Australia’s Defence Force has spent more than $10 billion on weapons and military equipment from the United States over the past four years, a government analysis has revealed.
The figure is contained in a recent report from the Australian National Audit Office, which has examined and compiled data from government contracts published between 2012-13 and 2016-17.
Foreign Military Sales (FMS) are administered by the US Department of Defence, which facilitates the transfer of American weapons, equipment and military training to approved foreign governments.
According to the ANAO, Australia’s total spending on US Foreign Military Sales was $10.3 billion over the four-year reporting period, with just over $500 million of that going to IT, broadcasting and telecommunication contracts, or engineering, research and technology-based services contracts.
Defence experts argue the large figure is not altogether surprising given the recent pace of technological change inside the Australian Defence Force.
“We’ve been buying a lot of systems, from America in particular, because we’re in the middle of recapitalising the Air Force and also buying weapons that help support the operations in Iraq and Syria,” said Andrew Davies from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
Since the release of the most recent Defence White paper in 2016, the Federal Government has heavily promoted its commitment to creating a “sovereign defence industry” and maximising the Australian Industry Content in ADF contracts.
Despite the focus on local industry, Mr Davies believes the ADF will continue to rely heavily on Foreign Military Sales, or “off the shelf” purchasing from the United States.
“There’ll always be a component of ‘off-the-shelf’ purchasing in Australia’s Defence budget, even for things like ships we build here we’ll be buying weapons systems, combat systems, sensors, those sorts of things from overseas anyway,” he said.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re buying things in such a way that there’s nothing in it for Australian industry — they’re complementary approaches.”
The most recent Major Arms Sales approved for Australia include a $US815 million contract for “GBU-53/B Small Diameter bombs” and a $US360 million contract to upgrade the ADF’s MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopters.
The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, which administers Major Arms Sales, argues the sales of the precision guided bombs to Australia would bolster America’s foreign policy and national security.
The agency says selling the weapons could help “improve the security of a major non-NATO ally that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Western Pacific”.