The world economic crisis has had an impact on virtually everyone. Proceedings asked the commanders of the world's navies: The global economic downturn is obviously affecting the United States and its Navy. How is it affecting your navy's maritime strategy, operation, and force structure?
Vice Admiral R. H. Crane—Royal Australian Navy
The year 2009 was marked by considerable achievement in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), both at home and abroad, and by the watershed Defence White Paper, Force 2030: Defending Australia in the Asia-Pacific Century, which was released by the government in May.
The paper establishes a wide-ranging capability development program for the RAN over the next 20 years, envisaging a force that is significantly rebalanced through a doubling of the submarine fleet from 6 to 12 long-range vessels. It also addresses our existing acquisition programs for the Canberra-class multipurpose amphibious assault ships and Hobart-class guided-missile destroyers, which are well on track with crewing plans already being developed and future fleet replacements. The document overtly recognizes a fundamentally maritime strategy for Australia, requiring forces that can operate with decisive effect throughout the northern maritime and littoral approaches, more broadly contribute to military contingencies in the South Pacific and wider Asia-Pacific regions, and support global security as and where necessary. Force 2030 is structured for this strategy.
Developments in the global economy over the past year, particularly in our region, have an undeniable impact on the strategic future, as they do on operations and force structures today. For the Royal Australian Navy, however, our maritime strategy and structures accommodate the changing economic situation, but also respond to Australia's longer-term strategic requirements. Not only has Australia been fortunate to have weathered the 2009 global economic downturn in more favourable circumstances than many, but the future force planned in the 2009 White Paper is funded by a ten-year internal reformation, the Strategic Reform Program, which has insulated it well from external developments.
From an internal perspective, the RAN restructured itself during 2009 as part of its New Generation Navy program, a scheme that is developing fundamental cultural change in our organization with a view to the future. We experienced positive developments in the recruiting and retention of highly trained personnel, reaching the highest rates in 20 years as a result of a variety of changes, of which the employment outlook in the civilian sector was only one.
The economic events of the past 12 months, so far as they have directly and immediately affected the Royal Australian Navy, have not turned us from the clear path set out in the 2009 White Paper and our internal reform programs toward a maritime future.
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