A versatile force

the future of Australia's special operations capability

Andrew Davies, Peter Jennings, Benjamin Schreer

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Over the past decade, the demands of the ADF's global and regional operations saw an unprecedented growth in Australia's special operations capability. Special operations forces (SOF) became the 'capability of choice' for the Australian Government, especially in more threatening environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan. SOF's ability to conduct highly sensitive military missions (including combat and non-combat operations), to operate in complex terrain and to do so at short notice, made them a very attractive military instrument. As a result, Australia's Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) received significant funding, grew in strength, and gained greater prominence in the ADF's institutional structure. However, as the ADF enters into a period of transition from almost constant high-tempo operations to (potentially) a 'soft power decade', the future of Australia's special operations capability is uncertain. 'Operational fatigue' on the part of government and nation, as well as a lack of immediate external drivers could lead to a diminished interest in special operations and thus less willingness to maintain the capability at its current level. This could be exacerbated by harsh fiscal realities and looming decisions on some prodigiously expensive defence acquisitions, such as future submarines, ships and fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Against this background, this study aims to inform policy decisions by providing an understanding of the special operations capability and what it offers to government in both peace and wartime. At the same time, it's equally important to consider what SOF can't do - particularly since Australia's SOF are fairly few in number.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBarton, ACT
PublisherAustralian Strategic Policy Institute
Number of pages31
ISBN (Print)9781921302978
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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    Davies, A., Jennings, P., & Schreer, B. (2014). A versatile force: the future of Australia's special operations capability. Barton, ACT: Australian Strategic Policy Institute.