The long awaited Defence White Paper of Australia offers a $30 billion boost for the army in terms of additional funding for the next 10 years. The strategic document promises a substantial hike in defence spending, fuelled by concerns over China’s rapid military expansion.
The White Paper announces Australia embarking on a decade-long surge in weaponry. The total spending in defence capability or equipment by 2020-21 will be $195 billion and the plan for amalgamating a larger military force of 62,400 personnel will be the largest in a quarter century.
The ABC estimates a cumulative spending of $29.9 billion going into the Australian Defence Force (ADF) spending in the next 10 years. It also commits to keeping the total defence budget at two percent of GDP by 2023.
The commitment on adding 12 new submarines is most significant because the new subs will replace the ageing Collins Class fleet. A big spending on the Joint Strike Fighter project is also good news for the air force because acquisition of new armoured vehicles and recruitment of thousands of new personnel will boost the ADF.
Noting that the Defence White Paper has a big sales pitch, the report said Australian taxpayers would be hoping that the hype translates into better results.
According to some defence officials, the White Paper is reflective of Australia’s “growing discomfort” with China’s military activity. Defence Department Secretary Dennis Richardson said China is going to remain Australia’s largest trading partner for a long time.
“Equally, it’s important in respect of China to be forthright where you might have a difference, and we do have a difference in respect of activity in the South China Seas, and we have expressed that explicitly publically and will continue to do so,” he added.
Defence insiders also said the focus on cyber security will be intensified as it has become a “bigger problem” since the last White Paper in 2013. In the expanded defence budget, the Navy will have a lion’s share of the overall spending. It will get nine anti-submarine warfare frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels. The air force, RAAF, will add two fleets of drones and a new fleet of 75 Joint Strike Fighters.
The army will have an 18 percent boost on equipment. These include armed drones, vehicles for transporting troops, helicopters and long-range rocket systems, adds another report by The ABC. In the preparation of the White Paper, Australian officials held more than 200 meetings with many foreign governments, including China.