Australia to expand military personnel by nearly a third
Canberra has proposed the expansion of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), boosting the number of military personnel to almost 80,000 by 2040 in what it describes as “an increasingly uncertain global environment.”
The proposed expansion would require AU$38 billion ($27 billion), Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Thursday, during a visit to the Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane.
Federal elections are to be held in May. In light of the conflict in Ukraine and growing tensions with China, Scott Morrison has made national security a key point of his re-election campaign, saying the “first priority of my government is to keep Australians safe.”
“To do that, we need a bigger ADF, with more soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women to operate the cutting-edge capabilities we’re getting to protect Australia,” the prime minister said.
“You can’t flick a switch to increase your army, navy, and air force overnight. Growing the type of people and skills we need to face the threats of the future takes time, so we must start now so critical skills can be taught and experience gained,” he added, stating that the initiative would be the “biggest increase in the size of our defense forces in peacetime in Australian history.”
Peter Dutton said the boost in personnel was necessary to build military capacity that could protect Australia’s strategic interests. “This growth in workforce and expertise will enable us to deliver our nuclear-powered submarines, ships, aircraft, and advanced weapons,” he stated.
If the proposal goes ahead, the ADF’s numbers would be expanded by 18,500, requiring the largest recruitment drive in 40 years. That would take the total number of personnel, including civilian employees, to 101,000 – a figure not reached since the Vietnam War.
More soldiers, sailors, and pilots are needed to operate new military equipment, with the navy requiring the largest boost to meet an increase in both new surface vessels and submarines. The planned expansion would also focus on emerging battlefronts, such as space and cyber warfare.
By 2024, 800 uniformed ADF personnel, 250 public servants, and an unspecified number of Australian Signals Directorate personnel will be hired as part of a shorter-term effort to meet demand.