|Last Updated: Fri Mar 29 10:48:39 UTC 2013|
Rebuilding the Warrior Ethos
Air Power Australia Analysis 2008-10
27th December, 2008
A Monograph by Air Commodore Ted Bushell AM (Retd)
Text © 2008 E. J. Bushell
The RAAF of today is not the organisation that served Australia so well over its long history. Severely deskilled and, increasingly, imbued with the bureaucratic ethos rather than warrior ethos at the senior staff level, the RAAF is now a hollow shell of what was once the finest air force in this region. Depicted an Australian built, supported and flown Beaufighter Mk.21.
Today, we are reminded often of the military ethos of the Anzac period, the message usually carrying a political and public assumption that the ethos of that time still forms the core of our military ethos today. However, before looking into the reality or the myth behind this assumption, a brief review of the State and its use of military force should be undertaken to provide some philosophical background.
Many have pondered the relationship between the State and the Military over the centuries, but it is probably the Chinese who have developed the most coherent, plausible, and time resistant philosophy of war and its role in the affairs of State, a philosophy that dates back to the period of Sun Tsu (about 500BC). From this period, three principles can be drawn, each having five fundamental factors which are as relevant today as they were when they were written. Coming from the depths of Chinese history and experience, these should be of special interest today as we enter a prolonged period of resurgence in Chinese world power and influence[i].
The traditional approach taken by the Chinese to the settlement of disputes was a graduated one, comprising:
Diplomacy. Normally conducted at a level of considered good manners and mutual respect, diplomacy demanded patience and a very deep understanding of one’s own culture, capabilities, and objectives, as well as a similar, deep understanding of the culture, capabilities, and objectives of others.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear for the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”. (Sun Tsu, Chap 3, (18))
The best diplomatic solution was the one that left both sides feeling that their objectives had been satisfied without loss of ‘face’. Today, diplomacy seems far less successful than it should be as we have far too many wars. Expectations are often too ambitious, with those involved being less skilled, and having less understanding of the matters involved, or just too impatient for results. The world media, with its constant probing and insatiable demand for detail by the minute does not help, nor does the political, public relations driven focus on the daily media cycle.
There is much evidence today that Australia has lost sight of this principle, both locally and globally.
times, differences had to be settled by warfare. Traditionally,
wars were declared by states, each believing
that its cause was just and that it would win. Today,
wars can be quite one sided
affairs and not even declared. Often third
parties become involved to further complicate
motives behind a conflict. However, the
five Chinese concepts of war remain a lesson
The world today, including Australia, seems to be too bogged down in fighting the ultimate and penultimate wars to seek skilfully the alternatives.Finally, if war becomes necessary, preparedness must be appraised in terms of five fundamental factors:
The whole must then be focussed upon achieving extreme flexibility so as to take advantage of fleeting opportunities. In all activities, from diplomacy to warfare, the Chinese emphasised the critical role played by sound intelligence.
Sun Tzu reminds us that “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him, not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”
He also saw several ways in which a ruler (or government) can bring misfortune upon his army, especially: “By attempting to govern his army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldier’s minds”. (Sun Tzu, Chap 3, (12), (13-2))
Some 24 centuries after Sun Tzu, Stalin, echoing Ludendorff, voiced five similar permanently-operating factors in warfare:
Major non-Western Nations, including China, not being faced with any GWOT, and not having suffered the financial drain that the GWOT incurs, have remained focussed upon the broader, long-term factors governing their security. The West currently prefers to ignore this strategic divergence.
The following review of the direction that successive governments, indeed parliaments, have allowed Australia’s defence forces to be driven since about 1974 will be reviewed generally against Sun Tzu’s five fundamental principles governing warfare and the State. However, emphasis will be given to the two high technology Services, especially the RAAF, as without decisive control of the air the projection of any military power becomes largely impossible.
“A superb physicist, musician, or scientist could still be a horrible person, but a good soldier had to be a good man – one that other people had to trust under enormous pressure in horrible circumstances.” (Gen Sir John Hackett in a BBC interview.)
Soldiers and other servicemen fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will know exactly what these words mean. The bureaucrat, eschewing military professionalism, can only be left wondering what they mean.
Military organisations, to be effective, depend upon a set of characteristics that are unique to them – a military ethos that stresses the trust and loyalty that must exist between peers and their subordinates, and the mutual respect that must exist between peers. Discipline and tradition then provide the environment within which newcomers can not only develop their trust, but also gain the respect of the organisation that they seek.
The worth of any military leader is measured by his sense of responsibility and loyalty to his peers and subordinates – all other concerns must take second place. Hence, the leader who places career before leadership weakens the ethos of his Service because his motives become immediately suspect. Those leaders who avoid personal responsibility, or place appearance before substance, display an obvious lack of military professionalism, and so also undermine the ethos of their Service. It is incumbent upon the State to ensure that the ethos of its military is not degraded, for any reason, to the extent that its military services become less than effective during time of need.
It may not be palatable to the State, but no matter how closely its military is called upon to mirror society, it must always remain an illiberal institution if it is to retain its ethos and be competent to fight wars on behalf of the State.
From about the mid-1970s, most Western military forces have been caught up in revolutionary changes, aimed mostly at bringing service values and practices more into line with those of modern society. Impetus for change has also been driven by a perception that technology was now a factor common to both military and civilian enterprises, and so the distinction between military and civilian skills was blurred, especially at the upper levels of the defence bureaucracy. The main problem with this perception is that technology is not the same thing as the organic military operational and technological professional expertise necessary to ensure the effective, efficient, timely, and economic military application of that technology. The important factor ignored is thus the specialised application of technology by the military.
Regrettably, in Australia, revolutionary change was driven by a hastily-created Defence bureaucracy implementing policies on the basis of what was best for best for the bureaucracy, rather than what was best for the Services, the Nation, and the Defence Industry Base upon which Australia must rely to resist current and future threats. Even the traditional, central roles of government and parliamentary oversight were elbowed aside in the rush to build up, at the expense of Service and Defence Industry capabilities, a bloated, top-heavy, public service controlled Department with a stranglehold on all defence matters; an organisation totally disproportionate in role and numbers relative to the small size and limited capabilities of Australia’s military forces, and lacking almost entirely the skills needed to discharge its ubiquitous responsibilities.
Similar revolutions occurred within other Western nations, particularly the USA, the UK, and Canada, each of which has found the results to have fallen far short of the advantages promised. These ‘revolutions’ have been responsible directly for a marked weakening of Western military deterrence throughout the world. Those nations that have resisted liberal intrusion into their services have fared much better.
In the United States there is now a loudly-voiced perception that the ‘Defense fish is rotting from the head down’ due to protracted, ineffective leadership at the Secretary and Chief of Staff level. Strategy documents have become only statements of good intentions, unsupported by effective capability, procurement, and budgetary plans, and lacking any measures of effectiveness. Importantly, the United States has not yet resolved the strategic conflict inherent in its total focus upon ‘jointery’ and the Global War on Terror, as opposed to the need to ensure that its Services are updated and equipped to maintain the United States’ global military advantage, i.e. ‘recapitalised’ capabilities. The United States’ continued failure to manage its new equipment programmes effectively has also created what is now referred to as a ‘liar’s contest’ between contending manufacturers, which in turn has led the Department of Defense to cap costs in an attempt to contain them. This, however, has only resulted in a reduced number of weapons able to be funded, at a higher unit cost.
As a result, the US now faces the prospect of losing its military supremacy throughout the world, particularly in the critical area of air supremacy. The US political system, the Defense bureaucracy, the military, and the weapons manufacturers and their lobbyists have together bound up the Nation’s threat assessment and capability planning and procurement processes. Consequently, the US has no coherent planning in place for the widespread capability upgrades needed to replace its increasingly obsolete, worn out and un-competitive military capabilities. Many in the US link this situation to bureaucratic structural changes similar to those that have been introduced in Australia, coupled with the inevitable weakening of its professional military expertise which has stemmed largely from an over-emphasis on ‘jointery’, rather than on core Service capabilities that are able to act jointly as and when required.
The implications of this for Australia are serious and widespread, but they do not seem to have been recognised, let alone considered in any current Defence plans and programmes. Australia can not continue to avoid the inevitability that it will have to depend very much upon its own resources over the next two to three decades.
