Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 09:30 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 09:30 | SYDNEY

Defence counter-terrorism spending: Me, the few


Sam Roggeveen


22 April 2008 14:04

Rodger Shanahan says Defence spending on counter-terrorism (CT) is relatively modest, and that new spending after 9/11 went mostly toward raising another Tactical Assault Group* and an Incident Response Regiment. He doesn't mention helicopters, but the Howard Government bought more of those as well, in part to support SAS CT capability.

Rodger says 'few would argue' with the continued relevance of these capabilities. Well, count me among the few.

That's because the army's CT effort is overwhelmingly directed at only one kind of terrorist threat: a siege-hostage situation. The SAS is probably one of the best organisations of its kind in the world at resolving a plane or ship hijacking, or getting hostages out of a building controlled by terrorists. But that hasn't been a big part of al Qaeda's modus operandi of late, and although we should maintain some capability against such threats, I wonder how the spending on the second Tactical Assault Group stacks up against other CT priorities. For instance, how many more Russian nuclear submarines might we  have helped dismantle with that money, in order to prevent fissile material reaching the black market?

I would also question Rodger's rather literal reading of Defence CT funding. The Afghanistan operation continues to be justified as a counter-terrorist measure, and in part, so was Iraq. Even the intervention in the Solomons was sold partly on the grounds that a failed state would be vulnerable to terrorist influence. So Defence CT spending has gone far beyond just those dedicated capabilities Rodger mentions.

* I initially referred to 'another SAS Tactical Assault Group', but a reader correctly points out that this second TAG is actually manned by 4RAR, not the SAS.

Photo by Flickr user Leorex, used under a Creative Commons licence.