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you participate, when you participate, at what level
you participate, how hard you fight, what level of
enemy you are prepared to confront, how aggressive
you are going to be, what casualties are acceptable
and when to come home. This makes strategy
ridiculously simple and we all know that there is
nothing wrong with the ability to fight of our people.
For most countries, in wars of choice, you don’t
actually have to win, you just have to participate.
To illustrate the variation that is possible in wars
of choice, look at the difference between how we
approached combat in southern Iraq and how our
special forces are fighting in Uruzgan province. So
wars of choice can be conducted from almost any
force size or nature.
The only problem really arises when the
government thinks it has certain capabilities, that
is, it thinks that the ADF can fight, and it wants
to consider an option of more robust support for
an ally for whatever political, alliance or military
reason, such as it did in the first and second Gulf
Wars, and then again in the occupation of Iraq.
Problems arise when it finds that the capability
for modern combat does not exist in the ADF. It
then asks itself and others why it has been paying
billions each year for defence yet now Defence
cannot deliver many options, Defence is not ready.
In my view, this is one of the reasons for the current
historically interesting reliance on Special Forces.
So wars of choice are not the issue from a
Defence efficiency point of view, and whatever we
happen to have determines effectiveness. They are
comparatively easy and are not the problem.
The bigger problem, and the area of most
damming folly, is that governments need to reassure
the Australian population that longer term security,
the preparation for future wars, is being addressed.
Governments do this primarily through issuing
and then updating White Papers and equipment
The public versions of the White Papers are
written by large numbers of stakeholders for
political effect and often lack rigour and internal
consistency. But they look good in the eyes of the
public. The public loves them and is reassured by
them: 100 JSFs, 12 subs - wow!
No White Paper has ever been realised of course:
what has been forecast in the White Paper has never
been reflected in terms of capability in the ADF.
There has never been a link between the military
strategy that comes out, directly or indirectly, in
the White Paper and the actuality of the force that
is supposed to apply it. What an extraordinary
situation this is, yet we seem to happily accept it.
But even worse than this enormous failure of
strategic alignment - in every White Paper - the
investment promised is quietly removed to achieve
other more immediately pressing political needs.
If the removal is likely to be noticed, then
Governments stress the unworthiness of Defence
to receive any of the taxpayers’ monies. If Defence
does not deserve it, then there is no problem about
removing it. Some of the recent Defence scandals
certainly came at the right time to facilitate defence
bashing before the last budget.
The removal of investment is done through
the cancelation or deferment of projects. Some
projects defer or cancel themselves, some deserve
to be deferred or cancelled, and some are cancelled
because the bureaucratic process, culminating in
a minister’s office or through the National Security
Committee of Cabinet (always so busy with border
control) is not capable of processing them and sees
no reason to be more bureaucratically efficient.
It is most interesting to me that the investment
proposed to be made in Defence and announced
in each White Paper was supposedly made on
the basis of a recognised need that supposedly
came out of intense analysis within Defence and
was supposedly related somehow to intelligence
judgements of future threats.
But the hollowness of this process is shown by the
fact that monies are removed from Defence with no
reference to previous analysis or to a change in the
strategic environment. In some circumstances, and
I would suggest we are in one now, the strategic
situation has become more uncertain over time,
not less uncertain, yet investment is still removed
One of the greatest contributors to this Defence
problem, as I see it, is that there is little downside
for governments in removing monies from the
portfolio. Voters are impressed by talk in White
Papers of large numbers of fighters, submarines
or soldiers, and once the White Paper process
is complete, voters move on to more immediate
concerns based on the assumption that Defence is
in good hands.
Voters may be excused for confusing the
statement of policy in White Papers with actual
achievements in Defence capability, but often
the Defence bureaucracy sees their greatest
achievement as the creation of policy rather than
the creation of real Defence capability. Policy is the
easy part of creating defence capability.
Removing funds from Defence may increase the
risk to the security of the nation, and I am the first to
agree that in some circumstances, such as when we
are in a time of peace, this is justifiable.
Governments are in power to take risks, to
balance needs across the community - this is the
old discussion of ‘guns’ or ‘butter’.
Defence must fight for the resources that it needs
against competing national priorities.
The Defence (and especially the defence industry)
problem is that it is too easy for governments to
remove long term investment monies for short
term political wins, which creates a roller coaster
ride for defence capability and defence industry,
and which goes against efficiency, effectiveness and
accountability. How can any government do this
and still scream for efficiency in the department
and the ADF?
This is made possible for governments because
the impact of removing previously announced
investment in defence is visible to almost no one.
The lack of public concern or even comment with
the billions of dollars removed from Defence in the
last budget is proof positive. APDR
(Jim Molan is a retired major general, author,
defence and security commentator, consultant and
speaker. Part II of this article will be published in
For most countries, in wars of choice, you don’t actually
have to win, you just have to participate.
A Special Operations Task
Group (SOTG) soldier turns on
his Peltor hearing protection
prior to boarding a UH-60
Black Hawk helicopter.
Credit: CoA/Chris Moore
9/29/2011 12:35:00 PM
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