The situation in the United States is difficult to understand, considering that some 22 years of reform have passed since the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganisation Act of 1986 was passed. The entrenched and protracted resistance to effective reform that followed has been due mainly to the Defense Department being unable or unwilling to reform itself, a failure of government to reform it, and a severe erosion of military professionalism in the Services. This situation has been further aggravated by the growth of ‘jointery’ which has evolved as a fourth, competing, military arm. Many in the USAF see the decline in the professional operational and technical skills in that Service to be a direct result of the merger in 1992 of the USAF’s Systems Command into the Air Force Materiel Command, much as happened in Australia when the Services’ Maintenance Commands were absorbed by the Defence Materiel Office. The problems now seen in the US are a salutary lesson for Australia, as many of the core problems are the same.
The Goldwater-Nichols Act [ii]In the mid-1980s, a series of military operational failures in the field – the botched attempt to rescue the American hostages in Iran, the Beirut embassy bombing and the interoperability problems that arose during the invasion of Grenada - convinced Congress that the Department of Defense was broken and that something had to be done. Despite intense resistance from the Department, and more than four years of Congressional hearings, investigation and analysis the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganisation Act of 1986 – considered at the time to be a landmark of US defense reform – finally emerged.
Progress with the changes introduced by the Act was reviewed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in 2004 and 2005. In its first report, CSIS saw a need for strengthening congressional oversight, while the second report saw a need to ‘borrow a page from the past by transferring acquisition programs back to the Service Chiefs who are legally responsible for supplying capabilities and who have a proven ability to execute programs efficiently’. Both of these points are relevant to the problems that have been created unnecessarily in Australia’s defence organisation.
That the US has been unable to resolve the unacceptable problems seen in 1986, and is now faced with an even more dysfunctional defense management and procurement organisation which is contributing significantly to the current financial crisis as well as damaging the ethos and morale of its Services, bodes ill for the similar organisation that has been imposed upon Australia’s Defence Forces.
A recent US House Committee hearing into Defense and the Government Accounting Office Report into Defense Procurement was plain speaking:
The Contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing were charged with outright deception, their sole objective being to make money. Underperforming weapons were being hawked that were overcharged and not delivered on time.
While the US is at least debating seriously its problems with Defense and its procurement failures, Australia’s Department of Defence and its Minister, simply accept and defend without reservation all and every claim that these same contractors have made in regard to DMO’s Super Hornet and JSF projects. For example:
The most challenging mission for the JSF is where the F-35 will have to penetrate deep into a dense integrated air defense system reinforced by enemy fighters and strike a target with no support, Davis (Major General Charles Davis, USAF, the Program Executive Officer of the JSF program) said. This is the most difficult mission for the F-35, but it is also one that is near suicidal for current aircraft such as the F-16. Modern Russian built surface to air missile systems such as the SA-20 are deadly to conventional aircraft, Davis explained. A package of four, six, or even eight F-35s would have to divide up the responsibilities for the suppression of enemy air defences, mapping out the target, clearing the skies, and striking the target, Davis said. The larger number of aircraft is necessary since the F-35 “doesn’t have the kinematics of the F-22”, Davis explained, “we’re a slightly fatter, slower aircraft, so it takes a few more planes to get the job done.”
That the Department of Defence accepts this, as well as that “The Super Hornet is an excellent aircraft capable of meeting any known threat in the region.”, only reinforces the growing assessment that the Department exists in an alternative reality wherein the Newtonian laws of physics and the scientific approach to analysis have yet to be discovered. Both claims have been challenged with criticisms based upon sound analysis, but without response, apart from the denigration of those offering any contrary views.
This type of magical thinking has led to an increasing divergence between what would have happened if decisions had been based upon rigorous, professional military thinking, and what actually happened as a result of decisions being taken within an organisation based upon the Defence bureaucracy’s ‘vague, tolerant, unclear lines of command, divided authority, open-ended guidance, and ambiguous instructions’ - the approach seen as central to defence planning by Mr Smith, which is discussed later. Within this environment, purchase of the JSF is at risk of being confirmed, if only to ensure that political and bureaucratic ‘face’ will be saved, and past mistakes will not need not be admitted. The risks to those who will place themselves in jeopardy in operating the aircraft, and the security of Australia out to 2030 and beyond, will become of secondary consideration.
The UK’s position was well put by General Sir Michael Rose, former head of the SAS, ex-commander of the UN forces in Bosnia, and formerly in charge of standards in the British Army as Adjutant-General. He believes that the UK has witnessed the most catastrophic collapse of British military ethos in recent history. He sees the main causes as being the politicisation of the military, coupled with the resulting breakdown of the military chain of command, as senior officers look to their careers within the bureaucracy rather than their Service and so become no longer trusted by their men.
Rose sees this as resulting generally from the impacts of ‘politically correct’ legislation coming from Brussels, but particularly from the effects of the war in Iraq. This war has, he maintains, broken the military chain of command, causing generals to lose the trust of their men, disorientating soldiers and destroying the trust that existed traditionally between British society and the armed forces.
His remedy sees a clean-out of those ‘top brass’ who kowtow to Whitehall and the distancing of military decisions from politics wherever it emanates[iii].
One Service officer working within the current, heavily civilianised British Ministry of Defence observed: “Most people still believe that the MoD is essentially a military organisation. It is not. It is an organisation dominated numerically, culturally and structurally by civil servants and consultants, many of whom are unsympathetic to its underlying purpose or even hostile to the military and its ethos. You just have to spend a few days at the MoD before you realise that the culture there is not just non-military, but anti-military.”
The Canadian Experience[iv]Canada has experienced an even longer trend towards an increasingly incompetent bureaucratic and military leadership, resulting from the politicisation/bureaucratisation of its services, which has led to an undermining of the ethos of the Canadian military. The military ethos is not understood within the Canadian Parliament, or by the media, and the intelligentsia refuses to even acknowledge that it exists.
John Thompson, President of The Mackenzie Institute of Canada, sees “The institutions, customs and traditions that sustain the military ethos cannot be readily created overnight. They have to be carefully preserved against the time they are needed in earnest, and yet must remain vital and vibrant – for a military must be a mirror of the society from which it is drawn. Balancing these two necessities is a real challenge too, but it is one that Canada is failing badly.”[v]
Critics see the ethos of the Canadian military as warped and at times perverted, indicative of a failing leadership, even at junior ranks; a situation that has evolved as a result of the organisation rewarding conformity over capability, so allowing the slow rise of petty authoritarians into positions of control.
The dangers inherent in less than competent officers rising to positions of influence were expressed well by Kurt Von Hammerstein-Equord, Chief of the German Army High Command, who oversaw the composition of the German Manual on Military Unit Command, dated 17th October 1933. He developed a special classification scheme for his officers to avoid it happening:
“I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the higher staff appointment. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately.”
The odds are overwhelming that in Australia the professional de-skilling of the Services, the adoption of the General List, and the predominance of a Public Service Defence bureaucracy, will combine to produce the very type of officer who must be avoided in any military organisation. The problems faced by the Australian professional military officer were well analysed by Air Cdre R.G. Funnell (later to become Air Marshal, Chief of Air Force) in his research article that appeared in Defence Force Journal No 23, Jul/Aug 80, entitled ‘The Professional Military Officer in Australia – A Direction for the Future’.
His analysis centred upon the competing views that the military professional was faced with the sole alternatives of having to develop political and bureaucratic skills similar to those of the senior public service, or concentrate on maintaining and cultivating strictly professional military skills and orientations. His conclusion was in favour of a pragmatic military professionalism in which greater stress should be placed on developing political and bureaucratic skills. An added complication he saw was that, through a slide in reasoning, civil control of the military had come to mean, for many, Public Service control.
However, since 1980, there have been revolutionary changes in the role and structure of the Service Offices, as well as those of the higher Defence machinery, and the manner in which the Services are supported. Furthermore, Australia’s traditional focus upon maintaining strategic capabilities on a Service basis has given way to a single-minded focus on joint operations to meet the Global War on Terror, thereby following the US, with much the same damaging consequences. Some of the factors that influenced changes in defence since 1980 thus deserve revisiting:
Technology. ‘Technologically, the (military) profession is on a treadmill where, it seems, no matter how hard you try you never get ahead. Equipment is evaluated, purchased, introduced and becomes obsolescent in a very short time and without ever being used for its primary purpose.’ In principle, this has been the case since the beginning of military air power. Aircraft have always been at the forefront of technology, demanding progressively more advanced technological skills to keep them operational. The operational staffs, in turn, have had to determine new strategies and tactics, but it required a very close working relationship between operational and technical staffs, at all levels and at all times, to take full advantage of new technology. Within the RAAF, technical support of aircraft and supporting systems was managed by a professional engineering group under a Technical Services Branch Head who answered directly to the Chief of Air Force. For a small to medium sized service, which placed very limited demands upon available resources, the RAAF gained and maintained a well-earned respect internationally for its operational and technical professionalism.
