The conceptual basis of Australia's defence planning and force structure development

Author/s (editor/s):

Paul Dibb

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 88

This monograph brings together, for the first time in the public domain and in a comprehensive manner, the conceptual basis that underpins Australia's defence policy and the development of force structure priorities. In the absence of a threat, the Australian defence community has developed a unique conceptual basis for defence planning and force structure development, which reflects:

(a) the abiding characteristics of Australia's geography and the nature of the sea and air approaches to the continent, and

(b) realistic assessments of the nature of regional military capabilities and potentialities.

The key concepts developed by Australian defence planners are:

* warning time and defence preparation time,

* the nature of credible contingencies, and

* the role of the expansion base.

These constructs are the basic determinants of Australia's defence strategy, force structure priorities, operational concepts, and the readiness levels of the Australian Defence Force. An understanding of the conceptual basis of Australian defence planning is, therefore, essential to anyone interested in defence policy in Australia. The methodology that has been developed for structuring a defence force without a threat could also have applications to other medium-sized powers in the post-Cold War world.

This monograph traces the development of Australian defence thinking, examines the arguments that inform the key concepts of warning time, credible contingencies, and the expansion base, and suggests some future directions for the refinement of defence policy - particularly in the area of force structure planning. It revisits the author's well-known report to the Minster for Defence in 1986, the Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities. It also includes extracts from the key defence policy and planning documents over the last two decades. It will be a useful reference work for anyone interested in the evolution of Australia's self-reliant defence policy.

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