ASPI suggests
16 May 2014|

A Staff Sergeant with the Royal Army Medical Corps, currently serving with the Afghan Female Engagement Team attached to 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, talks to local civilians.

It was a big week for Defence with the Federal Budget handing down, on balance, a win for the portfolio. Check out Mark Thomson’s preliminary analysis of this year’s figures here. His always hotly anticipated Cost of Defence will be out on 29 May. For more on defence spending, see Peter Dean and Andrew Carr’s Centre of Gravity paper on why 2% of GDP isn’t the right formula for defence spending.

For watchers of the US defense spending, looming budget problems have once again been swept under the rug by the Congressional Armed Services Committee. In order to protect funding for future weapon systems, the US Air Force wanted to retire the U-2 and A-10 aircraft, while the US Navy wanted to mothball 11 surface combatants. But Congress was having none of it—which potentially makes the problem worse in coming years.

How do we spy after Snowden? Daniel Byman and Benjamin Wittes’ article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs looks at what proposed reforms for the NSA mean for the American intelligence community.

In the South China Sea China has been showing increasing assertiveness towards Vietnam using oil-rig ‘diplomacy’. To get across the various overlapping claims in the region and implications for broader security, check out both Defense One’s pocket guide and this interactive tool by the Council on Foreign Relations which includes historical timelines, videos, charts and policy recommendations.

Sticking with Southeast Asia, Elina Noor’s latest East-West Center’s bulletin looks at US–Malaysia ties (PDF). While Indonesia is often seen as a key regional state, Noor notes that the President Obama’s recent visit might reflect ‘US recognition of Malaysia as a strategic pivot point in the US rebalance towards Asia’.

Turning now to capability matters, Bill Sweetman of Aviation Week suggests that modern submarines are becoming prohibitively difficult to detect, thus threatening the future of surface combatants. For a counter view, see Andrew Davies’ comments on Moore’s Law and ASW from last month.

Band of brothers … and sisters? The British Defence Secretary announced last week that a review into women’s service in ground combat is being brought forward from 2018 to 2014. RUSI’s Joanne Mackowski says this yet another potential transformation for the UK Armed Forces, but any change of policy must be ushered in gradually to meet operational needs rather than political whim.


The latest Asia Pacific edition of CIMSEC’s Sea Control features Rod Lyon, Daniel Grant and I discussing ‘gamechangers’ in the Asia Pacific region as well as Indonesia’s strategic significance to Australia (duration 18 minutes).


Don’t forget, there’s an opportunity to be part of the dynamic ASPI team. Interns are engaged for six months during which they develop their skills in strategic policy analysis, research and presentation. For more details and requirements, see here. Applications close Friday 23 May.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Flickr user UK Ministry of Defence.