The fact that an aircraft, or any other weapon, may not have to be used for its primary purpose does not acknowledge the role and importance of strategic deterrence, which represents military success without the need for conflict – a solution high on list of ancient Chinese priorities. The deterrent force has, of course, to be credible in that it must be demonstrably capable of inflicting unacceptable losses on any potential aggressor.
Military and Civilian Skills. “The men who perform such technical tasks have direct civilian equivalents – engineers, machine maintenance specialists, health service specialists, logistic and personnel technicians”. Unfortunately, sweeping misperceptions such as these were allowed to drive the reorganisation and Commercial Support Programme, reflecting little if any understanding of the need, particularly in a small service, to maintain tight control and integration of its supporting specialists, particularly those charged with the management of its technology. Unfortunately, the unique management requirements of the technologies operated and supported by the three Services were considered to be less important to operational effectiveness than overstated, perceived economies and ill-considered commercial support objectives.
As it has turned out, neither economies nor advantages resulted for Australia, the Services, or our Defence Industry capabilities. The RAAF lost its professional engineering corps and its highly skilled and competent deeper level support facilities, and Australia lost all of its prime defence contractors. In both cases, the work and the associated skills base will migrate to foreign contractors and their facilities overseas who answer firstly to their overseas-based management boards. The result has been a move from a robust, professionally managed, organic support base to a hollow military capability having a large number of single-point failure nodes in its chain of largely foreign controlled commercial support contracts.
The Professional Officer. Many references have been made to “The Professional Military Officer”, a vague concept that needs fleshing out. Volunteers do not seek to join the Australian Defence Force. Indeed, the very term ‘ADF’ conjures up nothing, but only denigrates the three Services that Australia has come to know, understand, and trust. Volunteers seek to join one or other of the three Military Services because they feel attracted to life in that Service as a calling, but they are also drawn to a specialist function within their chosen service – operator, engineer, personnel manager, supply manager, and so on, and it is within this chosen specialist area that their specialist professionalism is established and developed through training, education, and experience. Furthermore, with the delegation of disciplinary powers down through the specialist structure, the professional specialist organisations also became the principle means of inculcating Service tradition as well as applying the disciplinary code, the critical ‘stiffening’ of any service. The total ethos and morale within a Service came thus from a combination of a general Service ethos and the professional pride, sense of achievement, and the ethics associated with their professional specialist role.
However, the RAAF was forced to disband the professional branch structures that managed its specialist functions in depth and on a force-wide basis. The RAAF is no longer organised or managed as a coherent force, but only as a number of hollow and largely independent Force Element Groups that act principally as service providers to joint operations. There is little wonder that the RAAF’s Service-wide ethos has been difficult to maintain, and that the RAAF’s traditional professional competence and standards have largely been lost. Similarly, there can be little wonder that the RAAF has lost sight of its wider responsibilities as the supplier of Air Power in its wider and true sense.
These changes ignore what Sun Tzu saw as the need for “strict functions must fall to all involved, including all supporting specialists” and “channels of direction must function so that all parts act as a whole to face ever changing challenges”.
The General List. Finally, the introduction of a General List for officers promoted beyond Wing Commander cut the cord of professionalism throughout the RAAF at that level, and so reduced the span and depth of its professional expertise, draining the pool of experienced and competent professional officers needed to manage at the higher levels.
The consequences of the changes in RAAF organisation, the downsizing and de-skilling of its professional services corps, coupled with the introduction of the General List, are reflected in the poor professional advice that has been injected into Service and Defence planning and DMO projects since about 1999/2000.
The RAN, as the more senior of the high technology Services, saw the need for an Engineer Branch headed by a Chief of Naval Technical Services (CNTS) to ensure the seaworthiness of its vessels and the engineering and maintenance standards of its operational systems and its wide range of supporting technical equipment. Since the loss of this Branch as a result of the Sanderson Review, Navy has faced several disasters which can be sheeted home to dispersed and incoherent force management and fragmented technical support. Some examples include the ‘Westralia’ incident, which resulted from a simple configuration management failure, and the maintenance standards leading to the Sea King crash in Indonesia, almost followed by another of similar magnitude[vi].
More recently, the Director-General Navy Systems Branch felt compelled, on 18 April 2008, to send a minute to all senior Navy engineers chastising them for their lack of leadership. The points raised by him covered real and important problems throughout Navy, but these are unlikely to be rectified by tasking the unled to demonstrate leadership. The lesson that leadership and morale come from above and do not well up from below seems to have been forgotten.
Navy engineers have simply now lost the professional engineering focus, unity of direction, and professional discipline that they had under their CNTS. In short, as with the RAAF, the Navy’s ethos appears damaged and damaged badly through the loss of its professional specialist organisation. Given a lack of ethos and professionalism at the working level, it should not be surprising to find deficiencies at the higher level, particularly in the planning areas of force structure, capability development, and system evaluation, procurement and sustainment. The Armidale class patrol boat problems, plus the botched upgrade of the Navy’s four guided missile frigates, continued Collins Class submarine system integration problems, and the failure of the Sea Sprite project provide only a few examples of inadequate professional Navy operational and engineering input. The Air Warfare Destroyer project is also waiting to fall into the ‘failed’ category given DMO’s present project management structure and processes.
At a still higher level, Navy doctrine and key operational concepts now rely heavily upon Network Centric Warfare (NCW) and Effects Based Operations (EBO) concepts[vii].
If Navy engineers had not been decentralised and de-skilled, but remained part of a coherent professional organisation, they would have been sounding loud warnings about the nature and risks inherent in both NCW and EBO. NCW has a long way to go before its opportunities and risks can even be identified, let alone scaled. Furthermore, adopting NCW opens up a whole new world of counter-NCW tactics and technology. NCW can never be assumed to be a long-term, asymmetric advantage to Australia. A very high level of closely-knit, professional operational and engineering expertise will be needed if Navy and the other Services are to navigate through the operational and technological NCW minefields unscathed.
In seeing EBO becoming ‘a significant driver of both current operations and future development’, Navy should pause to review just how the concept has developed within the US services. EBO was a US DoD concept which, in implementation, was found to introduce ‘sloppy thinking, confused terms, and incredibly complex and wrong-headed analysis notions’, but it remained supported by the US Defense bureaucracy, which continued with its obstinate, magical thinking and its insensitivity to criticism. This attitude tends to mirror that taken by Australia’s Defence bureaucracy when defending the indefensible. After several years of the Services trying to satisfy the bureaucracy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq finally settled the matter, with the Commander, US Forces Joint Command, directing, on 14 August 2008:
“Effective immediately, USFJCOM will no longer use, sponsor, or export the terms and concepts related to EBO, ONA, and SoSA in our training doctrine development, and support of JPME.”
This memorandum should be studied carefully, as it injects a breath of professional military realism through the fog of the imprecise bureaucratic thinking surrounding the concept[viii].
The readiness of both the RAN and the RAAF to see EBO as a core philosophy demonstrates a serious deficiency in professional military thinking. As indicated in the USFJCOM Memorandum, the adoption or otherwise of any philosophy must proceed solely from professional mastery of the basics behind the philosophy in conjunction with an approach that is both intellectually rigorous and operationally flexible. In its wider sense, the Memorandum demonstrates the clarity required in military thinking that has become increasingly absent in most, if not all, Western Departments of Defence.
Concepts such a NCW and EBO cannot be taken simply on face value and published as key operational concepts for our Services. They have to be analysed fully and carefully for their implications and relevance to Australia’s forces, and accepted, rejected, or tailored accordingly. The fact that this has not been done calls into question the current professional skills base of the Services, both operational and technical, as well as the impact of the Defence bureaucracy with its inability to follow rigorous analytical processes. Following the imposition of the Commercial Support Program, the Defence Efficiency Review and Reform Programs, and the General List, the traditional ethos and professional integrity of the RAAF came under immediate stress. The leadership and management environment that has developed subsequently within the RAAF may be gauged by a message sent by Deputy Chief of Air Force (DCAF) to all Air Force Commanders on 22nd February 2008, titled ‘Values Renewal Story Competition’. The message referred to an Air Force Values Statement that had been developed during 2001 in response to a feeling that Air Force had ‘lost the plot’. The message stated:
“Today our Warrant Officers and Senior Officers sign up to their own behavioural ‘compacts’ that outlines how they will behave in order to lead and command in accordance with our values…The most effective way to understand and live the values is for all of us to talk about them. This means Commanders talking to their unit leaders and airmen about values in the workplace and the values that are important to them, SNCOs talking and mentoring their junior NCOs about how they see values playing a role and all of you talking to each other about why the ways are important to our everyday business.”
