A former Australian Army official has criticized the government’s defense spending, saying the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) are becoming less capable and ready to face future threats.
Retired Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, who served as army chief from 2002 to 2008, was reacting to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Defence Strategic Review, which introduced a sweeping overhaul of the army.
The government plans to slash the number of armored vehicles procured for the ADF and focus on littoral maneuver and long-range strike capability instead.
According to Leahy, the plan will only make the army smaller, less capable, and less protected.
“We need tanks and we need armored vehicles because the days of tin and canvas on the battlefield are gone,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “And we know from history and recent experience — tanks save lives.”
‘Ripping the Heart Out of Defense’
In addition to a reduced armored vehicle fleet, Leahy blasted the cuts to defense budgets in favor of long-term funding for nuclear submarines with the US and the UK.
He claimed that the local defense industry is collapsing because of the mandated cuts.
While he expressed that he understood the need for naval and air capabilities, he said Canberra’s primary focus should be on operating as a small part of a combined force, supporting allies away from its shores.
“The mandated cuts — and these are cuts to the allocated budget — are ripping the heart out of defense,” Leahy stressed. “I don’t think there’s much of a future for the defense industry here in Australia, so we’ve got to pick up our game.”
The government’s planned “major restructuring” of the army was a response to a strategic review in July that called for a sharp shift toward long-range deterrence.
The Albanese government has already received the findings of the strategic study led by retired US Vice Admiral William Hilarides. However, an official report will not be released until 2024.
Leahy questioned the government’s selection of a retired American admiral to review the Royal Australian Navy.
He also warned that all future construction of warships and submarines in Canberra based on the study will be “hellishly expensive.”