ADF TOP HEAVY
Recent research indicates a significant increase in the number of senior officers within the Australian Defence Force (ADF) over the past two decades, despite an ongoing decline in overall enlisted personnel figures. An analysis conducted by the Parliamentary Library reveals that the count of star-ranked officers in the ADF has risen from 119 in 2003 to a current total of 219.
The findings, commissioned by the Greens Party, highlight a ratio of one senior ADF officer to 260 lower-ranked officers or regular personnel serving beneath them. Star-ranked officers, also known as ‘flag officers,’ occupy positions at the Commodore, Brigadier, or Air Commodore levels and higher in the Navy, Army, and Air Force, respectively.
In comparison, the United States boasts 863 star-ranked officers, with a ratio of one senior officer for every 1526 personnel, while the United Kingdom has a proportion of one star-ranked officer for every 1252 enlisted members.
David Shoebridge, a Greens Senator and Defence spokesperson, criticizes the perceived “top-heavy” structure of the ADF, especially considering the diminishing overall military personnel numbers. He remarks on the regular appointments of new generals, admirals, or Air Marshals without corresponding advancements in military assets.
The research details the distribution of senior officers within the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, and Royal Australian Air Force. For instance, the Navy currently has 68 senior officers, including 50 Commodores, 15 Rear Admirals, and 3 Vice-Admirals. The Army, boasting over 27,000 personnel, comprises 58 Brigadiers, 22 Major-Generals, 5 Lieutenant-Generals, and one General, Angus Campbell, serving as Chief of Defence. The Royal Australian Air Force includes 50 Air Commodores, 14 Air Vice-Marshals, and two Air Marshals.
The overall enlisted numbers for the ADF have declined from 62,429 in 1983 to 57,218 full-time members in 2023. Senator Shoebridge criticizes the failure of senior Defence leadership to meet recruiting targets over the past decade while concurrently doubling their own senior ranks. He characterizes this as rewarding failure and emphasizes the disproportionate concentration of senior officers overseeing a diminishing group of enlisted members.
Furthermore, it is noted that Australia’s Chief of Defence will receive a salary exceeding $1 million this year, surpassing the compensation of counterparts such as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States, earning $329,304, and the UK Chief of the Defence Staff, who is paid $534,509.