The message then went on to seek “..people to submit their own story about the Air Force values and the role or meaning the values have for them.”
In effect, the traditional ethos of the Service, that sense of trust, loyalty, and respect that once bound the Service together as a united force, and so provided the cohesion and unity of direction that saw it through peace and war, seems now to have been replaced by a collection of high-sounding words about which all must talk. The reader may judge whether this new approach will develop and maintain a force capable of taking and sustaining decisive military action.
At the higher level, where Air Force staffs overlap considerably the Defence/DMO bureaucracies, the impacts of imposed changes soon became apparent and remain to this day. Most importantly, deficiencies arose in the critical area of operational analysis and, with the loss of its Engineer Branch, the RAAF soon encountered difficulties in managing the proper technical specification, evaluation, selection, procurement, and introduction and support of its new aircraft and other systems. The C-130J, which would normally have been a straightforward project for the RAAF, soon ran into major project management problems. Indeed, since then, every aircraft project, fixed wing or rotary, has been managed incompetently, with systems having to be cancelled, or introduced late, vastly overpriced, and often lacking the capabilities required. The Wedgetail AEW&C project started out under sound control, but soon degenerated under Defence’s non-rigorous processes to become years late, much more costly and, because of continuing technical risks, with unproven capabilities. The C-17 Project may be claimed as an exception, but an independent cost/effectiveness audit of the contract entered into for this aircraft has yet to be done. Certainly, the USAF found its C-17 contract to be far too expensive.
All of these problems can be traced to the loss of military professionalism across the RAAF from about 2000, especially in the operational and technological areas, coupled with the inability of Defence/DMO to get the required skills sets from elsewhere. In fact, such skills cannot be obtained by simply advertising in newspapers. They have to come, in the main, from within the Service, as it is here that detailed operational and technological expertise must reside if the Force is to operate and support its weapon systems to maximum advantage. This situation has been aggravated further by the decision within the DMO to dispense with traditional, rigorous, analytical techniques in favour of Manufacturers’ proposals and promises. Then, in an attempt to mitigate the high levels of risk inherent in their faulty or absent processes, Defence/DMO have introduced a ‘risk mitigation’ policy under which contracts call for both supply and long-term support of new capabilities. The aim was to risk from Defence to the Contractor, but this only comes at considerable cost and even greater risk to the Services and the Nation. The adverse impact upon Australia’s Defence Industry Base has also been, and will continue to be, disastrous.
The recent Mortimer Report into DMO makes 46 recommendations, but being essentially an internal review, it avoided the core weaknesses within the organisation and failed to ask the simple question: Why is DMO facing such intractable complexities and difficulties undertaking tasks that the Services managed without fuss for over 70 years?
A more detailed analysis of the RAAF and the bureaucracy is at Annex A – The RAAF-Capabilities Lost that must be Regained.
When Sir Arthur Tange reported to the Minister for Defence in November of 1973, the central question he faced was how Ministerial control of the Department’s functions would be ensured. Tange’s answer was a Diarchy comprising a Chief of Defence Force Staff with power of command over all three Services, and a Secretary, Department of Defence, responsible for resource management and policy advice. He recommended that resource management and policy direction upwards, and policy direction downwards, be distributed among five organisations coming under the Secretary, with Military input provided for in his proposals for the functions of the five organisations.
However, it was obvious that the Diarchy had been given a definite civilian slant, a slant that provided not for political control of the armed forces, but for control by the Public Service. In the end, just how Cabinet was to discharge its responsibilities for defence was not even discussed.
It could thus be said that the current Defence organisation grew from an inadequate baseline in regard to political control of Australia’s defence forces, and this was accepted by an overly hasty and inexperienced government. This major fault line, which is central to all that is wrong structurally with Australia’s defence management today, has been allowed to grow unquestioned and unchecked by governments and parliaments since Tange.
The vision seen by the Department of Defence was later espoused by Mr R.C. Smith, Deputy Secretary, Strategy and Intelligence (later Secretary for Defence) in 1995, a time of revolutionary change for the Services[ix].
In his speech, he seconded the remarks made by the Deputy CDF at the time, which lauded ‘the coherent and marketable strength of current corporate planning processes, the close and effective working relationship that had developed between uniformed and civilian personnel, the progress made in the development of joint approaches to command of the ADF, the savings and efficiencies that had accrued, and the outstanding levels of competence and professionalism of the ADF’. The DCDF’s views sounded more like a Defence Press Release rather an assessment by a pragmatic, professional military officer.
Mr Smith referred to the Diarchy as “The ‘one Organisation’ headed by two persons of equal status, the Secretary and the CDF, with a top-management team comprised in addition of eight Program Heads, four civilian, four military”. He then dwelt on the role of civilian and military personnel, particularly the extraordinary wide range of skills that the civilian side could provide. These included finance, force structure, capability requirements, science and technology, international policy, bureaucratic skills, strategic issues, military hardware and technology, engineering, providing alternative advice, and continuity in policy and administration. The impetus for change was given as the higher cost of servicemen as opposed to civilians, which was also a key element behind the CSP initiative. Nowhere were the needs of the Services recognised or considered properly, nor was any comparison made between the real cost/benefits between a serviceman and a civilian given or mentioned. It is clear now that neither the overly-optimistic promises of efficiency, nor the cost savings seen by the Wrigley Report, and sought subsequently by the CSP and other programs, have been forthcoming.
Mr Smith’s “Cultural” Differences observations are of particular interest, and are reproduced below:
“It is self evident that the very different natures of military and civilian service produce different cultures, and it is important that those differences be recognised and understood if the two groups are to work together effectively. To mention just a few of these differences, civilians are, for instance, generally more readily able to tolerate, and even be comfortable with, unclear lines of command, divided authority, and open-ended guidance or ambiguous instructions. They also tend to be willing to offer judgements and opinions on the basis of less hard data than their uniformed colleagues, and to accept that outcomes can’t always be readily predicted or easily influenced. Again, the question of ‘ownership’, so important to military commanders who very understandably want to ‘own’ or have command of the assets needed to do the tasks for which they are responsible, is much less important to civilians, who are generally more comfortable about being dependent on others to deliver results. Approaches to careers and service are also, inevitably, different and so of course are conditions of service and expectations from the service of which they are members.”
Military professionals will see immediately the incompatibility between the characteristics of the military professional, who depends upon sharply-defined tasks, clear accountability, real measures of performance, and sound management of the resources needed to achieve them, and the civilian approach. How can the military exist or perform professionally in an organisation that accepts vague, tolerant, unclear lines of command and divided authority, and open-ended guidance and ambiguous instructions?
The military is about completing its tasks professionally and on time, with least risk, and accepting accountability for the results; the civilian bureaucrat is about diffusing tasks and avoiding accountability. The problem of lack of accountability within Defence was seen as a major problem by the Proust Review, but the practice is so entrenched throughout the whole Defence bureaucracy that it has remained, unable to be changed, the Department unable to change itself and governments unable or unwilling to change it.
If these two conflicting characteristics are constrained to co-exist in controlling what are in the main military matters, then one or the other has to predominate. The bureaucracy will never adopt military approaches, despite these being precisely what is required when managing military capabilities. The bureaucracy will instead constrain all military personnel working within it to adopt civilian bureaucratic processes and standards. If they do not, and attempt to act as military professionals, they will be declared to be ‘not good team members’ and their careers will suffer. There have been a disturbing number of instances of this, with the bureaucracy seeing its role very much as ‘keeping the Services in their place’. As a result, many of the RAAF’s most competent professionals have had their careers ended abruptly. The adverse effect of this upon the ethos and military professionalism of the Service has been serious, but not acknowledged.
