Defence at a Glance

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is constituted under the Defence Act 1903, and its mission is to defend Australia and its national interests in order to advance Australia's security and prosperity. In fulfilling this mission, Defence serves the Government of the day and is accountable to the Commonwealth Parliament which represents the Australian people to efficiently and effectively carry out the Government's defence policy. 

The Defence Corporate Plan outlines one core purpose for Defence to deliver for the Government and the Australian community:

  • Defend and protect Australia and advance its strategic interest.

Underpinning Defence’s Purpose are two outcomes statements through which we focus our portfolio resourcing and delivery for Government, these are:

  1. Defend Australia and its national interests through the conduct of operations and provision of support for the Australian community and civilian authorities in accordance with Government direction.
  2. Protect and advance Australia’s strategic interests through the provision of strategic policy, the development, delivery and sustainment of military, intelligence and enabling capabilities, and the promotion of regional and global security and stability as directed by Government.

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan, released on 1 July 2020, outline a new strategy for Defence and the capability investments to deliver it. The Defence Strategic Update explains the Government’s response to significant changes in the strategic environment since the 2016 Defence White Paper. The Strategic Update sets out the Government’s new strategic Defence policy framework, which provides clearly identified geographical, operational and capability priorities. The 2020 Force Structure Plan outlines the Government’s capability investments to implement the strategic objectives in the Defence Strategic Update.

The implementation of the 2016 Defence White Paper has seen substantial progress in building a more potent, capable and agile Australian Defence Force. Because of this, Defence is much better positioned to defend Australia and its interests. However, important adjustments to defence policy are set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update in response to rapid changes in our strategic environment. The Strategic Update replaces the Strategic Defence Framework set out in the 2016 Defence White Paper with three new strategic objectives:

  • to shape Australia’s strategic environment;
  • to deter actions against Australia’s interests; and
  • to respond with credible military force, when required.

These new objectives will guide all aspects of Defence’s planning, including force structure planning, force generation, international engagement, and operations. The Government has decided that defence planning will focus on Australia’s immediate region: ranging from the north-eastern Indian Ocean, through maritime and mainland South East Asia to Papua New Guinea and the South West Pacific.


Defence’s primary roles are to protect and advance Australia’s strategic interests through the promotion of security and stability, provide military capabilities to defend Australia and its national interests, and support the Australian community and civilian authorities as directed by the Government.

Defence prioritises the preparedness of current capability to meet Government-directed requirements. Concurrently, Defence is also focused on building a more potent, capable and agile future force to better meet and respond to future challenges. This includes using our current capability to shape and deter within our region, and being able to respond with credible military force.

While Australia’s immediate region will be the focus for defence planning, Defence will continue to invest in relationships, collaborations, and partnerships across the Indo-Pacific and globally. International engagement is integrated as a core function of Defence, aligned with the Strategic Defence Objectives. The Defence Cooperation Program, which currently provides defence assistance to 30 countries, will be enhanced to build the confidence and capacity of our regional partners in the South West Pacific and in South East Asia. As part of this, the ADF will continue to participate in multinational exercises to expand relations with a wide range of partners.

We will also continue put significant focus on implementing the Pathway to Change strategy to change Defence's culture and performance, so that as an organisation, in the eyes of Government and the nation, Defence is 'Defending Australia and its national interests’.

Defence Corporate Plan

The Defence Corporate Plan highlights our future directions and key priorities. It outlines our approach to sustaining and developing the Defence organisation, our risks and key risk management strategies. 

Defence’s Strategic Reform

Defence will continue to evolve and adapt to meet Australia’s changing strategic environment and maintain alignment of strategy, capability and resources.

Continuous transformational reform within Defence is essential to implementing the Government’s objectives as set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, and to build Defence’s capacity to shape, deter, and respond in an increasingly uncertain environment. This is an enduring commitment to transformational reform that will be purposeful, outcomes orientated and prioritised to ensure Defence delivers outcomes effectively and efficiently into the future. 

Defence is also changing the way it conducts its business by enhancing integration and connectivity across the organisation. This will significantly increase efficiency. Key to this process are Defence’s Enterprise Information Management and Enterprise Resource Planning projects. These projects are very ambitious and the largest such initiatives ever undertaken by the Australian Government. Successful implementation will fundamentally improve the administration of the entire Defence Organisation. Further improvements are also being implemented to Defence’s estate and supply chain management.