SYDNEY, Australia – Australia will escape the worst effects of last year’s global financial crisis, and the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has kept its promise to maintain defense spending by increasing Australia’s defense budget from 24.4 billion Australian dollars ($22.04 billion) in 2009-10 to 25.7 billion Australian dollars in the next year.
“Of Australia’s 18 years of continuous economic expansion, Australians can be proudest of the one just passed,” Australia’s treasurer, Wayne Swan said May 11, unveiling the federal budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year to the Parliament in Canberra. “Together, Australians have defied global economic gravity, not by accident, but by choice.”
However, money is still tight, said Sen. John Faulkner, the country’s defense minister. The Strategic Reform Program (SRP) his predecessor Joel Fitzgibbon initiated in 2009 will continue. The SRP is designed to reap an efficiency dividend of some 20.6 billion Australian dollars over the decade to 2019, or about 8.5 percent of the budget.
In 2009-10, the SRP harvested 797 million Australian dollars in savings, Faulkner said; his 2010-11 budget aims to top the billion-dollar mark.
The money saved will be reinvested buying combat equipment set out in his department’s Defence Capability Plan (DCP), a 10-year rolling blueprint for Australian defense procurement.
The new budget contains no surprises as far as equipment is concerned. Australia’s defense procurement agency, the Defence Materiel Organisation, will spend 6.08 billion Australian dollars on new equipment in 2010-11.
Major procurements scheduled for funding approval this year include:
■ An estimated 3.5 billion Australian dollars for 24 new naval combat helicopters to replace the Navy’s 16 aging S-70B Seahawks.
■ A new Tactical UAV system for the Army, for which Faulkner’s department has requested two AAI-built Shadow 200 systems under a U.S. federal military sales agreement worth an estimated $218 million.
1.1 billion Australian dollars worth of protective equipment for Australian troops in Afghanistan, to be acquired between 2010 and 2013. The biggest single chunk of this, 437 million Australian dollars, will be spent in the coming fiscal year on a new counter-rocket, artillery and mortar “sense-and-warn” capability, Faulkner announced.
“Australian forces in Afghanistan currently face a very high risk from both insurgent operations and improvised explosive devices [IEDs], and a high risk from indirect fire,” Faulkner said.
This billion-dollar investment in force protection capabilities includes direct protection for Australian Defence Force members from small arms, IEDs and indirect fire, he added. Additional measures include improved route-clearance capabilities, enhanced protection and firepower for Protected Mobility Vehicles, new night fighting equipment, improved body armor and improved intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities.
The budget also allocates 1.1 billion Australian dollars to fund ongoing operations in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East (including ships in the Arabian Gulf), Solomon Islands and East Timor, as well as enhanced coastal surveillance to deter or detect people smugglers, terrorists and organized criminals.
The coastal surveillance effort also will be enhanced, with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service receiving the green light to replace its eight aging 38-meter Bay-class patrol boats with a new fleet of boats under a 1.2 billion Australian dollar boost to coastal protection.
Defense News Media Group
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