The Role of the Australian Army in a Maritime Concept of Strategy
This paper examines the role of the Australian Army in a maritime concept of strategy. It does so against the background of new trends in post-Cold War international security and, in light of the publication in 1997 of Australia's Strategic Policy (ASP 97) and Restructuring the Australian Army (RTA). It argues that ASP 97 and the 1997 RTA plan are not optimising the Army's capabilities, force structure and doctrine for tasks which a close reading of the strategic guidance contained in ASP 97 might require. There are two reasons for this development. First, ASP 97 and the RTA are based on the conceptual opposites of navalism and continentalism; second, both documents tend to emphasise deterrence rather than warfighting. These factors have created a strategy-force mismatch that prevents consideration of a more positive role for land forces in maritime operations. A navalist interpretation of maritime strategy and a restrictive land force structure may threaten the Australian Defence Force's ability to meet the full spectrum of warfighting needs, escalation control and conflict termination in modern military conflict.
The paper suggests that the Army should seek a more proactive role by reconsidering both its concept of operations and its force structure imperatives in the context of a broader maritime concept of strategy. It argues that the Army's restructuring scheme, as outlined in the 1997 RTA plan, runs contrary to both the rise of littoral-expeditionary operations in upholding international security and the versatile force structure planning now prevalent in leading Western armies. The paper recommends that the Army should focus less on self-reliance on Australian soil and national interests. Less emphasis should be placed on creating a Total Force Army and more effort spent on devising an agile, concept-driven and capability-based regular force. A twenty-first century Army should be able to execute a strategy involving operational manoeuvre, surprise and flexibility. The paper argues that too much concentration on building continental task forces for single-scenario, low-level contingencies will be counterproductive. Instead, most of the Army's effort should be spent on organising a force structure capable of sustaining versatile land formations across a range of different theatres.
The paper concludes by recommending that Army planners pursue a positive role for land forces in a broader maritime concept of strategy. This role requires an emphasis on land force power projection in regional littoral warfare, the promotion of joint amphibious doctrine, and support for the development of credible amphibious forces. These measures would reinforce the strategic logic of joint operations, improve the development of unified warfighting objectives and contribute to the refinement of a fully integrated Australian maritime strategy.
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