Changes to Command and Control – direction to the Special Air Service

31 August 2021

Thank you Minister Hastie, Commander Special Operations Command Australia, Commanding Officer and members of the SAS.

As our operations in Afghanistan conclude and the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches – let me begin by specifically acknowledging the SAS’s contribution to the Defence of Australia over the past two decades.

This includes the Regiment’s commitment to Afghanistan – the two bookends of the Australian Defence Force’s operations there. These began on the ground there only six weeks after 9/11 and include your most recent contribution to support the evacuation from Kabul.

I know too well that this has been a difficult time for many people. I acknowledge the toll on individuals and families, and thank you all for your support to each other.

I acknowledge the determined efforts to restore confidence and capability in the SAS.

Much has been done. There is always more to do.

We must always strengthen our foundations so we can clearly focus on the future.

Minister Hastie has described the challenges, and they are well known to us. In this less predictable and less stable environment our Army and ADF has an expanding role to contribute to the defence of Australia’s interests.

The SAS has a critical role to support government and ADF efforts to counter grey zone activities and conduct special operations and other sensitive tasks.

The SAS’s unique value proposition in this context is its operating model. An operating model:

  • of small and enabled teams operating discretely, and “always on”
  • of quiet professionals, humble, intelligent, disciplined and ethical soldiers
  • whose effectiveness depends on the highest levels of secrecy, security, and scrutiny
  • that demands calm, effective and trusted leadership at every level to assure its integrity and capacity for sustained success.

Building on this foundation, and of the many initiatives implemented over recent years, today I am directing measures to further strengthen command and control in the SAS.

I am doing this to ensure that the SAS operating model is assured and future proofed.

Command of the SAS will be elevated to the rank of Colonel. Other internal command arrangements will be strengthened including some positions also being raised in rank or experience.

These arrangements recognise the organisation’s span of responsibility and the sensitive nature of its capabilities.

These command and control arrangements assure me as the Chief of Army, on behalf of the Chief of Defence Force, that there is sufficient capacity, and appropriate oversight for missions that the SAS is expected to prepare for and perform.

This does not mean the SAS Regiment will be more independent or self-contained. Quite the opposite. With more expected of it, these enhancements recognise its geographic location and ensure that the SAS is more connected, more enabled and more accountable as part of the Special Operations Command’s suite of capabilities.

This is not happening in isolation. Enhanced command and control in SAS complements other Command and Control changes across our Army, such as in aviation, domestic support, amphibious operations, joint fires, health and information warfare.

Across the board we are proactively organising to ensure that our Army can provide more options, and more effectively support the joint force to deliver against the demands of continuous competition and conflict.

And so, as you recognise the unit birthday another chapter in story of the SAS unfolds – one that follows a proud history that holds a pattern – of continuous change, of adapting roles, structures, capabilities and operating methods in response to an ever-evolving strategic environment. The changes I have directed today are another example of this.

Amongst this change we also see continuity - because people are this unit’s strength and foundation of success.

People drawn from across our Army; selected, trained and continually developed – and strengthened by the many corps and trades integral to the unit’s capability.

Each a vital part of the whole.

This is the story of the SAS Regiment. A story of highs and lows, endurance and courage, sustained readiness, intensive training and thorough preparation.

It is a story of an organisation that recognises its mistakes, learns, adapts and reinvents itself to embrace the future and find new ways to sustain a competitive edge.

I need you to continue to do this. The stakes are high. The expectations are clear.

We all have a role. We have a shared responsibility to ensure success. I have every confidence in you.

Who dares wins.

Good soldiering.