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Output One: Defence Operations

SAS Patrol operating in Iraq.The conduct of Defence operations was principally the responsibility of the Commander Australian Theatre, under the authority of the Chief of the Defence Force. Theatre Command, including maritime, land, air and special operations components, provided the operational-level command capability and the capacity to assess joint force preparedness.

Defence conducted a range of activities to satisfy the Government's strategic interests and objectives. These activities included the conduct of military campaigns and operations, the provision of emergency and non-emergency support to the Government and the Australian community, overseas deployments and representations, and various joint and combined exercises involving the three Services and allied or regional military forces.

Defence maintained its command capability through the Headquarters Australian Theatre and component headquarters, with the capacity and communications capability to develop and implement strategic plans and provide operational-level guidance to forces assigned to the Commander Australian Theatre under theatre command. Maritime, land and air force capabilities maintained by the three Services were combined to provide joint forces. Joint force preparedness was developed in accordance with ADF preparedness requirements and evaluated through operational outcomes and the exercise program.

Performance Summary

The Government's highest priorities were met during 2002-03, with the ADF involved in a range of operations across a wide geographic area. Significant ADF commitment for these operations was required and sustained over an extended period. This high rate of effort placed pressure upon the availability of Defence personnel and assets, and is unlikely to be relieved in the near future as the demands of the high operational and personnel tempo and competing priorities continue. Some lower priority operations and international engagement activities will remain dormant, and joint and combined exercises will continue to be reviewed and modified in response to changing priorities, world events and to meet specific training deficiencies.

Over 2002-03, ADF commitment was particularly focused upon Operations Slipper (war on terror), Bastille (deployment of forces to the Middle East), Falconer (the ADF contribution to US coalition operations in Iraq), Citadel (East Timor), Bel Isi II (Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville) and Relex II (protecting Australia's northern borders). These commitments placed operational pressure upon a number of capabilities such as frigates and amphibious ships, strategic air transport, maritime patrol aircraft and some specialised trade skills and personnel, particularly officers for headquarters duties.

The demands of high operational tempo, coupled with requirements for equipment upgrades and maintenance, have drawn some assets away from training functions. This has impacted upon the operational readiness of ADF elements in some warfighting skills and resulted in reduced availability of assets for some unscheduled surveillance and unscheduled or late notice response operations, international engagement and exercise activities.

ADF joint and combined exercises are regularly monitored and reviewed in the program of major service activities to coordinate ADF effort and training requirements and to carefully manage capability and personnel availability. Throughout the year, ADF preparedness and concurrency were carefully monitored. Commercial contracts were also put in place to ensure continued operational sustainment while retaining an ability to react to short notice contingencies.

Areas that came under pressure included:

While the focus remained upon high priority operational commitments, the ADF conducted other operations and activities over the year as follows: