The Australian Army History Unit Occasional Paper Series is a format in which issues of importance to the Australian Army can be explored in detail, without requiring the length or complexity of a book.
Australian Army Mobilisation in 1914 - Major Ian Bell
MAJ Ian Bell
In 1914 Australia formed two expeditionary forces: the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), which would fight in the Middle East and Europe and ultimately become the nation’s primary contribution to the war, and the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), which travelled north to seize German New Guinea in September. The country’s part-time citizen forces were also mobilised to safeguard vital assets within Australia and protect the main ports. The rapid despatch of expeditionary forces and the garrisoning of ports and crucial infrastructure represented a remarkable achievement and its success owed a great deal to the often imperfect but nonetheless significant military preparations completed prior to 1914.
In 1914, the pre-war mostly part-time Commonwealth Military Forces were in a period of transition. The small, previously all-volunteer force was expanding to become a much larger force of over 100 battalions and regiments created on the basis of almost universal compulsory military service. This force was partially mobilised in August 1914 to provide basic security within Australia. At the same time, Australia formed the two expeditionary forces for overseas service, the largest of which — the AIF — would eclipse the pre-war army.
Force Design in the 1990s: Lessons for Contemporary Military Change Management - Lieutenant-Colonel Renée Kidson
LTCOL Renée Kidson
Army in the 21st Century (A21) and Restructuring the Army (RTA) were two related force structure initiatives undertaken by the Australian Army in the 1990s. A21 radically proposed to abolish traditional divisional/corps structures, fielding instead independent task forces with embedded combat arms. The RTA trials tested A21 concepts and capabilities over several years; yet A21/RTA was abandoned in 1999. What happened, why, and what lessons does A21/RTA offer?
This retrospective appraisal of A21/RTA is a case study of attempted transformational change in the Australian Army. The monograph features interviews with over thirty senior military, public service, academic and political leaders of that era; and applies organisational theory to interpret internal and external dynamics. Seven elements required for successful change management in large organisations are described:
- respond to compelling change drivers
- create a clear, shared, credible vision
- build senior leadership buy-in internally ; and political sponsorship externally
- provide change enablers (resources, time, skills, training)
- achieve early successes
- reinforce and solidify change with supporting efforts; and
- evaluate and improve.
These elements are used to evaluate A21/RTA. The monograph finds that while A21/RTA faced formidable strategic, resourcing and cultural challenges, the reform failed to be both technically feasible and culturally sensitive. A key A21/RTA lesson is that successful reform requires all seven elements; and institutional culture is amongst the most challenging aspect of change management. The monograph’s findings prompt a provocative question: is Army suffering ‘cultural capture’?
A21/RTA's lessons are relevant for contemporary organisational challenges and military change management, and are offered in two layers: a surface skim, and a deeper dive. Practitioners will be attracted to the seven elements of successful change management, and are encouraged to apply and test them within their own organisational challenges. Readers prepared to hold their breath for a few more fathoms will find other profound and subtle lessons.
One of those deeper lessons concerns the troubled relationship between the strategic orthodoxy of that period, 'Defence of Australia' (DoA), and Army's eventual force design and force structure response to DoA: A21/RTA. A superficial analysis of the A21/RTA period of Australia's military history may simply conclude 'East Timor in 1999 proved Army was right'. The more confronting lesson is that crafting coherent strategy and force design ishard; but, perhaps like the elaborate 'epicycles' used to justify outmoded earth-centric astronomy in the 16th Century, the task is made even harder when the start state is an unchallenged ideological orthodoxy. This lesson underscores the imperative of transparency, open debate: and of sound civil-military relations.
- Download a copy of Force Design in the 1990s: Lessons for Contemporary Military Change Management (PDF, 5.7MB)
 Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago, USA: University Of Chicago Press, 1970, 210 pp.
Which Division? Risk Management and the Australian Army’s force structure after the Vietnam War - Colonel David Connery
COL David Connery
Through ‘Plan Beersheba’, the Australian Army’s contemporary leadership embarked on the most wide-ranging change to its combat force structure since the very late 1970s. This plan has as its central features three similarly structured multi-role manoeuvre brigades and the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (1st Division) as a joint formation. Yet their predecessors responded to their situation after Vietnam by forming three specialised brigades — one on higher readiness than the others — within an entirely Army-focused divisional structure. These differing responses invite interesting questions concerning the way Army leaders respond to risk and competing challenges in their force structure choices.
This study examines the three primary stages of development in shaping the 1st Division — the bedrock of Army’s force structure — between 1972 and 1980. The study illustrates how the 1st Division’s structure evolved as it moved from the ‘Tropical Warfare’ Division of the 1960s to the three specialised regular Army brigades of the early 1980s. It also shows that Army’s leaders developed a very different division as the basis for their doctrine. This doctrinal division was essentially a tool for mobilisation planning and training, but it was structurally out of kilter with the emerging priority for forces capable of dispersed operations against low-level incursions in the north of Australia. The study concludes with observations on how the Australian Army’s leaders of the post-Vietnam period responded to risk through force structure, and some insights into the enduring challenges of force structure decision-making.