Importantly, the bureaucracy recommends to the Minister those who should be promoted and those who should not, and will select inevitably those senior officers who best fit the bureaucratic mould and can thus be expected to be comfortable with bureaucratic processes. Officers so selected will be required to accept always the bureaucratic position even when it is not in the best interests of their Service. This in turn has an adverse, “domino effect” down through the higher levels of the Service, as officers strive to become compliant bureaucrats within the Defence organisation if they are ambitious, rather than develop as professional military officers within their Service as they should. Those seeking the higher appointments thus have to decide whether they will follow the professional military officer path or follow the military bureaucrat path. There is no middle way. The scene is thus set for a continued erosion of Service ethos, morale and ethics from the top down. This is usually referred to as the ‘politicisation of the military’, but in fact it is the ‘bureaucratisation of the military’.
The cultural differences seen by Mr Smith also led him to two concepts of how the civilian and ADF sides fit into the decision process:
“The first is a fairly simple one, namely, that the boundaries between those areas which were once regarded as the prerogatives of either civilians or uniformed personnel to advise upon have become increasingly blurred, and will continue to blur.” ‘Have been made’ would probably have been a more accurate expression than ‘have become’. The concept, in fact, simply opens the door for public service intrusion into all military matters.
His second point referred to government becoming involved in ‘all decision processes from the planning and preparation for all military operations through to how the military objectives will be pursued and for all the things that occur along the way’. This, in effect, translates to mean total control of all military activities. However, it is not government that will do this, and almost invariably not the Minister. It is only the Public Service controlled bureaucracy within the Department of Defence that will do it, as the Department provides all guidance and recommendations to the Minister, Government, and Parliament, and that guidance will be based solely upon bureaucratic considerations and processes. The Minister, Government, and Parliament have almost invariably accepted the Department’s position and recommendations on trust, even where irrefutable, independent evidence has indicated that those recommendations had been faulty, indeed blatantly misleading. In this way, the civil oversight process has been captured by the bureaucracy.
A good example of this is the Orme Review of Australia’s New Air Combat Capability that followed the change of government. This review was provided with well researched facts and analyses that ran contrary to Defence’s entrenched position, but these were not acknowledged, simply dismissed out of hand. The result of this review was to transfer ownership of the highly contentious decisions taken by the previous government, on Defence advice, to the new government via its Minister; the Department thus escaping any criticism. The Orme review demonstrates clearly how the Department controls the Services, the Minister, as well as the government and parliamentary oversight processes. A more detailed analysis of the adverse effects of the Orme review is at Annex B.
However, the Minister may now be facing an even more hazardous challenge. During an interview recorded in the Australian Defence Magazine of June 2008, in reply to a question as to how he found the Department, he stated that “The thing that struck me was how busy it was. I could never have imagined the workload would be so heavy”. For a minister whose major task should be the development of carefully considered higher defence policy and planning, the situation he described must be of concern. Prima face, he seems to be far too involved with matters that should be handled well down the line, mostly by the Services. However, the current departmental organisation seems designed to float everything up the line, which only diffuses accountability, wastes time and resources, and often antagonises the Australian public.
The situation becomes of even greater concern when reading about “The White Paper and the nine companion reviews that will go with that which will look at the whole defence organisation all the way from the management structure to IT”. The Minister added that these reviews will not be made public; that is, they will be based wholly upon departmental input and processes. This will inevitably ensure that the light from any independent, balancing views will be excluded.
The danger in this is that an overloaded minister, who has already taken ownership of the Department’s past flawed Air Combat Capability decisions, will now be called upon to accept ownership of other past, as well as current and future departmental policies, positions, and processes and their inevitable consequences. The Department will thus sail blithely through its past, present, and future mismanagement implications, and can look to ministerial and government protection should it be called to account. The Department needs now only to ensure that the White Paper rationalises those faulty decisions.
Finally, the Minister referred to “Projects of Concern as we call them (examples) it goes on and on, but it is even worse than I expected. The budget was dysfunctional because it had basically failed to properly anticipate future costs, and that’s the most important thing to get right.” The simple fact is that is that DMO is dysfunctional, not the budget. Since about 2000, when the last of the traditional, professional military officers passed through Defence/DMO, either to move ahead as military bureaucrats or have their careers shortened as military professionals, DMO became, and has remained, dysfunctional. Despite protestations of learning and changing, the organisation has not been able to demonstrate even basic project management competency, or get to grips with the technology involved or fundamental risk management and Life Cycle Costing techniques. If the budget is to come under control, DMO must be changed dramatically, and part of that change must be a resurgence of professional military officers, particularly from the operational analysis and technical areas.
Defence attitudes and processes have led to a series of running sores which have been visited time and again by ‘independent’ reviews which have proven to be, in fact, substantially internal reviews, the Department controlling tightly the Terms of Reference, the selection of the ‘experts’ forming the review team, and the form and direction of the recommendations. Few recommendations from any review have been fully or properly implemented, as the very bureaucratic characteristics mentioned in this analysis dictate against this. That is, the Department is either unwilling or unable to rectify its own deficiencies and so must defend the indefensible to protect itself. This, in turn, has placed government and parliament in the position of having to defend the Department’s position, and thus abandon their oversight responsibilities.
The subject of the Diarchy and leadership was visited by the CDF at the time during November of 2004[x]. After touching upon the challenges and complexities of the time, he outlined the division of responsibilities within the Diarchy, summarising the structure as “So if you had a Venn diagram, you would see a large lump in the middle, shared between the Secretary and me, and you would see at the side two particular areas of expertise and responsibility that we deal with separately. It is a leadership collaboration that works very well and is unique in the Australian Public Service”.
It might also be seen as being even more unique when compared with the short and direct link between the Military and the parliamentary oversight process that existed previously. The ‘lump’ may also be seen in management terms as being simply a control mechanism through which the Public Service bureaucracy, not the civil authority, controls the Services. Its appropriateness and usefulness have never been analysed and tested, but the reflexive and unqualified defence of the Diarchy by both the Secretary and the CDF whenever change is proposed gives rise to unease that there is more to the arrangement than appears. The Diarchy can hardly qualify as a leadership collaboration.
More importantly, the CDF saw an important difference between leadership, as seen in the Diarchy’s ‘leadership collaboration’, and managing, as seen in the Services, with the manager not being considered able to ‘cut the mustard’ during times of operational stress. This concept is far from the professional military values that have served the Services well during times far harsher than those faced today. Officers and NCOs who hold command appointments in any of the three Services have to be sound managers. That is, they have to be able to plan, organise, direct, and control their resources, human and otherwise, so as to achieve their objective(s) efficiently, effectively, and at least risk. Their skills base must include, in particular, sound discipline, a solid grasp of the technology operated, strong man management abilities and appropriate leadership ability. Given that a Service’s education, training, and promotion system produces such managers, it is then necessary to provide the opportunity to develop and display their leadership skills. Those who rate highly are advanced, while those with potential need be developed further. Such professional military officers, skilled and practiced in both management and leadership, can be expected to maintain the ethos and ethics of their Service, those characteristics upon which military success will always depend.
Management skills and leadership skills must go hand in hand in any professional military organisation, but the results will be most unlikely to produce senior military officers who meet the bureaucratic requirements spelt out by Mr Smith. Hence, those military professionals who enter the bureaucracy will run inevitably into serious career problems. The motive behind the CDF’s suggested decoupling of management and leadership is both militarily and managerially confusing.
After some 13 years since Mr Smith described the benefits of the Diarchy, which is embodied within the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Defence, it is opportune to measure its performance, recalling that those within it, including the CDF, “are generally more readily able to tolerate, and even be comfortable with, unclear lines of command, divided authority, and open-ended guidance or ambiguous instructions”. However, such an evaluation is not easy, as the Secretary, and in particular his Deputy Secretaries, are generally unknown, as are their qualifications for their positions. For people who should hold a high degree of public accountability for the problems that have plagued Defence, they remain largely faceless and voiceless. However, two recent activities provide some measure of the performance of the Secretary’s Office and hence the Diarchy:
The Search for Savings. When faced with the need to save some $1 billion per year over the next ten years, the Office of the Secretary had to employ a consultant, referred to as an ‘External Service Provider’, to identify areas of inefficiency and savings. At the top of the Service Provider’s List was ‘Reduce the use of External Service Providers’. The records showed that that in 2006-07, for example, some $34 million was spent on external legal advice, $72.4 million on private consultants, with DMO alone spending $38 million for advertising and market research. It was also noted that the civilian workforce had grown by 20% since 2001. Having sought opportunities for savings, the Secretary received some 450 suggestions.
