Tuesday, 12 February 2013 14:01
Australia's defence chief says national defence will be affected if the mining industry keeps luring people away.
General David Hurley said there were now more than 79,000 people in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), with 58,000 full-timers and 21,000 reservists.
"In my view there is no fat in these numbers, given future preparedness, sustainment and development needs," he told the Australian Defence Magazine congress in Canberra.
"Our people are highly trained, highly skilled and therefore highly attractive to private-sector employers, particularly the mining industry," he said.
General Hurley said the defence chiefs of staff committee visited Perth late last year, telling leaders of mining and engineering firms there would be a risk to ADF capability "if they raided once more".
Australia could not repeat the mistakes of the past, particularly the post-Vietnam era, and allow the size of the ADF to erode, he said.
"So we will need to offer new and innovative opportunities to our people," he said.
The ADF also needed to preserve the high-end war-fighting skills and interoperability with allies developed over a decade of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General Hurley said history showed that every combat operation involving Australian armed forces involved working with other nations.
"We should expect, then, that any future operations will follow this pattern," he said.
He said the ADF would need to rebuild some conventional warfighting capabilities.
They included anti-submarine warfare, diminished as the RAAF's AP-3C maritime patrol aircraft had spent much of the last decade engaged in operations in the Middle East and in border protection.
Australia's amphibious capability had also diminished with the retirement of the landing ships Manoora and Kanimbla, but would rebound with the arrival of new landing helicopter dock ships.
General Hurley said Australia had substantial capability for long-range strategic deployment of forces but had lost some of its ability to mount long-range tactical missions.
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