The Navy and national security: the peacetime dimension

Author/s (editor/s):

R.J. Sherwood

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 109

This monograph looks at the peacetime dimension of the navy's role in national security policy. While much is written and said about the role of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in the defence of Australia, discussion usually concentrates on the navy's military function, and the study of its other two functions, policing and diplomacy, has in the Australian context received little academic interest. Yet these are the functions that have preoccupied the navy over the last two or three decades and have the potential to draw on more of its resources in the future. 

This study begins with a brief introduction that provides an insight into the conceptual basis behind security policy, and the contribution of maritime strategy and the capabilities of the navy to national security. Discussion of the navy's peacetime functions falls into two parts. The first part looks at the unique features of Australia's geostrategic setting and the importance of its maritime surrounds and resources, on which the growing significance of the navy's constabulary function is based. The second part looks at Australia's broader strategic environment, highlighting the maritime nature of its region of primary strategic interest, and the issues that are developing in the region which impact on Australian security. This part discusses the diplomatic function of the navy, or what has been called the politico-military dimension of security policy, and demonstrates that the navy has been playing a very significant part in helping to promote a stable regional strategic environment. 

It is argued that there will be even greater need for the RAN to conduct its policing and diplomatic functions in the future, and consequently the navy will make a larger call on the resources allocated to national security in order to fulfil its strategic role.

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