The Federal Government's first defence whitepaper in 10 years has flagged an increasingly important role for ICT in Australia's armed forces to 2030.
The 143-page document, released at the weekend, reaffirmed the importance of the country's close relationship with the US while noting potential disagreements that could develop with the rise of China and the need for a stable and democratic Indonesia.
It also highlighted the risks posed by the global economic downturn, Islamic fundamentalism, climate change, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other regional hot spots like East Timor.
"The Government has decided that Defence should focus on developing a force that meets the primary obligation to deter and defeat attacks on Australia," the paper stated.
Notably for ICT, a focus has been placed on: Cyber warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities; and networked systems, with improved capabilities for linking sensors, weapons systems and commanders to their personnel. This is aimed at ensuring effective cooperation, battlespace awareness and information superiority over adversaries.
"The Government has confirmed that Defence is to build a networked ADF [Australian Defence Force], and that it will achieve this by way of progressively delivering networked maritime, land, air and ISR domains. The Government has decided that Defence is to have in place the ICT infrastructure, information tools, command support, battlespace management systems and joint training programs necessary to provide a reliable battlespace network across the entire ADF," the paper stated. This approach is to be accompanied by improved ISR linkages with the US Pacific Command agreed upon in bilateral ministerial consultations in April.
Although not revealing much detail due to its highly classified status, the whitepaper outlined a significant focus on cyber warfare.
“Our national security could potentially be compromised by cyberattacks on our defence, wider governmental, commercial or infrastructure-related information networks. The potential impacts of such attacks have grown with Defence's increasing reliance on networked operations. Therefore, we must focus on developing capabilities that allow us to gain an edge in the cyberspace domain, and protect ourselves,” the paper stated.