Speech by the Chief of Army Lieutenant General P.F Leahy
(Source: Australian Defence Organisation; issued Feb.10, 2004)
Speech to the Defence Watch Seminar
Canberra, ACT, Feb. 10, 2004


Introduction

It is always a great pleasure to address the Defence Watch Seminar. This is an excellent forum in which to engage key industry and media figures with an interest in defense issues. I welcome your interest and your input.

As Chief of Army I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer some insights as to how Army is responding to the challenging international security environment and how we plan to prepare for the future.

My task is to raise, train and sustain the Army. Inherent in these functions is a constant search for balance between current operations and the capital, human and intellectual investments in our future capability.

There will be two parts of this Army presentation today.

I will speak first and will be followed by Major General Ken Gillespie, who has just been appointed as Land Commander. Many of you will know Ken as Head of Strategic Operations an appointment that he held until last month. Ken will speak to you about Land Command and our current operations.


Operations

I will leave the operational piece to Ken. Let me just record my enormous pride over the performance of all of our soldiers, sailors and airmen on operations. I have been privileged to visit each of our operational deployments over the last few months and have been enormously impressed by their professionalism, commitment, determination and courage.

We should all be very proud of them. They are representing our three services and the Nation enormously well. I know that all Australians wish them well and a safe return home.

While dealing briefly with operations let me just give a few thoughts on our operational prospects for the future. There seems to be some relief in sight. Our draw down in East Timor is advancing in accordance with the Government’s intent. We will have withdrawn our last combat troops from East Timor under the current UN mandate by the middle of this year.

We have already begun reductions in our forces in the Solomon Islands. This is appropriate given the success of these operations.

Of course we still have significant numbers of joint personnel in Iraq. They are operating in a dangerous and demanding environment. Right now I don’t see any significant change in our numbers in Iraq. As you probably know a training team for the Iraqi Navy has recently deployed and we are considering some tasks to train the Iraqi Army.

Overall I see a gradual reduction in our numbers deployed on operations.

These draw downs are welcome as they offer some respite to our people who have been engaged very heavily in sustaining simultaneous operations in numerous theatres.

Of course we must be and are prepared for any emerging contingencies, but I have been saying to Army, “ Get home, get a rest and get back to basics.” Many of our forces have been able to do this and Commander Special Operations Command recently reported that his command is fully rested and reconstituted and ready to go again if needed.

I am immensely proud of the achievements of the ADF over the past few years. Army has been engaged widely in many places conducting a wide spectrum of operational tasks. The superb training of our people has delivered success. They have shown themselves to be compassionate warriors-conducting high-end war fighting and humanitarian tasks with equal skill.

In so doing they have all contributed their own chapters to the grand narrative of the Australian Army. Every Australian soldier is acutely aware of the burden and honor of our history. We are custodians of the ANZAC heritage. Our record speaks for itself. The legacy is in very safe hands.


PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE

My main effort today will be directed at talking to you about how Army is preparing for the future. As you well know the real challenge for a Chief of Service is to balance the competing demands of current operations, or preparedness, with force modernization. There is a dynamic tension here and it is one that occupies much of our time and effort.

I think that our future is very bright. We have great people, we have gained a very significant amount of operational experience over recent years and Government is supporting us with a wide range of new capabilities, which will greatly enhance our war fighting capability.

Capabilities

Many of the projects contained in the White Paper of 2000 and the resultant DCP and now the DCR are on their way and will soon be introduced into service. We are preparing Army to receive these new capabilities and are all excited by their potential to “ harden and network” the Army.

As you know the Defence Capability Review of November 2003 contained some decisions, which will lead to some rebalancing of the Defence Capability Plan.

The fundamentals of the DCP remain the same but we have made some adjustments as a result of changes in the strategic environment such as the war on terror, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and instances of regional deterioration. We have also paid particular attention to recent operational experiences in making our recommendations and decisions.

Naturally you might not be surprised to hear that I think one of the major features of the DCR is the projects to strengthen the effectiveness and sustainability of the Army.

For the Army our ability to conduct close combat in combined arms teams has been enhanced. We will now have the combat weight necessary to be more sustainable and lethal. This is the best way to achieve rapid success while minimizing our own casualties.

Other very important decisions in the DCR are those that seek to acquire combat identification for our land forces, more capable communications and the increased provision of night vision equipment. We are convinced that enhanced communications down to individual level and night fighting equipment are real war winners. We will move as quickly as we can to network the force down to individual soldiers so we can complete the sensor to shooter link. Let me add here, when an Army officer says sensor, he doesn’t mean a plane or a radar, we mean every individual soldier.

I think that one other major feature of the DCR and one that has been missed by most commentators is that the projects bring us much closer to a joint force. We have aspirations of a seamless joint force by 2020 and I believe that the DCR has set us on our way. When I think of a joint force I see a picture of ships and planes working together. It is an amphibious force where the Navy and Air Force move and protect the Army on the way to an operation. Once there we conduct operations and protect their bases while they support us with firepower and other elements of combat power by conducting sea denial and counter air operations. The combinations are endless and will vary by time, place and type of operation but at the heart is how we use the strength of one service to cover the weakness of another. Working in close concert we produce a much stronger joint result.

DCR 2003 has moved us a long way down this joint path. It is enhancing air defense protection to deploying forces, enhancing the lift requirements for deployments and will help us all communicate and share information. One more plug for joint operations. Our experiences in the Gulf recently have emphasized the vital importance of close air support to land force operations. Army and Air Force are working closely together to enhance our ability to provide fighter ground attack support. We are doing well now but I am very keen to further develop our cooperation as we move closer to a replacement fighter.

I know that many of you are interested in how the projects are going. Let me just cover a few very briefly and perhaps during question time I could expand a little bit.

--Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter: Looking good. On track to achieve the planned in-service date of December 2004. Three helicopters are being assembled in Brisbane soon and I expect to see helicopters on an Army tarmac in Army livery later this year.

--Direct Fire Weapon: Javelin. In service now, well before time and used with devastating effect in Iraq. We are very happy with this and there are more to come.

--Bushranger: Under test now in Victoria and in low-rate initial production. I have driven the vehicle and think it is a great capability. There would appear to be serious export potential for this vehicle.

--M113 Upgrade: I like being Chief I get to drive stuff. I have driven this vehicle and it has been widely shown around Army to very positive acclaim. A good story here.

--Tank Replacement: No decision has been made. I expect that the NSC will consider our options early this year. There are good contenders and both budget and timing look achievable.

--Troop Lift Helicopters: We are continuing the selection process and the combination of all helicopter projects under Air 9000 means that we will be positioned well for the future.


Now what about the future?

From my perspective the future is not a single coherent entity. It is more accurate to categories two futures- a near and a distant future.

The global security situation is volatile. Warfare is changing rapidly. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels, or to become complacent about our recent success. As we learnt in East Timor, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands, the Government can require us to deliver Land Forces for deployment at very short notice.

Not only is warfare changing, but the range of tasks that the Army may be required to perform is also expanding rapidly. The coalescence of these two significant trends poses a challenge to the Army and the ADF in general. I welcome the relative diminution in the demands of recurrent operations to permit Army to take stock, to analyze lessons learned and to lay the foundations for our near and distant futures.

The War on Terror has manifested many of the elements that were evident in warfare in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War. In particular warfare has become unpredictable, diffuse, highly lethal and diverse. The convenient labels that we used to classify conflict towards the end of the last century no longer apply.

As the Americans discovered in Somalia and are learning painfully in Iraq today, it is impossible to quarantine war fighting from humanitarian and nation building operations. It is now essential that Land Forces are capable of being tailored for specific missions but are also capable of rapid transition between different missions and modes of conflict often being required to do this in theatre.

Even the USMC concept of the ‘Three Block War’ fails to fully capture the degree of simultaneity and complexity that now characterizes the 21st Century Battle Space.

I referred to changes in warfare and the expansion of Land Force tasks. The most significant change in warfare is in the more diffuse and lethal nature of the threat environment. Putting it bluntly, the nation state has lost its near monopoly on the ability to wage war.

Now a wide range of actors, from criminal gangs, through issue motivated groups, to terrorists with global reach means violence has proliferated, dispersed and become more deadly. While professional mastery of conventional war fighting is the vital component of capability, state on state and force on force battle is likely to recede over the next decade. That is the assessment of the best thinkers on military strategy in the Western World.

We have to think what that means to us as military professionals.

As events in Iraq have demonstrated the Republican Guard were not the major threat. Smaller groups of insurgents equipped with hand held anti-armored and anti-aircraft weapons have been able to inflict serious casualties on sophisticated Coalition Forces. This threat to the Coalition is extant. Crude improvised explosive devices have inflicted serious casualties. And Iraq has been infiltrated by thousands of foreign jihadists whose threshold of defeat is very high.

Unlike conventional military forces, they do not present readily identifiable high value targets. They are insurgents in the classic mould: hard to segregate from the local population and even harder to bring to a battle of decision on our terms. Indeed, they measure their success, in part, by denying us a decision.

Moreover, they attempt to neutralize the massive technological over-match of the US the UK and Australia and our coalition partners by ‘hugging’ population centers and sites of religious and cultural significance. They are hard to locate and to hit with precision munitions. They are masters of information operations directed at our civilian populations. They highlight deficiencies in our targeting to undermine our popular support and legitimacy.

In Iraq they emerged as the most significant threat only after the conventional forces had been subjected to massive kinetic destruction. They fought on after the war was, in theory, ‘Won.’ They and their ilk are the most likely adversary in most credible scenarios the ADF will face in the next decade.

Fortunately, we did not encounter this level of threat in Timor or the Solomon Islands. However, in a world of porous borders, characterized by the proliferation of black market weaponry we must guarantee that our deployed forces are protected adequately to survive in this dangerous new environment. In future it will be prudent to assume that even the most low level adversary will have such weapons. The threat to commercial aviation by individuals with MANPAD anti-aircraft missiles is another dramatic illustration of this phenomenon.


A Hardened and Networked Army

When announcing the Defence Capability Review of 2003 the Minister said that he had accepted recommendations that will contribute to Army becoming more sustainable and lethal in close combat. The overall impact of the changes announced in November last year will be to produce a hardened and better networked Army.

The announcements made in November have resulted in considerable discussion. In some arenas it has resulted in some controversy. Frankly, I have been disappointed by the quality of the debate about the Hardened and Networked Army.

I have two criticisms of the critics. Firstly, they have focused almost exclusively on the issue of the replacement of our current tank capability. Secondly, they have almost completely ignored the ‘Networking’ aspect to our modernization plan. The debate about the tank has been shrill, misinformed and in some cases downright wrong.

Let me make some points about the tank very clear. The Army currently operates a tank. Our extant strategic guidance, as provided in the 2000 White Paper, made it clear, at para. 8.12, that Australia would not embark on “ development of heavy armored forces for high intensity conflict.” I was personally involved in drafting that passage of the White Paper. It represented my best professional judgment at that time. Nothing that has occurred since has changed my view.

I also helped write the very next sentence, which added the vital caveat that the Government of Australia was determined to provide our Land Forces with the appropriate combat weight they needed to accomplish their missions without undue risk. In essence we see the tank primarily as a close support weapon for our combined arms teams, we do not see it engaging in sweeping maneuver across the plains.

What has changed since the White Paper of 2000? Well it is not the strategic guidance, nor Army’s assessment of its role in the Defence of Australia. Rather, it is the threat that our forces may encounter in conducting their missions. The direct consequence of this heightened threat is that the definition of adequate combat weight has changed correspondingly. Our current Leopard tanks are extremely vulnerable on the modern battlefield and their deployment may expose our soldiers to unnecessary risk.

The most efficient and safest way to enhance our combat weight and protect our soldiers is through the replacement of the ageing Leopard Tank by a more robust MBT which will rebalance the combined arms team. This is not a radical step. Indeed, it represents policy continuity.

We have an existing tank capability and we are merely taking timely steps to ensure that we align our combat weight with the extant and reasonably foreseeable threat. As Chief of Army I take my moral responsibility to the young men and women I send into this rapidly evolving threat environment very seriously.

At the time of the release of the 2000 White Paper the current Leopard MBT was considered capable of service beyond 2015. This has proved to be overly optimistic. I reiterate the threat has changed, and changed rapidly. The rapid proliferation of RPG (7, 16, 18, 22) and other anti Armour weapons and equipment has increased the weapon threat in close combat.

It would be irresponsible, to the point of immorality to risk the lives of Australian soldiers by exposing them to this threat, in the complex and ambiguous environment which now prevails on most deployments, without adequate protection.

And note that close combat remains Army’s core business. It is what the Government directs us to provide to ADF Joint Capability. The Army is not running off at a tangent through taking prudent steps to maintain our close combat capability. It is our obligation to the Government of Australia and the nation. In close cooperation with our sister services we deliver the capability to achieve decision on Land.

We deliver this capability through combined arms teams comprising balanced elements of infantry, Armour, artillery, engineers, aviation and signals supported by a range of ground and air-based indirect fires and focused logistic support. One key element of our combined teams, namely the tank, is now vulnerable due to an enhanced threat and there are growing difficulties in maintaining it satisfactorily.

Quite simply, we could not have maintained the current Leopard as a viable capability until 2020. That was my advice to the Government and they weighed the arguments very carefully before deciding that the Army needed to procure a new tank.

Those critics who portray this as a radical departure from extant strategic guidance are simply wrong. Let me deal with a number of canards thrown up in the wake of this decision.

Firstly, this decision is does not undermine the primacy of the Defence of Australia as a force structuring principle. The combined arms team, with a tank at its core, is the best and safest way of delivering Army fighting power. That is the case regardless of season weather or terrain. While current guidance suggests that a direct attack on the Australian mainland is regarded as a remote prospect, the Army would bear the ultimate responsibility for the final defeat of any such incursion.

But as recent events have demonstrated, Australia’s national interests are not defined by its geography. Again, this is not a heresy concocted within the Army. The Prime Minister expressly stated this in a keynote address to the Sydney Institute last year. The most recent Foreign Policy White Paper makes the same point abundantly clear. As a responsible ally and a good world citizen Australia has provided military forces to a range of missions right across the globe.

This is not purely a consequence of the War on Terror. Reflect, if you will, on our missions in Cambodia, Somalia and Rwanda. The mission to Somalia, in particular demonstrated the central importance of combat weight, even to a humanitarian mission. Our forces needed Coalition support to protect them from militia mounted in ‘technicals’. The tragic ‘Black-Hawk Down’ scenario could have been avoided by the more timely intervention of armored vehicles.

A final point on tanks. I would like to thank all those critics who took the time and effort to point out that new tanks might be heavy, difficult to deploy, and use fuel. I hope you won’t find it strange to hear that we had actually thought about that and there is either not a problem or we have remedies or hedging strategies in place.

I will not dwell further on the tank issue, as it distracts attention from the more important issue of ‘Networking’ and ‘Hardening’ the Army. With the equipment enhancements forecast in the DCP and DCR we have the opportunity to transition the Army from a primarily light infantry force to a more highly protected mobile and networked force. We will be substantially improving our capabilities for firepower, protection, communications and mobility. By the end of the decade we will have received almost 900 good quality armored vehicles (M113A3, ASLAV, and Bushmaster).

Just mounting as many soldiers as possible in these vehicles will substantially improve their survivability, firepower, mobility and sustainability. We can also substantially improve our combat power through considering a reorganization of Army so that all our AFV assets are allocated in a more rational way to allow Battle Grouping.

My aim is a more mobile and better-protected force. I do not wish to labor this point. If you accept my analysis of the likely threat environment, then the rationale for this should be self-evident.


Nature of the Future Army

We have an imperative – a changing threat environment; and an opportunity – substantial new equipment, which has brought me to the conclusion that we need to consider the nature of the future Army. This is what we mean by hardening and networking the Army. I don’t know what the final result will be but we have started a high level staff appreciation to consider how and why we might change the Army.