It is important to note that the Office of the Secretary (and the Diarchy) allowed this situation to develop and continue without intervention, and when required could not identify or quantify any inefficiencies or economies without the assistance of a consultant. Following the search for savings, the Secretary and the CDF, the Diarchy, announced: “Our aim is to instil an enhanced culture of efficiency and economy in Defence. As we become more efficient, there may be a need for less Australian Public Service staff.” Such woolly ‘promises’ have followed every review or inquiry into deficiencies in the management of Defence/DMO, but none has resulted in any noticeable improvements. Without even the most basic of management processes in place, particularly the control (or feedback) loop, Defence will never be able to measure its performance or institute any efficiencies or economies. The Secretary’s current bureaucratic management structure simply ensures that accountability is diffused and so avoided, an observation central to the Defence Management Review conducted by Elizabeth Proust.
The White Paper. A second opportunity to measure the performance of the Office of the Secretary/Diarchy arose when it was tasked with producing a new Defence White Paper. Having been given some eighteen months’ warning of the need, it would be expected that the baseline information would have been assembled and the process of review well primed. However, the Department seems to have been caught flat footed, the only baselines being deep tensions between the Government and the Department, and a lack of confidence in Defence’s (especially DMO’s) budget forecasts within Finance and Treasury. It should be recalled here that DMO comes under the Secretary, but the Secretary has never been called to account for any of the many failures that have occurred within the DMO organisation.
The Secretary’s first impulse seems to have been to put the review out to a consultant, but has been persuaded to conduct it himself. However, as with Defence internal reviews, those selected for the task largely lack the depth and breadth of independent experience needed. In particular, the choice of Deputy Secretary Pezzulo to lead the team will ensure that the Paper will be ‘politically’ driven, as he will have to make the White Paper support the string of faulty New Air Combat Capability decisions taken during the Howard years, and now endorsed by the new minister. A similar situation will exist with regard to other projects, such as the AWD and LSD decisions, which are not based upon sound operational or technical analysis. As with previous White Papers, the focus will again be upon avoiding scrutiny.
Summary. From the above, we seem to have an Office of the Secretary/Diarchy which:
Such performance does not engender confidence within the military or the public, those working within the Department, or those having dealings with it. It merely erodes the confidence of Australia’s military forces and continues their professional de-skilling from the very top of the Defence organisation downwards.
One of the most obvious differences between the professional military officer and the bureaucrat is the manner in which mistakes are managed:
The Military. Within the Military, mistakes must be detected, analysed, and corrected openly and promptly. To do otherwise will leave the organisation vulnerable to risks that may vary from military inefficiencies or ineffectiveness at best, to the loss of men and equipment or a battle at worst. Mistakes form an important element of the military’s learning and improvement feedback management loop. The military thus has no option but to act promptly and decisively as a matter of physical survival.
The Bureaucracy. Within a bureaucracy, mistakes must be handled carefully so as to ensure that no criticism can be levelled at the Secretary, the bureaucracy, the Minister, or government. Within the current Defence organisation the odium associated with a mistake, real or imagined, travels quickly up the chain to land in the Minister’s or the government’s in-tray. Control is made more difficult due to the glare of an often ill-informed and hasty media. Mistakes are therefore considered to carry too much of a bureaucratic/political risk to be even made public. So, to protect the bureaucracy, the Minister and the government, mistakes must be controlled closely, using when necessary an arsenal of denial, spin, obfuscation, delay, or being buried in the legal graveyard. This defensiveness could be overcome if the unnecessary overlap between the Military and the bureaucracy did not exist.
Recruitment and retention are both related closely to the level of a Service’s ethos and morale. Pre-reform, the Services had to navigate the many economic and resource constraint cycles that required them to compete at times with industry for scarce financial resources, manpower and skills. The Services also had to face the fact that some of their trade skills attracted pay scales below the government’s poverty line, but all requests for improvements in pay and conditions of service to correct this were rejected by both Defence and Treasury. Nevertheless, the Services were able to attract and hold members by virtue of their role and ethos. Such is the power of good morale.
It is also important to note the direct interface that existed at that time between the Services and the Australian public. Recruiting was thus an activity undertaken at the grass roots level, face to face. Post-reform, recruitment is conducted by ‘experts’ in recruiting who approach their task along ‘business’ lines which requires the creation of an ‘ADF brand’ which is then ‘sold’ to an identified ‘target audience’. In effect a ‘middle man’ has been introduced between the Services and the Australian people, a commercial organisation that has no real knowledge of the unique complexities of Service life, or any feel for the important differences in ethos, morale and tasks that exist between the three Services. Coupled with a Department that sees the ‘business’ solution to skills shortages as being higher pay for those in posts where skills are in short supply, without regard for the distorting effect on Service manpower management, military morale, ethos and ethics again come under strain.
In accordance with Defence’s business approach to recruiting, the Department is now re-tendering the contract for Defence Force recruiting, so a new ‘supplier’ will have to go through the whole branding, target audience, and marketing process once again. The Department has also developed a new retention and recruitment strategy (to cost $3.1 billion), and:
“is working hard to bed down this new model, particularly the client relationship management centre, which coordinates and handles all of the applicants’ information material and requirements so that they can proceed in the process. Another part of the recruitment framework was an enhanced marketing and service branding package. It had a focus on understanding the perception in the larger labour market around the then current brands of the three services and shifting people to a new brand view of the three services”[xi].
The question that should be asked of Defence is: “What has this ‘business’ approach to recruiting provided in improved quality, numbers, time and cost?” The impacts of this recruiting process on Service efficiency, effectiveness, ethos and morale, as well as on the taxpayer in dollar terms, demands that government call a halt and return recruiting to the Services where prime accountability for the results must always rest.
Government must also realise that most of the problems now being encountered with recruitment and retention stem directly from the downsizing and de-skilling of the Services. Traditionally, the greater depth of maintenance conducted and the skills and manpower base that this developed, especially in Navy and the RAAF, provided posts through which manpower engaged in operational areas could be rotated. This was one of the fundamental organisational principles behind the pre-reform Service organisations. This approach also enabled operational experience to be fed back into the training and support organisations as an on-going process.
Since the defence reorganisation, Australia has witnessed an increasing stream of criticism from the media and the dwindling number of those who have a professional grasp of the Services and their needs, but all to no avail. Press coverage over the past few weeks alone have dwelt upon a long-standing ‘Voyager disaster’ claim and four service suicides. Defence has been criticised roundly for its handling of each case, particularly in its legal intransigence.
The Military Justice System, which was not, pre-reform, a significant problem area, has been reviewed several times, but without improvement. Despite statements that all is well, there still remain a number of quite justifiable complaints that have been locked up in the Defence/DMO Legal Offices for up to a decade or more.
As with other reviews, the results have been either nil, or an increase in the bureaucracy and its functions. Finally, there have been continued reports of DMO’s endless failures in its management of system procurement and support requirements and their associated contracting practices, which have cost the tax payer some billions of dollars and left the military without needed capabilities. Accountability has not been sheeted home to those responsible for expensive mistakes, both militarily and financially, leading to the perception that the parliamentary oversight process may also be broken.
The result of all this has been to drive a wedge between the people of Australia and their leaders. Where harmony should exist, there is now a feeling of distrust and of being let down. This has inevitably spilt over to weaken the feeling of trust and confidence that the Australian people had traditionally in the leadership of their military forces. Australia’s military, once clearly apolitical, is now effectively under the command and leadership of a Diarchy, which is simply the front office of an instrument of centralised Public Service power over the Military. In short, the moral influence seen by Sun Tzu as being the most important warfare factor, and critical to military success, has been weakened and this process will continue so long as the current higher Defence organisation exists.
The military virtue of Australia’s military forces has also been compromised by bureaucratic interference and parliamentary failure to exercise proper governance. As Sun Tzu pointed out: “By attempting to govern his army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes restlessness in the soldier’s minds”.
The path ahead for Australia has already been trodden by other Western nations, with results that should not be ignored, as it is wise to use the experience of others rather than tread the path of failure oneself.
The organisational imperatives seen by Sun Tzu are also clearly in total disarray. Strict functions for all and channels of direction do not function so that all parts act as a whole. We have now a dysfunctional maze of interfacing and overlapping organisational, functional, administrative, and financial fiefdoms that will most surely fail under pressure.
Our armament is neither appropriate nor superior. Our knowledge of ourselves and others is poor and our intelligence equally poor. Our procurement and support systems are as dysfunctional as our Defence organisation.
