AUSTRALIA’S military has been left flummoxed as it struggles to find the right recruits to help train its soldiers in the face of a shortage of Australian troops in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s Defence Acquisition Office (DAO) has released the first draft of a new national security strategy, which aims to develop a new model for the Australian military, in a bid to make it more flexible and responsive to changing national security needs.
The document, which was drafted last month by the DAO, was first reported by The Australian Financial Review and was seen by The Washington Post.
“There is a shortage in the Australian Armed Forces,” Defence Secretary Robert Gates said.
“This means there are fewer available Australian Defence Force personnel to be trained and support, and to be prepared for future contingencies, such as the conflict in Afghanistan.”
“We are working closely with our partners and international partners, and the Army and the Australian Defence force, to make sure we are able to maintain a robust and highly capable force.”‘
We’re all in the same boat’The document has been submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee by Defence Industry Minister Michael Keenan, but the committee has yet to respond.
It outlines a number of measures to make the Australian Army more agile and responsive, including a new concept called the “Bridging the Gap” that would see the Australian defence force deploy on overseas contingency missions in the event of an emergency or a crisis.
“The bridging the gap concept is the cornerstone of the new approach,” Mr Keenan said.
The strategy also outlines plans for the deployment of an Australian battalion on Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan to help defend against terrorist threats, with the intention of using the unit to train local personnel.
“We want to be able to have a fully equipped, trained and resourced force, which is able to respond in a timely manner to threats in the region and in the world,” Defence Minister Keenan told the Senate committee.
“That will be an essential capability for Australia’s national security in the future.”
A senior Australian defence official told the ABC that while it was a welcome sign of the government’s determination to address the shortage, the strategy was still “a long way off”.
“It’s not a new approach to the national security problem, it’s not an approach that’s been worked out, and it’s certainly not an achievable solution,” the official said.
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