I joined the Army in 1971 and I will leave the Army in July next year. Right now the Army I will be leaving will be substantially the same as the Army I joined except that it will be smaller. I think we at least need to have a look at what we can and need to do to make the Army better and more suited to the changing threat and strategic environment.

We have developed some principles and we are working to them. We want to:

--Wherever possible remove singular capabilities and create an Army of twos (thus better meeting the deployment and rotation requirements of Government),
--Remove hollowness from the force,
--Optimize the force to allow task organized combat teams,
--Enhance firepower, mobility, communications and protection across the whole force,
--Network the force,
--Ensure that we are an integral and invaluable part of the joint ADF team,
--Maximize the capability to be produced through the equipment to be delivered as part of the DCP and the DCR.
--Introduce new roles and tasks for the Army Reserve.

The Army that exists in barracks is not the Army that will deploy on operations. The Hardened Army will be capable of tailoring packages of mission specific combat forces, which are seamlessly linked to our Joint and Coalition partners. The wider distribution of AFVs will give us more options for appropriate battle-grouping of forces for a range of contingencies.

Under the ‘Hardened Army’ model we will be more flexible and versatile. We will be harder to hit (mobility, protection and communications) and when we hit we will be able to hit harder (firepower, mobility and communications). The ‘Hardened Army’ will be able to provide the Government with more land force options across the spectrum of operations.

Too much of the burden of recent deployments has fallen on too small a portion of the Land Force, especially the Special Forces and our deployable combat support and combat service support elements. The ‘Hardened Army’ will be less hollow and all elements of Land Command will be more capable and able to deploy more rapidly.

Our forces will be able to deploy at short notice, with adequate protection to any trouble spot that our Government directs. And we will deploy confident in the knowledge that, in dealing with the threat that I have described, we can achieve our mission with minimal risk to our people. And that is the case whether we are deploying to restore civil governance or to distribute drought relief.

At this point I must add one further point of clarification for those who argue that this is evidence of an Expeditionary fantasy concocted by Army. The extant guidance contained in the 2000 White Paper directed that Army develop the capability to simultaneously deploy a brigade and a battalion group within the immediate regional littoral. We are implementing that guidance to the letter.

Fortunately, my prescient predecessors, Frank Hickling and Peter Cosgrove developed MOLE (Maneuver Operations in the Littoral Environment) as the Army capstone doctrine to conform to this guidance. In the absence of a likely threat to the Australian Continent the ADF prefers to defeat threats in the air-sea and land approaches to the mainland.

This is an inherently Joint task.

Army cannot operate without the Navy and the Air Force. We need them to deploy us, to support us, to sustain us and to redeploy us. Go back to my earlier picture of an amphibious force. I can’t imagine a circumstance where we would work without the Navy and Air Force as our indispensable partners. Just think of Timor, where we were deployed by HMAS Tobruk and the C130s, supported for firepower, communications, intelligence and medical support by HMAS Adelaide in the harbor, sustained by C130s and HMAS Jervis Bay and redeployed by all elements of the Navy and Air Force. This is a true joint team.

I am particularly impressed by the joint elements of the Defence Capability Review of November 2003. It will substantially enhance our potential as a joint force. We will have an appropriately sized amphibious capability that can be protected by air and sea elements as it moves. Those air and sea elements can then support and sustain the deployed land force.

And now to a few words on networking.

As I mentioned earlier some critics have regarded ‘Hardening the Army’ as only dealing with the tank. They have neglected my emphasis on’ Networking.’ Army is very reliant on the RAN and RAAF to arrive at and survive in the Area of Operations. We must be ‘networked’ with them to enhance our Joint effects. That is why the ADF is moving to the ‘Seamless Force 2020. It is an ambitious project.

You will have seen glimpses of the mode of warfare to which we aspire in Afghanistan and Iraq, where effects on Land are achieved through the seamless orchestration of fires from the sea and air, often through the utilization of space based assets.

Our Special Forces have already mastered these skills.

