Speech to United Service Institute

22 July 2021


It’s good to be with you, members and guests of United Services Institute of the ACT. Thank you for your interest in strategic matters. These are interesting times that’s for sure.


I begin by acknowledging the recent announcement of our formal withdrawal and conclusion of our mission in Afghanistan after 20 years. It’s been a very long commitment, indeed our longest war. It commenced around six weeks after 9/11 and has been a big mission for us.

As always, we worked with others across the ADF, across government and non-government organisations. We worked in partnership with the international community, NATO led of course, with the US. We developed and strengthened partnerships in the world in a way that we hadn’t done probably for a long time. That’s important because as we face this current challenge this new period, thinking joint, thinking globally and working with our partners will be increasingly important. Although the nature of the problem in Afghanistan was a counter insurgency, we still had to think about national power as a whole; how we project and sustain the force; how we maintain public support.

I acknowledge, of course, the Afghanistan Inquiry. While the investigative process is ongoing, it can’t diminish the whole and the totality of our commitment over those 20 years. It’s important that we acknowledge that. As an Army we are learning a lot from this whole process. We are committed to understanding and learning, to become a better Army.

We acknowledge the sacrifice of the 41 Australian soldiers who gave their lives in Afghanistan and we acknowledge the suffering that continues for many, many, others and their families, as well as that of our allies and partners.

We have learnt a lot. We are channelling those lessons, what we have learnt from that chapter of Army’s story, into our doctrine and organisational approach.

Strategic guidance

We have been refocussed back in the region of course for a while now. The guidance from Defence Strategic Update, manifesting in the Force Structure Plan and then the Defence Transformation Strategy released at the end of last year, these three documents give us the central idea of how we need to respond to the changing strategic environment.

Land power has a role in all three tenets of that strategy: shape, deter, and respond. When you think about the Indo-Pacific, it’s easy to be fascinated by the sea and the air, but there is a lot of land. If you think about the entirety of the region, you will recognise that the land is also densely populated.

How we work in all of those domains to bring together all elements of national power as well as military power, to bear to shape, deter and respond is the responsibility of all us, but the ADF in particular. This is reflected in the new missions that each of the services have adopted.

As the Chief of Army, my responsibility is to prepare land power to enable the joint force in peace and war. Our mission is clearly focussed on the joint force and across the continuum of peace and war.

In an environment where Cooperation, Competition and Conflict are a bit of a moving feast across those domains, we need a logic of how we continuously contribute land power across those domains that helps us to think in a more engaging way about the problem.

Army in Motion

For Army, we have been tackling this conceptual problem over the last three years. It is reflected in Army Contribution to Defence Strategy (edition 2). We recognise that we need to think differently about the environment. Changes across all domains, all elements of power, geopolitics, technology, populations are accelerating and converging. That presents the new environment that we are in. We call this environment accelerated warfare.

We recognised that to respond to this environment we needed to be an Army in Motion. That is a buzz word, but it is also a lived thing. It is about continuous change. For all of us who know how hard change is, we need to transform our thinking on the importance of change and reframe it as a positive and necessary thing.

Which is the idea of an Army in Motion. Continuous change, continuous adaption to our strategic circumstances. The way we describe it is that we need to be ready now and future ready. From my experience, some viewed modernisation was just something that happened and you magically just arrived in the future. That’s not the case. Modernisation is something that happens today. You need to pull future towards you, so you can make the necessary trade-offs today, to be ready for the future. The ready now and future ready mindset is very much a part of who we are and how we conduct our business, with people at the centre of everything we do.

Because it’s not about the equipment, it’s about the people, and it always has been. People enable the equipment, allow us to embrace technology. They harbor the innovation that we need to prosper and to reap the benefits of modernisation. People are at the centre of all we do. That simple model is what enables the Army in Motion.

It recognises that we are increasingly asked to do more things in more places, in more ways. This is a narrative we have lived for last 18 months.

The sustained commitment of Army in support of the Australian community is not going away anytime soon. We are truly an Army in the community. About 1000 Army troops are currently supporting COVID-19 response. It reached 2500 last year. At the peak of Bushfires it was about 5500. This highlights new reality of capacity, scale, sustained commitment and non-discretionary tasking. That is the big difference, before we even start thinking about our offshore environment and managing that, let alone modernising. The idea of an Army in Motion that can naturally adjust and absorb this massive change, is being reinforced by the environment.

The Army Operating System

In 2017, we recognised that to achieve our mission, to be more aggregated, we needed to be able to see ourselves, to manage the entire system. So we created the Army Operating System (AOS). There are three key parts to the AOS: Land capability (platforms, capabilities we are acquiring under FSP), people capability (not personnel, not workforce – people as capability, managed as a system) and the Preparedness system. The Preparedness system helps us to manage the tension between ready now and future ready and the changing strategic environment. It allows us to have a more strategic approach to managing Preparedness inside our own service as part of the joint force.

Those three key elements of the AOS are allowing us to see ourselves and align priorities, resources and risks. The AOS allows us to be more effective and efficient and will help us bring in the Army Objective Force (AOF).

Army Objective Force

There are lots of exciting things happening in Army.

