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Crikey readers know just how close the Timor deployment came to disaster in its early days because of logistics flaws something seconded by Wallace. Indeed, he claims the Australian Defence Forces are over-stretched due to poor strategic planning within the Defence Department over the last 15 years.

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With the news last week that Defence is to get yet another boss and as uniformed lapdogs get the plumb posting Wallace’s remarks have struck a chord in the ranks.

Wallace is a soldier’s soldier. He is held in high esteem. Even more importantly and unlike some other senior military critics Wallace cannot be accused of fighting long-gone wars. He is not part of the Vietnam generation. Instead, he’s an officer of the modern era who knows all about modern warfare and the challenges facing the military.

Uniformed types are voting with their feet and leaving the ADF in droves, especially at the more skilled middle and senior rank levels. That’s bad enough.

At the same time, however, military budgets have been devoured by a long list of expensive disasters the Collins class subs, the navy minesweepers that turned out to be unseaworthy, Anzac frigates that operate without surveillance and attack helicopter capacity, lack modern surface to surface armaments and missile defence, and the Jindalee over the horizon radar, to name a few.

Governments, brass and bureaucrats have spent billions, but there’s little in way of capacity to show for it.

Take the flak jackets horror story, for example. It’s been one of the favourite yarns wheeled out in discussion of Wallace’s remarks. Australian troops in East Timor had to be supplied with battle vests rushed by the Americans from Fort Bragg in South Carolina and to get them, they had to ask their soldiers to hand their vests back. It’s lucky Timor blew up in September 1999, not September 2001.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that our mid-air refuelling capacity is based on just one aging 707. And that the air force’s communications and command systems are not interoperable with any allied air force. And well, you get the drift.

Meanwhile, we have troops in Timor, on ops in the Solomons and off in Afghanistan.

The pollies may finally get the message when the ADF needs to drag a few cardie-wearers out of Russell Hill to fill a guard of honour.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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