Chief of the Defence Force – Address to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute
18 August 2011
Address: General D.J. Hurley AC, DSC
Date: 18 August 2011
(Check against delivery)
Good evening distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great privilege to be invited to celebrate and to participate in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's tenth anniversary.
The Australian Defence Force is at war and it has been at war for nearly the entire ten years of ASPI’s existence. During that ten year period Defence has balanced its priorities to sustain a force at war and at the same time to deliver the policies, guidance and capabilities necessary to ensure that Defence is ready to meet future challenges. During this period Defence has also been challenged to improve its performance in relation to management and administration, and to reassure the Australian people of its character and values. The challenge today is to continue to deliver a high quality combat force while implementing fundamental changes to Defence culture and practices.
These challenges are being undertaken against a backdrop of the growing pace of strategic change in our region and globally. Of course change always happens in international affairs. But there is a difference between the day-to-day developments – the things British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan famously called “events, my dear boy, events” – and in the big, underlying shifts in strategic forces that shape how nations relate to each other.
I see four fundamental strategic shifts taking place right now. They are redefining the global strategic environment and Australia’s place in it.
First, there is the shift of global power to Asia; China’s momentum; India’s re-emergence; the aspirations of a number of Asian middle powers. And there is the United States' response: still pre-eminently strong; a growing population; a powerhouse of innovation. Multilateralism in the Asia-Pacific will make our world richer but harder to manage.
Second, there is the Arab Spring. It is difficult to judge outcomes right now, but it seems that the momentum is moving towards more open societies, or at least less autocratic governments. To survive, political leaderships will have to listen to the popular will. This cannot but change a region that stretches from North West Africa to Pakistan. The result will be an even more complex region from the point of view of global security.
Third, there is the global economy. Economic security underpins global stability. It’s clear that the United States and many NATO countries face financially stringent times, which will impact on Defence spending and increase reluctance to engage in any but the most unavoidable military operations. At times like this we should be thankful in Australia for the government’s long-term commitments to defence spending. Just as we saw at the end of the cold war, the Defence budgets of many of our friends and allies will come under sustained pressure. Our alliance with the United States will still be a central pillar of our security. We need to understand, though, that the US has high expectations of its allies. Australia meets those expectations, and we will need to continue to do so.
The fourth fundamental strategic change is how the world is becoming more tightly integrated through trade, finance and Information Communication Technology among other areas, and in our shared dependence on free access to space, oceans and cyber-space. When ASPI was founded ten years ago, I’d suggest no one would have contemplated the investment Defence organisations would need to make into the cyber domain. But it is certainly true that as a nation we are utterly reliant on our ICT connectivity. This combination of reliance and interdependence is a curious factor in the Asia-Pacific and it points to the need for better strategic mechanisms in the region to manage risk, control crises and de-escalate any tensions. There is a mountain of useful research that is crying out to be done in these areas and which I hope APSI will itself address.
At home you will all be aware that the Government is facing a very tight budgetary and fiscal position over the next few years as the budget is returned to surplus - fiscal consolidation is a very high priority of the Government. You will also be aware of the turmoil in global financial and debt markets over the past few months and the impact that this has had on our local markets and some of the uncertainty that this situation has generated among ordinary Australians. Australia has a globalised trading economy and cannot be immune from changes in that global economy. Similarly, Defence is not and cannot be immune from the financial pressures that affect the Government.
Against this background Defence has to continue to deliver an ambitious Defence White Paper within a tight financial envelope and in parallel continue to support our major operations overseas. Across the organisation, Defence must therefore carefully consider its spending decisions and clearly demonstrate prudent financial stewardship. We have to be an organisation that is highly disciplined and prepared to make difficult and complex decisions. How we achieve this will depend upon our ability to manage the challenge of reform that we face. This evening I want to address this reform agenda and cover some of my key priorities for the ADF during my term as Chief of the Defence Force.
