Executive summary

  • The US has made it clear that while the US will honour its alliance commitments, its partners and allies also have a responsibility for providing for their own defence.
  • Interoperability facilitates cooperation, improves effectiveness and allows for effective burden sharing between security partners.
  • Defence acquisition should not be approached as a zero-sum game between local and international suppliers. Where possible, US-supplied systems are preferable to Australia on the grounds of interoperability.
DownloadAlliance burden-sharing and force interoperability

The Asia-Pacific is a strategically vital and complex region. As China gradually erodes America’s regional military dominance, the need for US military forces and its allies to work together becomes ever more important. Interoperability not only improves effectiveness but also capitalises upon economies of scale. In order for Australia to build military capability, using US weapon, communication and sensor systems on which it is already deeply dependent will increase Australian capability. With regard to defence acquisitions, the systems purchased from established American production lines have been remarkably smooth, on balance. The future submarine will be one of the most important acquisitions Australia will make, as well as the most expensive defence project that Australia has ever pursued. This decision will be indicative of Australia’s role in the alliance and the wider Indo-Pacific theatre. In order to build interoperability, choosing systems that meet Australian requirements and are cost-effective should be the preferred option. Furthermore, policies should facilitate the development of local defence industry towards participation in global supply chains.