gillard (Prime Minister), Australia’s support for reform in Myanmar, media release, 18 March 2013, accessed 15 May 2013.

[15].     K Claxton, ‘Just being a “good local cop” isn’t easy’, The Strategist weblog, May 2013, accessed 15 May 2013.

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