Defence Strategic Update 2020: A first assessment (James Goldrick)

Author: James Goldrick | The Interpreter (Lowy Institute) | Published 2 July 2020, updated 6 March 2021

In this article, retired Royal Australian Navy Admiral James Goldrick provides an initial assessment of the Strategic Update with which h&t concurs: that the Update

  • identifies “significant strategic challenges”,
  • proposes “a sweeping agenda… as ambitious in its strategic scope as in its capability plans”, and
  • is set against a backdrop of likely future defence budget pressures.

Admiral Goldrick calls the Update “a notably candid assessment of the strategic challenges Australia faces and the measures with which the government plans to meet them”, and draws attention to the fact that it explicitly declares “Australia’s ability – and willingness – to project military power and deter actions against us.”

However, the question of whether the Update has correctly identified the nature of the strategic challenges that Australia faces, and what would be achieved by its capability proposals, is where Mike Scrafton sees the situation differently.

James Goldrick’s piece suggests that the nature of the strategic assessment is sound, but that “the planned measures” may not be enough, and may not “be in place in time to achieve the deterrent effects now deemed so necessary”.

Mike Scrafton has also argued here that the extended timeframe in which it is proposed to acquire capabilities seems at odds with the urgency of the updated strategic assessment. Moreover, he has questioned here and here whether it is even realistic in Australia’s circumstances to have deterrence as strategic objective.

Read the full article (external link to The Interpreter (Lowy Institute)

Image: Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds photographed at the time of the release of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update