Australia opens military to non-citizens

Australia will allow non-citizens to join its armed forces, the government said on Tuesday, as the sparsely populated nation struggles to meet recruitment targets.

Defense Minister Richard Marles said that from July, looser eligibility criteria would allow "permanent residents who have been living in Australia for 12 months" to serve.

Citizens from Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States are being favored, he added.

Australia has a coastline that would stretch one-and-a-bit times around the Earth, but a population of just 26 million.

Canberra has surged defense spending in recent years, buying fleets of submarines, jets and scores of fighting vehicles to meet mounting regional tensions.

But it has struggled to find enough pilots, mariners and troops to operate and maintain them.

Experts warn too few Australians don a uniform to meet even current requirements, much less a beefier military of tomorrow.

The Australian Defense Forces can today count on about 90,000 personnel, including reserves, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

China's military, by contrast, has an estimated 2 million personnel.

Marles said growing the Australian Defense Force was "essential to meet the nation's security challenges through the next decade and beyond."

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