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Special Report Issue 25 - We'll have six of them and four of those: Off-the-shelf procurement and its strategic implications

By Andrew Davies and Peter Layton

Defence procurement decisions must balance cost, risk and capability. One way to minimise risk is to acquire equipment that is ‘off-the-shelf’—that is, equipment that is already proven and, in many cases, already entering service with other nations. That can give us assuredness of price and schedule in delivery, and has the benefit of providing interoperability with our allies.

The clear trend in post-WWII Australia has been towards the outsourcing of our military Research and Development, retaining in-country only those elements of defence industry required to support equipment that is, for the most part, designed elsewhere. This is consistent with an ongoing evolution of the Australian economy as a participant in an increasingly globalised free-market. These choices can have strategic consequences and have the potential to diminish Australia’s self-reliance. This paper, authored by Andrew Davies and Peter Layton, argues that properly managed, these consequences can be minimised, and that off-the-shelf purchasing is here to stay.