Without considerable reform, and the abandonment of the ‘Tange solution’, Australia can look forward only to more of what has developed over the past 34 years or so – essentially a burgeoning and incompetent bureaucracy, a hollow military deficient in professional mastery of core skills and lacking in robust morale, ethos and ethics, and governments unwilling or unable to reassert good governance.
The RAAF of today is not the organisation that served Australia so well over its long history. Up until the mid-1980s, when continual reviews and the inability or unwillingness of Defence to obtain the funds needed to maintain even basic force capabilities began to take major effect, the RAAF was characterised as an organisation which:
· Maintained Australia’s air power at a high state of capability and readiness.
· Ensured that the force could be launched quickly in response to a wide range of tasks.
· Enabled the force, once launched, to be sustained, both home and abroad, from RAAF and Australian Defence Industry facilities.
· Provided a high degree of flexibility in the application of air power in time, space, and role.
While these capabilities were achieved through the RAAF’s highly-focussed organisation, they stemmed, fundamentally, from one main factor:
The Chief of Air Force had, under his command and control, the resources needed to achieve the required results, principally manpower and skills, money, equipment, and facilities. That is, there was a clear unity of effort and direction throughout the Force.
Each of these resources, including money, was managed in terms of the required force readiness, responsiveness, sustainability, and flexibility, which is precisely the proper management relationship between function and resources. The horse and cart were in their correct relationship.
Within this organisation, the RAAF was able, in a controlled and measured way, following well-established policies, systems and procedures born of hard won experience, to:
· Specify its requirements for aircraft, as well as the whole range of high technology environmental systems and equipment upon which it depended.
· Evaluate contending systems, both operationally and technically, and select that which best met RAAF requirements, a function which required sound Service operational and technical knowledge and experience, not merely ‘box ticking’ or maker’s proposals.
· Negotiate, raise and manage the procurement contracts involved with new system requirements and in-Service support.
· Establish the engineering, maintenance, and supply support capabilities needed for the operation of new systems from the time of their acceptance. This included liaison on the development of local industry support.
The RAAF thus had the skills that enabled it to introduce weapon and support systems into service to specification, on time, within budget, and fully supported.
An honest evaluation of what the RAAF was achieving at that time would find that Australia was getting excellent value for money. Problems were certainly encountered, but they were capable of being resolved promptly and without undue stress. DSTO in particular played a critical supporting role in specialist areas, such as fatigue monitoring, through its close and continuing working relationship with the RAAF on operational and technical matters.
The current Defence/DMO organisation has demonstrated consistently that it is incapable of approaching the efficiencies, effectiveness, or economy of the organisation that characterised the RAAF before the ‘reform’ process.
The ability of the RAAF to handle these tasks successfully and without undue fuss was due in no small part to the existence within its organisation of an Engineer Branch, supported by a Supply Branch. The RAAF recognised that it was the most highly technological enterprise in Australia and had gathered its technical support elements into an Engineer Branch in 1948. The head of the Branch was a member of the Air Board (later an Assistant Chief of Air Force) who managed two specialist directorates at Air Force Office level, Engineering and Maintenance. Within the Maintenance Division, the Director General Technical Plans (DGTP), was the focal point for translating all Air Staff plans, programmes, and priorities into interlocking and fully integrated technical policies, plans, programmes, and priorities, for technical manpower and skills, facilities, maintenance policies, documentation, and spares; indeed all technical support requirements. This proved to be a highly responsive, efficient, effective, and economic solution to a very complex and critical interface with operational requirements and capability plans.
The Supply Branch, in turn, developed supply plans and programmes to procure and position, in time and space, the range and quantity of equipment, both technical and non-technical, needed to support Air Staff plans and Maintenance requirements.
The point to be made here is that the success achieved by the RAAF in both project management and in-service support was due to:
· A proper delegation of responsibilities and resources, and
· A sound and tightly knit professional organisation, manned by people who were experienced and who followed a clear unity of direction which ensured success. Service ethos was high, as was the professional competence and ethics that sat at the core of the specialist, professional groups.
Traditionally, the RAAF’s engineering and maintenance workforce was managed as a central resource, able to be moved into new projects, to operational bases, both at home and overseas, or into support areas in response to Air Staff plans, programmes, and priorities. New projects came and went; Project Offices were formed as required and then disbanded as the project was handed over to the normal support system. Air Force Office and Support Command provided technical and supply support policy and guidance, drawing resources and experience from across the Service, from local industry, and at times from overseas services and industry. The general thrust was to ensure that unit maintenance was focussed wholly upon supporting operations, and not subject to distractions. This was a highly robust, responsive and flexible operational support organisation.
The result was a force in which all operational and technical work was under sound professional control, ensuring satisfying, rewarding, and productive, if at times frustrating, work. The ‘complexities’ and utter waste of resources that have bedevilled the DAO/DMO organisation from its inception would simply not have arisen under the RAAF’s traditional organisation and management procedures.
In measuring the competence of the current Defence/DMO organisations to provide new capability and in-Service support, the most appropriate baseline against which performance should be measured should be what the RAAF was able to achieve with limited resources before the Government’s structural changes were imposed.
For some 70 years, the RAAF, supported by its Technical Services Branch:
- Operated and manned three major Aircraft Depots which overhauled several aircraft types, the TF30 engine for the F-111, a wide range of aircraft sub-systems and equipment, and ground telecommunications systems.
- Operated and manned four major Maintenance Squadrons that provided direct support for the major operating elements – Bomber, Strike/Fighter, Transport, and Maritime.
- Operated and manned No 1 Central Ammunition Depot which managed all explosives ordnance.
- Carried out a comprehensive Engineering and Maintenance regulatory function, principally airworthiness management and maintenance efficiency.
- Planned and managed all major repair and overhaul arisings for aircraft, engines, repairable items and other technical equipment at RAAF facilities and Contractor facilities in Australia and overseas.
- Assessed and (with the Supply Branch) procured and distributed the technical spares and other equipment needed to support all RAAF operational and maintenance programmes, controlling a technical inventory of some 643,880 lines, while meeting engineering, maintenance, and supply inventory management requirements.
- Planned and managed the progressive capability enhancement and life extension programmes for all weapon and other systems in service.
- Planned and managed the replacement of extant capabilities, including the technical evaluation and source selection of new capabilities, ensuring the procurement, introduction and establishment of all levels of support for new capabilities by the time that they were introduced into service.
- Monitored the performance of all technical support facilities, taking timely corrective management action when needed.
- Provided technical support for selected Army and Navy aircraft.
The Aircraft Depots and Maintenance Squadrons safeguarded the RAAF’s independence of operation, and developed the deeper level expertise needed for the planning and introduction of new capabilities, while providing a reserve of resources able to support emergencies and protracted operational deployments. In addition, the technical spares held at the RAAF’s maintenance facilities and in the stores depots and pipelines ensured that the RAAF could operate at high operational tempo for some valuable time before shortages might arise.
The whole focus of the RAAF was centred upon:
Maintenance of these four objectives represents the benchmark against which all Defence/DMO decisions and activities should be planned and measured.
Impacts of Resource Constraints
The short and direct lines of command and control enabled the RAAF to absorb the inevitable ebbs and flows in Government policy and funding with a controlled, minimum impact upon core operational capabilities and the support infrastructure. Support plans could also be varied to respond appropriately and promptly to meet changing Air Staff Plans and Programmes, while protecting the Defence Industry Base upon which the RAAF depended and which Government required to be in place to sustain Australia’s self-reliance. Under the current Defence/DMO organisation, the impacts of resource restraints can only be guessed. The trail is too convoluted and crosses too many functional boundaries for any impacts to be forecast and managed properly and timely.
No interminable reviews were necessary before the reform process. Those undertaken were mostly in response to the evolutionary demands of experience. Nor were there endless Parliamentary Inquiries and Reviews into any deficiencies in RAAF management and performance.
Unfortunately, with the other two Service arms, the RAAF was downsized and de-skilled to the extent that it can no longer guarantee the air power and the force sustainment expected by and relied upon traditionally by the Australian people.
