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Capital investment

Throughout 2019-20 Defence undertook a review of its planning and in July 2020 the Government announced the 2020 Force Structure Plan. The 2020 Force Structure Plan builds on investments made in the 2016 Defence White Paper in response to rapid changes in the global strategic environment and will enable approximately $270 billion investment in Defence capability to 2029-30.

In 2019–20 the Government approved a total of $11.9 billion of capital and sustainment investment across major equipment, facilities, infrastructure, ICT, and science and technology.

Capability investment

The 2016 Defence White Paper set out the Government’s vision to enhance Australia’s defence capability, deepen our international security partnerships and collaborate with defence industry and science and technology research partners in support of our nation’s security. The Integrated Investment Program published along with the white paper and updated following release of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan, sets out the Government’s defence capability investment, including new weapons, platforms and systems and the enabling
equipment, facilities and infrastructure, workforce, ICT and science and technology.

The Integrated Investment Program is dynamic. It is reviewed by Defence and Government biannually to respond to changing priorities and threats while balancing capability, strategy and resources. The significant events in 2019–20, including the Australian bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, underscore the importance of maintaining an Integrated Investment Program that continues to be affordable and is optimised to respond to changing priorities, technology advancements, emerging threats and strategic drivers in the region.

In line with the 2015 First Principles Review, Defence undertakes detailed reviews of its planning to ensure alignment of strategy, capability and resources to respond to the evolving strategic environment. The product of one of these regular reviews, the 2020 Force Structure Plan, was released in early July 2020. The 2020 Force Structure Plan expands and adjusts some of the capability plans and investments outlined within the 2016 Defence White Paper to ensure the ADF is capable of responding to changing priorities, technology advancements, emerging threats and
other strategic drivers in the region.

During 2019–20, the Government approved 105 capability-related submissions. It gave 17 ‘First Pass’ approvals, 26 ‘Second Pass’ approvals and 62 ‘Other Pass’ approvals. Of the 62 Other Pass approvals, 16 were granted for submissions that provided advice to Government on current and future capability; and 46 projects were approved for early access to Integrated Investment Program funding. This early funding is used to complete critical capability development work and risk-reduction activities ahead of seeking First Pass and/or Second Pass approval.

Significant government announcements in 2019–20 include the following:

  • ​Maritime domain
    • Approval for Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel Transition Plan (Cape Class Patrol Boats). This investment of around $350 million supports the build program for six new Cape class patrol boats for the Royal Australian Navy. The boats will be built by Western Australian company Austal. They will increase the patrol boat force to 16 vessels while the new larger Arafura class offshore patrol vessels are introduced into service.
    • Second Pass approval for Hydrographic Data Collection Capability. This project will invest in the order of $150 million in local industry partnerships to secure a sovereign capacity to produce hydrographic information over the next five years. Defence will also investigate options to replace Navy’s current military hydrographic survey capability.
  • Land domain
    • Second Pass approval for Geospatial Support System for the Land Force—Tranches 1 and 2. This project will invest $150 million in the next generation of Army’s geospatial support capability. The capability will provide advanced imagery to obtain vital terrain and navigation data, delivering a greater understanding of the operation environment and enabling faster decision-making on the battlefield.
    • Second Pass approval for Joint Counter Improvised Explosive Device—Tranche 1. This investment of $88 million will deliver 80 mounted and 115 dismounted systems. It will take the ADF closer to the latest technology to combat the threat of improvised explosive devices through improving the ADF’s ability to save and protect lives on operations around the world.
    • Second Pass approval for Special Operations Capability Enhancements and Continuous Development Program in the first stage of Project Greyfin. This will provide an initial $500 million of a $3 billion planned investment over 20 years. Greyfin will ensure that Special Forces have the best body armour; weapons; diving, parachuting, roping and climbing systems; medical search and rescue; communications; and human performance training and support to help ensure Australia’s security.
    • First Pass approval for Integrated Soldier System—Tranche 2. This will invest $30 million in equipment including shelters, sleeping bags, non-lethal force, adventure training, hand tools, and personal protective equipment to support ADF personnel both in Australia and overseas. Future tranches will invest in Army’s ability to acquire the next generation of body armour, helmet and equipment carriage system, field equipment, combat flotation aids, and simulation and training systems.
  • Air domain
    • Approval of the F-35 Reprogramming Laboratory partnership between Australia and the United Kingdom (UK), part of the broader Joint Strike Fighter Program. This investment will support Australian and UK F-35s by developing, verifying, validating and issuing F-35 mission data files for F-35s.
  • Space domain
    • The Government has not made any public announcements on approvals for this domain in 2019–20. However, it is continuing to deliver the capability Defence needs to meet its strategic objectives.
  • Information and cyber domain
    • The Government has not made any public announcements on approvals for this domain in 2019–20.However, it is continuing to deliver the capability Defence needs to meet its strategic objectives.
  • Defence enterprise
    • First Pass approval of RAAF Tindal Redevelopment, which is valued in the order of $1.6 billion. This project will ensure the ADF can continue to deliver a potent air combat capability from the Northern Territory. The redevelopment includes runway extensions; a new air movements terminal, parking apron and extra fuel storage facilities; and critical base infrastructure upgrades.
    • Second Pass approval for HMAS Watson Redevelopment, valued in the order of $389 million. This project will deliver new and improved training facilities for sailors at HMAS Watson, Navy’s principal warfare and navigation training establishment.
    • First Pass approval to upgrade the airfield at Cocos (Keeling) Islands to support P-8 operations. This project, valued in the order of $184 million, will upgrade and refurbish the Cocos (Keeling) Islands airport runway, which is the main access and delivery point for supplies and visitors to the islands. It will strengthen and widen the existing runway and hardstanding, and provide new aeronautical ground lighting to support the P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and response aircraft and other aircraft operations.

In 2019–20, eight major capital facilities and infrastructure projects, valued at a total of approximately $4.47 billion, were referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. This includes the $219 million Point Wilson Waterside Infrastructure Remediation Project, which was originally referred in June 2018 and required to refer a second time in July 2019 due to parliamentary approval process not being finalised before the 2019 federal election dissolved the 45th Parliament. The committee conducted public hearings on six of the eight major capital facilities and infrastructure projects (valued at $3.96 billion in total). Point Wilson did not require a second hearing, as the current committee adopted and tabled the report from the 45th Parliament. A hearing is pending for the eighth referred project (valued at $293.65 million). Seven of the eight projects referred achieved parliamentary approval in 2019–20, at a total value of approximately $4.18 billion (including Point Wilson).

Also in 2019–20, nine medium works capital facilities and infrastructure projects, valued at a total of $257.02 million, were notified to the committee and subsequently approved. Further information on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works can be found at Chapter 5 - Governance and external scrutiny.