This is ASPI’s eighteenth annual The cost of Defence. When ASPI published the first edition, it started a tradition of printing the average daily defence spend on the cover. Back then, in 2002–03, it was a little under $40 million per day. The defence budget has now passed $100 million per day, as Geoff Pryor’s wonderful cover cartoon notes.
That’s a substantial increase. Even taking inflation into account, the defence budget has increased by 83% since 2002–03. There’s no doubt that the increased funding has delivered an ADF that’s much more capable than it was 18 years ago. But there’s also no doubt that Australia is now facing a more challenging strategic environment than it was then.
The new government will face a range of difficult policy choices in order to navigate Australia safely through this environment. ASPI has proposed policy options for defence and security in its recent Agenda for change 2019. Whichever strategic policy choices the government makes, they will require funding and have implications for the defence budget, so it’s important that we understand the current position of Defence’s budget and the cost of the path that Defence has been following since the 2016 Defence White Paper. The cost of Defence seeks to provide this understanding in a way that’s accessible to anybody with an interest in Australia’s security.