Budget reveals defence spending to improve 1. 93pct in 2019/20

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Royal Australian {Air Force|Usaf|Naval pilot} F/A-18 Hornets fly in formation with a pair of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters over Stockton Beach, NSW. (Defence)

{The federal government is|The us government is} on track to lift Defence funding to the fabled two per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020/21, but that could involve a substantial $3 billion jump which Defence may find {difficult to|hard to|challenging to} spend, the 2019/20 federal budget shows.

For 2019/20, the total defence budget will be $38. 7 billion – up from $36. 4 billion in 2018-19 – which takes Defence’ s share of GDP to 1. 93 {per cent|%|percent}, according to the budget papers published in Canberra on Tuesday evening.

This year’ s Defence budget papers were free of surprises or any new spending on new equipment. The big projects {are already|are actually|already are} under way and with {a federal|analysis} election looming, the government can gain better headlines with announcements away from the budget {and during|and through} the election campaign.

Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said the budget maintained the government’ s commitment to grow the Defence budget to two per cent of GDP by 2020/21. He said this budget featured strong investment in national security with a particular focus on enhancing regional security, building defence capability, and supporting sovereign defence industry.

Minister Pyne said Australia would continue to make a meaningful contribution to the United States-led international mission to counter the Islamic State group in Iraq. Australia has around 400 personnel in Iraq engaged in training Iraqi security forces under Task Group Taji. Similarly, he said Australia remained {committed to|devoted to|dedicated to} assisting the government of Afghanistan to ensure the country never again became a safe haven for terrorists.

Strike Element F/A-18A's over the Taji Military complex on their transit home after a mission in northern Iraq. (Defence)

Strike Element F/A-18A’ s over the Taji Military complex on their transit home after a mission in northern Iraq. (Defence)

Defence budget pretty flat from last year {to this|for this|to the} year: ASPI

Australian Strategic Police Institute (ASPI) senior analyst Marcus Hellyer said the 2019/20 defence budget spending of $38. 7 billion meant the government was on track {to take|to consider|for taking} defence spending to two {per cent|%|percent} of GDP in 2020/21.

“ But actually the budget has remained pretty flat from last year {to this|for this|to the} year. It is only a 1. 2 per cent increase in real terms, ” Hellyer said.

“ To get to two per cent next year is quite {a big|a large|a huge} jump. They actually need {an increase|a rise|a boost} of $3 billion {to get to|to access|to get at} two per cent next year.

“ Increasing spending quickly is always hard, {particularly if|especially if|specially if} you are relying on things like shipbuilding which are pretty slow to ramp up. ”

Hellyer said that could actually be quite challenging for Defence, as that involved a 5. 3 per cent increase in spending in real terms.

With the federal election looming, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) have a special responsibility {to protect|to safeguard|to guard} government information networks from hostile intrusion, and to safeguard the integrity of the poll.

The government is investing in the creation of cyber security “ Sprint Teams”, and a cyber security response fund, but won’ t say how much {this will|this can|this will likely} cost “ due to national security reasons”.

Minister Pyne said {development of|progress|advancement} the Osborne North Shipyard was continuing in preparation for construction of the 12 new Attack-class submarines, {while the|as the|even though the} $535 million redevelopment at Osborne South was {on track|on the right track|on course} for completion in 2020 in time for the start of prototyping of the new Hunter-class frigates.

{The budget|This} papers show the ramp up of spending on major acquisition projects. Heading the list is the {acquisition of|purchase of} Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighters , with $2. 389 billion to be spent in 2019/20. The first two of a planned 72 arrived in Australia in December and 19 more are to be delivered by the end of next year.

2OCU and 3SQN marked RAAF F-35s over the Arizona desert. (Lockheed Martin)

2OCU and 3SQN marked RAAF F-35s {over the|on the|within the} Arizona desert. (Lockheed Martin)

{The remaining|The rest of the|The} four of 12 Boeing P-8A maritime patrol aircraft will be delivered in 2019/20 with $360 million {of the|from the|in the} $5. 3 billion project cost to be paid out, {although there was|however was} no word on the {three additional|additional subwoofers|three more} P-8As that were optioned when aircraft nine to 12 were announced in early 2016 .

Spending on the Hunter class frigates next year will more than double to $492 million. But somewhat curiously, spending on the Attack class submarine project falls from $456 million last year to $289 million despite the budget papers saying the submarine program will continue {working with|dealing with|working together with} Naval Group and Lockheed Martin Australia on the submarine design.

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