Getting an Army in Motion Moving - Dr Albert Palazzo
The recently released Chief of Army’s statement, Army in Motion, is a critically important document for the Army’s future, even if it appears neither remarkable nor awe-inspiring at a first glance. In its mundanity, however, it is exactly what Army needs to do. As a statement of intent for the entire force to embrace, Army in Motion is highly relevant for the future of land power in
As General Angus Campbell has observed,
It is clear that
To be sure, the Australian Army is not the only military to suffer from these faults. The historical record is littered with examples of armies that failed to appreciate the necessity to adapt to a new reality. After all, it was the British and French Armies during the First World War that first demonstrated the potential of the tank. Yet during the succeeding interwar years the leadership of neither army was able to articulate and inculcate a coherent theory for armoured warfare. It was the leaders of the German and Russian Armies who implemented the basis for armoured warfare.
Admittedly, to embrace the future is always a gamble. It requires a willingness to take a leap into the unknown and to make decisions with incomplete or non-existent data while spending the public purse. There is never a guarantee that the one will get it right, no matter how well the odds of success are shaped by hard thinking and experimentation. The French leadership of the interwar period, for example, did not realise that they had gotten the possibilities of a future war wrong, at least not until the Germans showed them. Nor is there any guarantee that existing trend lines will provide useful guidance into more than the immediate future. The unexpected may intervene and disrupt one’s expectations and change what was supposed to happen to something else. For example,
But a respect for caution is not the main driver of
The Australian Army has reason to be proud of its war-fighting competency of its soldiers and its tradition of success in battle. With some justification, its highly trained soldiers are sought after by our coalition partners. However, Australian excellence is limited mainly to only one level of the art of war –the tactical. Perhaps this is inevitable. As a small power, the strategic level of war has largely been the remit of
Too much comfort with tactical leadership is an enduring problem for the Army and in part is a result of a tendency to develop strategic leaders in terms of their ability to manage processes or at being good at STEM. Yet, in thinking and deciding upon strategy, it is the humanities that count. If the Army is serious about producing strategic leaders it should be mandatory for those on the leadership pathway to undertake a graduate degree at a civilian university in History, Philosophy, Political Science, Anthropology, Language or the Fine Arts. Moreover, this study should be full-time at the Army’s expense. Essentially they would receive a posting to study and through this exploration of the humanities learn how to think and to think broadly. Military strategists must firstly understand people, because that is where strategy lives.
The last impasse to an Army in Motion is the tendency to favour the status quo over change. A preference for the maintenance of the status quo is a powerful cultural constraint that has effect of protecting sacred cows from necessary slaughter. Every solder has invested their career in a particular branch whose status and aspirations remain a part of them no matter their career path. The battleship admirals did not go peacefully, nor did the horse soldiers even when their time had passed. However, they did go – or rather, they were pushed. Can Army as an institution overcome the forces of the status quo and, for example, seriously imagine a future where the decisive effect is delivered by distant strike rather than by a close assault? I don’t know, but any serious modernisation would require all sacred cows to justify their continued utility and to face the knife if found wanting.
The Chief is right.
The context of
The Chief has laid out a vision.
It is up to Army to make it so.
About the author: Dr Albert Palazzo is the Director of War Studies in the Australian Army Research Centre. He has published widely on military history and the contemporary character of war. His work epitomises the public service commitment to frank and fearless advice. When he is not thinking about Multi-Domain Battle his other current research interest is war and climate change.
The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government. Further information.