Dougal Robinson is a Lowy Institute defence intern.
As the Australian Defence Force approaches the end of a period of high operational tempo, this third Defence in Depth video (you can watch the whole series and read commentary about it on this debate thread) asks experts whether the ADF is improving or declining.
There is consensus that extensive action in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Solomon Islands has left the ADF far better than it was at the end of the twentieth century. Our armed forces are much more competent, professional and better equipped, according to ASPI's Peter Jennings. The Australian's Brendan Nicholson agrees that the sharp end of Defence is more experienced.
Despite these improvements, the ADF faces significant challenges in coming years. Australia's capabilities will naturally erode as our armed forces are withdrawn from operations, says Peter Cosgrove. Maintaining effective, war-ready equipment in an era of budgetary pressure will be difficult, observes Andrew Davies from ASPI.
Perhaps the ADF is best measured by the challenges it may face in the Indo-Pacific. As Asia's middle powers and great powers improve their military capability, wonders Brendan Taylor, will Australia be able to maintain a qualitative edge in the region? Relative to credible regional adversaries, says Hugh White, Australia is in decline.
Is Australia adequately equipped for its strategic environment? In the judgement of retired Major General Jim Molan, the ADF is 'deeply deficient'.