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Output Five: Strategic Policy

Output Five provided strategic policy advice to the Government on Australia's strategic circumstances and specific security issues. This contributed to the achievement of Australia's strategic objectives of supporting global security and stability in the wider Asia Pacific region. This output provided strategic policy guidance to other areas of Defence on force structure, capability development, preparedness of ADF elements, international relationship management, and operational matters. It also managed the Defence Cooperation Program.

Performance Summary

Performance Target

The first annual review of Australia's strategic environment by early 2002-03


Australia's National Security: A Defence Update 2003 was released in February 2003. The Update reviewed the implications of the evolving strategic environment for Australia's defence posture and concluded that, while the principles set out in the Defence White Paper remain sound, some rebalancing of capability and expenditure would be necessary. The detailed assessment of the rebalancing required is being undertaken through the Defence Capability Review to be completed in late 2003.

Defence provided policy advice to the Government on the deployment of specialised ADF capabilities that would offer a meaningful contribution to the United States-led operations against terrorism and to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. This included policy advice on operations in Afghanistan, the deployment of military assets to the Middle East and the war in Iraq. Policy support was provided to the negotiation of access and basing agreements in support of deployed ADF elements. Defence also increased its representation in the Middle East to support Australia's defence engagement programs in the region.

Strategic review of interoperability between the ADF and US forces


Agreement was reached with the United States to establish Defence policy talks and joint staff talks. These forums will improve Australia's ability to have input into United States defence decision-making through headquarters to headquarters dialogues. The United States was also engaged in areas relating to access to military technology. The bilateral interoperability review completed its appraisal of strategic interoperability and is now reviewing operational interoperability.

Develop relationships with Indonesia in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Australia and Indonesia continued to progress the defence relationship focusing on areas of mutual interest, at a pace comfortable to both governments. The post-Bali bombing environment led to the postponement of several senior-level visits in late 2002 and early 2003. Dialogue was maintained through a visit by the Chief of Air Force, reciprocal visits by both Deputy Chiefs of Army, visits between the Commander Northern Command and his three TNI counterpart commanders, and high level Defence participation in the Australia-Indonesia ministerial forum in March 2003. Defence also conducted preliminary discussions with the Indonesian armed forces on possible counter-hijack and hostage recovery co-operation relating to the safety of Australians overseas.

Commitment of forces to the United Nations peacekeeping operation in East Timor


Australia continued to provide substantial support to the development of the East Timor Defence Force and Defence Secretariat. Defence provided advisory support, professional skills training and English-language training in-country. Inaugural bilateral Defence Cooperation talks were held which reviewed the program of Australian assistance and identified several areas for further defence cooperation. In addition, Australia continued to provide a significant commitment of forces to the United Nations peacekeeping operation in East Timor.

Joint review of Australian and New Zealand training and exercising program interoperability


Australian and New Zealand Defence Ministers agreed to a new statement on Australia - New Zealand closer defence relations in June 2003. The statement included a description of the outputs sought from the bilateral defence relationship. More frequent reporting to Ministers, aligned to the objectives set out in the statement, and including interoperability issues, will help in making judgements on future priorities.

Mitigation Of Key Risks

The Defence Portfolio Budget Statements 2002-03 identified four key risks that could adversely affect the performance of the Strategic Policy output. The first of these risks was the prospect of deterioration in Australia's strategic circumstances, both generally and with respect to specific potential crises. To mitigate this risk, Defence continuously reviewed the strategic environment to ensure its capabilities were appropriate to respond to possible threats and contingencies. Australia's National Security: A Defence Update 2003 was one such review, although more regular classified strategic reviews were produced for internal planning purposes. The Strategic Policy Group managed the 'lessons learnt' process for operations in Iraq to draw lessons from Defence's involvement and to ensure that defence capabilities remain relevant and the benefits of operational experience are utilised.

The second risk identified was the need to ensure that Strategic Operations Division, which moved to the Vice Chief of the Defence Force Group in February 2003, had access to sufficient staff to provide the capacity for continuous 24-hour command and control. Careful management of personnel allowed watch-keeping staff to be augmented during periods of high operational tempo. However, the shortage of permanent staff within some areas of Strategic Operations Division and the availability of adequate personnel, particularly during periods of high operational tempo, will need to be managed to minimise this risk.

The third risk identified was the risk management of infrastructure development projects in regional countries funded under the Defence Cooperation Program. This risk was mitigated by improving controls in place in support of Defence Cooperation projects. This was achieved by ensuring in-country advisers were adequately qualified and given the appropriate delegation and support, communication with officials from other countries was clear and in the best interests of Australia and the region, and appropriate guidance and supervision was provided in the management of projects.

The final risk identified was the need to ensure that policy staff have sufficient capacity to handle core priorities at times of increased operational tempo, such as that associated with the war on terror. This concern was addressed through a variety of strategies including the continuous monitoring of workloads and reviewing priorities. A reassignment of personnel occurred to meet additional demands during the period of increased activity associated with Iraq.