The ‘new age’ excuse of increased complexity in the management of current day systems does not pass the common sense test or stand up to either expert scrutiny or past experience. Such ‘complexities’ were managed as a matter of course by the RAAF before the imposition of the DER/DRP/CSP changes. The management fiascos faced by Defence/DMO in regard to the Super Sea Sprite Project, the Sea King tragedy, the Blackhawk 221 incident, and the glacial pace of the ill-considered F/A-18 HUG Program with its many shortfalls, cost overruns, and incorrect capability decisions, together with the brick wall against which current New Air Combat Capability Project planning must crash inevitably, all attest to fundamental deficiencies in Defence/DMO competencies.
One of the main complexities within Defence/DMO relates to the strange matrix management organisation adopted which seems to be aimed primarily at diffusing accountability, in total contradiction to the objectives of traditional and effective management principles.
Since the imposition of the DER/DRP/CSP structural changes, there have been continuing problems in every major area of Defence/DMO management, ranging through recruitment, retention, morale, military justice, world and regional threat assessment, force structure planning, project management, capability requirement definition, comparative analysis, and source selection, as well as In - Service support. Coupled with this, there has been a continued de – skilling and withering of both Service and Defence Industry capabilities. Repeated Parliamentary and internal inquiries and reviews have been largely ineffectual, leaving little, if any, evidence of their passing. In effect, Australia’s traditional parliamentary oversight processes do not work when dealing with Defence/DMO.
DMO, in particular, has cost the taxpayer billions of dollars, and left the Services imbalanced and without needed capabilities, in what Prime Minister Rudd described as “A massive, rolling policy failure”. Regrettably, the Prime Minister has not corrected this failure, and his Minister has largely accepted ownership of it. These failures include (examples only):
It should be noted here that the reasons behind these expensive errors have been hidden rather than identified and corrected, and those responsible for the errors have not been called to account. The various Ministers, Defence Secretaries and CDFs, and Deputy-Secretaries involved, as well as the CEO DMO and his staff, have all been allowed to avoid accountability.
An even greater problem has been that, despite reviews aimed ostensibly at improving Defence/DMO performance, nothing of substance has resulted. Failures continue to occur for the same reasons as in the past:
Defence/DMO should, by now, have realised that the user Service must have the span and depth of operational and technological expertise and experience needed for them to:
None of these functions can be outsourced, as no external agency can comprehend fully the Services’ needs, and nor can any other organisation be held accountable for any deficiencies. This has been evidenced repeatedly in the failure of practically every major DAO/DMO project. In regard to airpower capability requirements, the Chief of Air Force alone carries responsibility to “Deliver Air Force capability for the defence of Australia and its interests”. (CAF Charter). At present, he can not be held accountable for this responsibility as he does not have the organisation, skills base or delegations for those resources or the processes involved in the development and maintenance of airpower capabilities.
For this to be achieved, the division of responsibility between Defence/DMO and the Services will need fundamental review against the baseline requirements discussed above. Not to do so will result in an even more dysfunctional Defence organisation and inadequate military capabilities. To do so, will require intestinal fortitude and determination on the part of government/parliament oversight processes, as large bureaucracies are not brought to heel without a very bitter fight.
The Impacts of Stage 1 Decisions
“Labor will ensure that there is no air combat capability gap.”
“Labor will maintain a strong and efficient ADF that has the equipment, people, and skills it needs.”
“The delays, cost blowouts and failure to deliver we’ve experienced in Defence procurement in recent years cannot be allowed to continue.”
(Also described as “A massive, rolling policy failure”)
(From ‘New Leadership – Labor’s Paper on Defence, 2007)
After a year in government, nothing of substance has changed, except that the Prime Minister and his Minister for Defence now support those heavily-criticised Howard government decisions taken over past years. In regard to Australia’s New Air Combat capability, this was confirmed by Mr Orme’s Stage 1 Report.
Given that the decisions in regard to Stage 1 of the review of Australia’s New Air Combat Capability conducted by Mr Neil Orme were based upon the same poor air power planning base that preceded the review, the long-term threats to Australia’s defence capabilities remain the same. Some of these, taken from the report, are covered briefly as follows:
“There has been a lack of sound, long-term air combat capability planning decisions by the former Government over the course of the last decade”. The nature and consequences of this deficiency have not been identified or faced, so will remain in full, but now under the ownership of the Rudd Labor Government.
“The retirement of the F-111 was made in haste, but is now irreversible on the grounds of cost and a lack of crews and skills”. With this decision, Australia will lose its only, long range (and irreplaceable) strike / deterrent capability – a capability that has been demonstrated time and again during overseas operational exercises, gaining the aircraft an enviable reputation for its reliability and excellence in its role. The Review was provided with very detailed and verifiable evidence with which to test all of the bases behind the previous government’s decisions, but this input was clearly not considered, simply derided. There is no hard evidence to support any of the reasons given for this decision. In particular, the position put by the Chief Defence Scientist (CDS), to which the Minister seems particularly sensitive, is in direct contradiction with the supportability and fatigue life analyses that have been conducted over time. Unless the basis for the CDS’s advice is subjected to independent verification and validation it must be rated as opinion only, creating fear where none need exist.
“The Super Hornet is an excellent aircraft capable of meeting any known threat in the region”. The justification for this decision also failed to convince. The Review was again provided with analyses and facts with which to test both the previous government’s perceptions and the Maker’s claims, but to no avail. The Review seems as wedded to the Maker’s power point presentations as has been the case since the previous Minister made his snap decision. This is no substitute for adopting a due process approach to test the validity of both the decision and the claims made for the aircraft. This decision, when taken with that regarding the F-111, simply entrenches Australia as a ‘bit player’ in joint operations, and then only so long as we can convince someone else to provide the secure air space under which our sea, land, and air forces can operate safely.
The Super Hornet may well be quite satisfactory for the purposes for which it was designed and developed – a carrier-based interdiction aircraft with design – limited, air-to-air constraints. It possesses a fine radar, if inherently restricted in growth capability by its small antenna array, and Boeing has incorporated some effective radar reduction features, if limited to specific and narrow aspects, as well as other improvements. However, it is hoped that our experts have analysed the aircraft’s RCS polar diagrams to ensure that the advantages espoused by the Maker are validated. Notwithstanding any ‘classified presentation’, to claim that the aircraft is stealthy and capable of ensuring Australia’s air superiority now and into the future is wishful thinking. The low–risk tactics needed to destroy the aircraft, in both Beyond and Within Visual Range, have already been developed.
The Minister’s warming to suggestions that the F/A-18G Electronic Warfare (EW) version of the aircraft would be attractive to Australia, if followed up, will only entrench further the problems associated with the Part 1 findings. It should be remembered that retention and evolution of the F-111 would have given Australia, at low risk and cost, a first rate EW capability, one far superior to the F/A-18G.
In the end, the question that must remain is who will take accountability for the shortcomings inherent in the F-111, Super Hornet and JSF decisions when the timely warnings given have come to pass, and the deficiencies inherent in their capabilities are revealed in regional exercises, or even combat?
[i] ‘The Art of War – War and Military Thought’, Martin Creveld, also ‘The Art of War’, Sun Tzu.
[ii] Beyond Goldwater-Nichols, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Phase 1 Report, March 2004, and Phase 2 Report, July 2005.
[iii] Reference: ‘Washington’s War’ by Michael Rose, published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson.
[iv] The comments that follow are cited from Norman Dixon’s highly respected study ‘On the Psychology of Military Incompetence’ as reported by John Thompson, President of the Mackenzie Institute of Canada, in his articles ‘Sheep in Sheep’s Clothing’, Nuremburg and Bin Laden’, and ‘Micro Managing the Military’, which may be found at www.mackenzieinstitute.com.
[v] The situation in both Canada and the UK is also covered in more detail in ‘Is this the Future for Australia’s Military Capabilities?’ APA Analysis 2008-1.
[vi] Refer ‘The Never Ending Story of Airworthiness Versus Murphy’s Law’, APA Analysis 2007-04.
[vii] See ‘Navy Contribution to Australia’s Maritime Operations’ - The Navy Seapower Centre.
[viii] US DoD Memorandum for U.S. JOINT FORCES COMMAND – Assessment of Effects Based Operations, 14th August 2008.
[ix] Reference: ‘Defence – One Organisation’ – Address to Senior Officer Study Period, Williamtown – 21 March 1995, which appeared in Defence Force Journal No 115, Nov/Dec 1995.
[x] Address by General Peter Cosgrove AC, MC titled ‘Leadership in an Interdependent World’, 11th November 2004 which can be found at www.defence.gov.au/cdf/speeches/past/speech20041111.htm.
Air Power Australia Analyses ISSN 1832-2433
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