Ultimately, the entire ADF will be networked throughout the Battle Space. Sensor- Shooter links will be achieved in real time. The most appropriate fires will be brought to bear on targets, without regard for the service designation of the provider. This has already been occurring. However, we are entering the era when a Private may identify a target for a cruise missile.

Obviously this will place extraordinary demands on our men and women. You have undoubtedly heard the term ‘Strategic Corporal.’ We are on the cusp of an era when every soldier will be an individual node in the networked battle group: a ‘Strategic Private’, if you will. This is another compelling argument for the tank with its array of sensors, radios and information systems. Over time, many of the tasks commonly considered as being exclusively within the province of our Special Forces, will be performed by our conventional forces.

This will impose a huge burden on Army in the attraction, training and retention of the right people. The complex, lethal and diverse Battle Space that I have described will place great demands on the average soldier. Our units will need to rapidly transition between civic aid and humanitarian tasks and war fighting without supplementation.

This is going to require cultural change of an unprecedented order. The sorts of liabilities that spring to mind are more diverse language and cultural skills, detailed knowledge of the Laws of Armed Conflict, and discretion in the use of force. Our soldiers are already regarded highly for these qualities, but we are going to have to improve on our acknowledged strengths. The soldier who will fight in the Seamless Force will be a warrior first and foremost, but an aid worker, diplomat and media relations expert as well!

I do not wish to derogate our sister services. I would hope from my frank acknowledgement of Army’s dependency on them that I have made it clear that I am committed to Joint cooperation in every sense. However, Land Forces rely more heavily on the qualities of the individual soldier. Our people are our greatest asset. Because we say it so often it sounds like a cliché. But there is no greater symbol of national resolve than a young man or woman on the ground, in harm’s way, in their country’s name.

In the future they will be operating in a very ambiguous and dangerous environment. We owe it to them to ensure that they have the physical and mental resources to survive and succeed in that environment. The Hardened/Networked Army is the best available means of ensuring that this occurs.

Just as “ Hardening the Army” is not just about a tank it is not just about new equipment or changes in technology. If we are really serious about hardening the Army we must also seriously consider two other elements of an Army. First, how we are structured and second, our doctrine and training or how we think about how we are going to fight.

It is only through balanced and carefully considered changes to these three elements of an Army, equipment, structure and doctrine that we will really make a difference. Right now we are changing our equipment. My question is do we have the right structure and doctrine to make the best use of this equipment. This is the task Army has before it. I am confident that we are on the right path and that a real opportunity lies ahead. I will be happy to keep you informed of our progress as we move ahead.

The Army Reserve

As we are moving ahead towards a hardened and networked Army we have been paying particular attention to our Reserve force.

Throughout most of the 20th Century the primary role of the Army Reserve was to provide a mobilization base in the time of major conflict. Contemporary military conflict and the emerging security environment have shown that full-scale mobilization for the defense of the nation is unlikely to be the norm. We are currently undergoing a study as to how the Army Reserve can become more ready and relevant for the challenges we now face as a nation.

Amendments to the Defence Act during 2001 have fundamentally changed the nature of Reserve service. Reserves can now be called out either in part or in whole for a wide range of operations. These options and responsibilities for wider service have been matched by support measures to protect the jobs of Reservists and support their families and employers.

Army has already begun work to enhance the readiness of Reservists and the new High Readiness Reserve category is allowing many individual Reservists to volunteer for increased opportunities to serve the nation. We are now close to developing a new series of roles and tasks that complement the HRR category. We have already seen the development of the Ready Response Force for domestic security in the war on terror. We are also developing Force Protection Companies to assist on formation level deployments and in the near future I hope to introduce proposals for Civil Military Cooperation units and other units to assist in the round out, reinforcement and rotation of Regular units.

There is an enormous amount of enthusiasm and potential in the Reserve. This has been proven by the deployment of very large numbers of Reservists on our recent deployments. We are very close to offering the Reserves enhanced opportunities to provide ready and relevant forces to serve the nation.

Thank you for the opportunity of talking to you.

-ends-




prev next

Official reports See all