For me, as Chief of Army, the real game changer is the introduction of Long Range Fires. The ability to affect the operational environment well beyond range of howitzer, at 30 km is new territory for us and offers a much more asymmetric capability contribution to the Joint force. Combined with guided munitions, it gives us more range, precision and weapons effects with whatever we end up buying. It is not just the launcher, but also the targeting system and all the things that go with that. It is very much a joint capability. It gives more capability to our ADF, more options. It is a force multiplier as it contributes to shape, deter, and respond. This will be complemented by SP Howitzers (PMF), and improved Air Defence. These capabilities are an important part of how we think about the Army – we fire and manoeuvre. These two sets of capabilities make us a much more lethal army.

The other thing that really helps us in the joint space is watercraft. The replacement of the LCM8 with a watercraft that, allows us to operate independently in the region, in close, with our platforms on-board, is going to be a real game changer. Watercraft, medium and heavy (in the joint force) will give us more redundancy, more options, and will help us move away from the signature of big ships. Importantly, for Australian industry, I expect they will be Australian built.

Obviously, you have seen the Government commit to the down select of Apache to replace Tiger in the middle of the decade. It can be operated in a much more sustainable way in our own region due to the industrial base. It allows us to be on an interoperability pathway. Combined with the unmanned teaming with the UAS, it is a real force multiplier. We have also just bought four more chinooks, 12 now and up to 14 next year. That is a critical capability for us. If I can buy more, I absolutely will. It is an absolute workhorse, cheap and capable.

Central is thinking about the whole Army. One Army. We have been on this journey forever right? It gets the Reserve more integrated with full time. Bushfires was absolutely a forcing function to accelerate that. Local forces, integrating with local organisations, providing local solutions is very powerful. A standing structure with a brigade headquarters in each state jurisdiction connected back into the national headquarters is a framework, if you like, of the lower end of homeland defence/homeland security. It has proven to be very capable and is operating right now. What we need to understand is what this could look like at the higher end of homeland defence? This work is underway.

We are also investing more heavily in 13 Brigade, looking to harness the workforce in Western Australia, to advance some of our thinking about integrated units. We are developing stronger local partnerships, in particular with industry. Workforce is a challenge, I think, for everyone in the nation right now. We are no exception. We need to develop stronger partnerships with industry, to cooperate rather than compete. We have a number of those programs underway where we can access qualified, experienced and capable people, brought straight in.

We are also looking at our Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and Innovation architecture. Government has committed a lot of money towards RAS. In the Force Structure Plan it was specified as a ‘Brigade’s worth of autonomous systems’. That is really a resourcing envelope and a way to think about the effect you can get from uncrewed systems. We have been doing a lot of experimentation in partnership with industry about how we can use uncrewed systems with our armoured vehicles as well as leader follower technology with our logistic vehicles. There is a lot going on here. We are on that experimentation and innovation journey.

Underpinning all this is a change of culture. We have learnt a lot in that space, getting innovation at lowest levels. We have a number of Makerspace facilities set up, where soldiers can play with robotics and 3D printing and explore boundaries of what is possible with technology. This gives ownership and helps shift culture and embrace more of what we need to be in the future. It is already proving powerful.

As we think about the AOF we take these ideas, one by one, to Government. But we are also thinking not just about the capabilities, but how we organise around it. We are thinking about posture. Reinforcing 13 Brigade [in Perth] allows us to have a stronger presence on the Indian Ocean. We are also looking forward to maybe re-raising 10 Light Horse Regiment in the future and equipping them with modern Hawkei vehicles. Making the most of geography and access to populations and industry.

Future Ready Workforce

Workforce is a key challenge. The way we are attacking that is through the Future Ready Workforce. There are five key lines of effort – Future Ready One Army, Future Ready Training System, Future Ready Career Management, Future Ready Value Proposition and Future Ready Human Resource Systems and Data Analytics.

Training transformation is key to absorb these changes, to reorient our soldiers to be trained on all this new equipment. Training does not always have to happen in the classroom, we are changing how we enable people to learn differently, giving information at point of need and modernising the training system. As we are becoming a more specialised workforce, we need to think differently about career management. We also need to think differently about recruiting and retention and the future of work. Accepting more risk if need be.


The last thing I want to talk about is the Preparedness part of our system. We need to manage preparedness differently. I describe this by saying that we need to accept risk now in order to create less risk in the future.

We will need to make conscious and deliberate trade-offs and this will be managed through our AOS. Getting away from the Force Generation Cycle where we rotate Brigades, to get to a more deliberate and strategic approach to readiness based on the environment and the need. We are articulating that through a centralised Army Order, where all resources are aligned around the readiness we need at a particular point in time.

Army of today

The Army of today is fantastic. I was at Kapooka on Monday, seeing recruit training and the amazing work that’s going on there across a range of pathways into our Army. The youth of today are enthusiastic and committed and going to make great soldiers for us.

I was also up in Darwin. Amazing what is going on up there with the 1st Brigade, The Regional Force Surveillance Group and the Marine Rotation Force – Darwin, the joint force and of course engagement with community.

Talisman Sabre 2021 happening right now, with over 3500 Army people participating. They are conducting really good training within a revised scope. The fact that it is going ahead with allies and partners is sending a really timely and important message that we are cracking on and we are united in doing so. Of course there is a whole range of other activities also going on.


Army of today is busy and doing good things for the nation. I’m very proud to lead them and I am honoured to be here to share this with you.