Minister Smith and Minister Clare,
is often said that “the
biggest lesson from history is that humans rarely, if ever, learn the
lessons from history”,
with the blame for this, more often than not, laying squarely at the
feet of an inability to communicate. Good communication, or rather
the lack thereof, is almost certainly contributory if not central to
what is broken and ails the Defence Portfolio, today.
information asymmetries that exist between the various levels of
governance within, over and around Defence Matters don’t help,
either, with proponents of any form of feedback loops (e.g. Red
Teaming/IV&V) as part of the governance structure of Defence
having been ignored and sent to Coventry, often with extreme
prejudice, over the past decade or so.
concerns, complaints and consequences of the deskilling in Defence
and its support Industry confirm and validate these observations.
the business world, as elsewhere, communication is a two-way process
of reaching mutual
understanding, in which participants
not only exchange
but also create
these thoughts in mind, the following is our most recent attempt to
communicate with you both.
when you embarked on your crusade to reform the Defence Portfolio,
you called for a “One
This, no doubt, seems to be a laudable aim.
Defence suffers from the institutionalised version of an
organisational disease Professor Irvin Janis described as Groupthink
wherein putting ‘self-before-service’
and blind allegiance to the groupthink, along with the conformity and
compliance these mutually reinforcing attitudes demand, now dominate
the attitudes and resulting behaviours in Defence, and have done so
for over a decade.
the extreme level of risk to such a laudable aim is that you and the
people of Australia will continue to get more of the same of this
past decade or so; but only more myopic and moribund in its planning,
and dysfunctional in its delivery.
star rank officers in Defence, today, know about Janis’ Groupthink. If
they claim they don’t, then, as junior officers, they weren’t
paying attention during their taxpayer funded basic staff course
hard won through many, many hours of pro bono effort on the part of
those who have, the reasons why the handful or so of defence
officials you interact with regularly have not communicated this
situation to you in the objective, professional way they should may
now be easily explained.
attitudes and the resulting behaviours are, as those of their
predecessors were, the result of the same groupthink driven culture
that has been dominant in the organisation since what is now known as
the Purge-in-Defence between 1999 to 2002.
the meantime, the need that former serving Australians and, through
them, currently serving warriors as well as members of Industry have
been advising successive Parliaments, Governments, and Defence
Ministers, like yourselves; namely, the need for “One Australia
Defence View”, focused on the
data and the facts
by employing evidence
based critical thinking
to achieve what
for the defence and security of Australia
and its allies,
for the principal purpose of maintaining and sustaining peace
in our region, in fact embodies and aligns with the core tenet of the
a casual read of the wisdom in the words of this document, crafted by
the hand and reflected-experience-forged will of Sir Percy Spender
and his post war generation, shows the maintenance and sustainment of
to be their core aim.
draw your attention to Article II and Article III of the Treaty.
these two articles of the ANZUS Treaty, in the characteristically
Australian ways that mates do, talking robustly and straight with
each other (a.k.a. no beating around the bush) and also being good at
thinking and sharing ideas that are outside the box while having a
healthy irreverent intolerance for “a
total indifference to what is real”
(a.k.a. the B-word), would realise three things that could lead to
the creation of mutually rewarding outcomes, especially security wise
and economically as well as beneficial opportunities for Australia in
the diplomatic and industrial arenas.
as mates, we shouldn’t let our American friends shoot themselves in
the foot, let alone both feet, if we can help it; particularly since
our own feet are in the firing line when it comes to the JSF and the
Super Hornet. We should say things the way they are as the Treaty
shows we have agreed to do.
so should set in train the process for reversing the damage done by
the JSF Program which, inter
is rapidly eroding America’s and our own technological and
strategic edge for maintaining and sustaining air superiority in the
Pacific. Broadening the discussion to include the parlous though
readily fixable state of Australia’s submarine capabilities is
another opportunity worth mentioning.
by honouring it so, we would ensure the ANZUS Treaty could remain a
viable, effective and contributory means for ensuring and assuring
peace in our region rather than it ending up not being worth the
paper it is written on, except as an artefact of history.
adopting an Australian approach to problem solving may result in a
little embarrassment for a few and some gloss off the reputations of
others, on both sides of the Pacific. But what’s more important –
the egos and sensibilities of those who have held some of the highest
positions of trust in our lands, or, the future defence and security
of our sovereign nations for generations to come?
the latter must be the primary imperative in policy and action. Those
who might put fear of personal embarrassment ahead of this imperative
have no place occupying positions of trust in organisations such as
as surely, this has got to be a no-brainer. . . to paraphrase others
challenged by this need!
the Australian approach to solving these problems would also have the
effect of creating antibodies against the disease of
institutionalised groupthink so rampant in Defence; for creating a
better environment with the accountabilities for fixing what is
broken and ails the organisation, today; and, for putting in train
fixes which themselves become self actualising.
simply, eradicating groupthink from an organisation is Management 101
stuff. For obvious reasons, though, the hardest part is in
acknowledging and accepting the organisation is imbued with this
disease. When that is done, the rest is relatively easy, simple,
cheap and quick to do. If not done, as all the case studies in
history show, disasters and tragedies will be the norm.
the sign posts of history are right before us, in the embodiment of
the ANZUS Treaty.
Australians, shouldn’t we be confident and independent enough as
well as prepared to be up to the challenge of honouring this
Agreement, just as our predecessors who forged the ANZUS Treaty
intended and were?
On behalf of fellow Australians deeply concerned for
the future of our Nation,
Principal Consultant/Advisor Head of Test and Evaluation Co‐Founder,
Air Power Australia
"Our role is to be so capable and so well prepared that
the other guy
doesn't even think about taking us on."
Australian Defence Force
Leadership prior to 2000