In the last few years Defence has been asked to respond to several reviews that challenge the fundamental elements of our organisation and processes – the Mortimer Review of capital procurement, the Rizzo review of Naval maintenance, the Strategic Reform Program, the requirement to broaden the use of shared services, the Black review of accountability in Defence and the six reviews of Defence and ADF culture launched after the so-called ‘Skype’ incident. Each of these reviews is significant in its own right; as a whole they affect nearly every aspect of Defence business. When I look at the broad canvas that these reviews must illuminate, one thing is starkly clear, we cannot respond to the recommendations of these reviews in a piecemeal, review–by–review manner. Simply turning several hundred recommendations from red traffic lights to green over five or more years will not produce the change that people expect nor will it improve Defence. We need a coherent and cogent response that we can explain to the Government, the Australian people and to the members of the Defence organisation.
The Defence Committee will consider the synthesis of the findings and recommendations of all of these reviews in consultation with our new Secretary. The framing idea that will help us bring these reviews together, and to a successful landing, lies in the Reform part of the SRP – I am certain that the narrative that describes the SRP purpose and objectives can accommodate within it the scope of change we need to accomplish.
I have said since the commencement of the SRP that it will not be good enough for the Department to save $20.6 billion over ten years if at the end of that decade we are not a markedly different and better managed organisation. I am conscious some commentators believe we in Defence drag the chain and play a waiting game. Such comments fly in the face of the Department’s efforts and results to date; its willingness to tackle some very difficult issues; and the energy and initiative of our people as they implement the SRP and most importantly focus on the core day-to-day business of Defence. When I read such comments I am reminded of a statement by General Sir John Hackett: “I am nimmukwallah, as we say in the East; that is, I have eaten of the King’s salt, and therefore I conceive it to be my duty to serve with unhesitating zeal and cheerfulness, when and wherever the King or his Government may think proper to employ me.”
As an aside I am looking forward to working with the new Secretary. He follows a person who is arguably the finest public servant in Australia today – not that I want to make Duncan’s job more difficult. I would also like to dispel any concerns that Duncan and I hatched a plot nearly forty years ago at Duntroon to one day run the ADF together and to abandon any pretext of the military knuckling under control of appropriate civilian leadership. We won’t be having that conversation.
Nimmukwallah. In my case I have been fortunate enough for the King, or perhaps in our case the Queen, to think it proper that I serve as CDF. I stress that this is not unthinking service. One of my primary duties is to advise the government of the day on what I think are the right priorities for Defence. On the day I became CDF I issued an Order of the Day. This is an All Points Bulletin to all ADF members. In my Order I listed my priorities for my term as CDF. They are linked as you would expect to the issues I have just considered, but express in concrete terms what I believe I need to achieve by the time my term concludes in mid 2014.
The successful conduct of our operations is my highest priority. To achieve our objectives in Afghanistan, we must stabilise the security situation while mentoring and training the Afghan National Security Forces to a level that enables them to assume the lead for providing security in Uruzgan Province. Over the next three years ISAF and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will implement Inteqal – the transition of responsibility for security from ISAF to the Afghan security forces. This process will position us for our longer term commitment to Afghanistan referred to by our Prime Minister.
East Timor is also approaching a critical juncture with next year's Parliamentary and Presidential elections. We will work with the Government of East Timor to consider our commitment post these elections.
With regard to future capability there are two game changing capabilities that will be on our doorstep in 2014 – the introduction of the Joint Strike Fighter into our air combat capability and the commencement of our Landing Helicopter Dock based amphibious capability. Although the arrival of our first aircraft in Australia will be a few years after 2014, the preparatory work to accept the capability must be near completion by the end of 2014. All elements of the fundamental inputs into capability must be well in play and maturing.
With regard to the LHD we need to be positioned to step onto HMAS CANBERRA when she arrives, confident that we can realise her full potential. All three Service Chiefs are on wood to brief me on their capability realisation plans in the next few weeks.
A significant part of the preparation required to introduce these new capabilities is to ensure that we have a valued, committed and sustainable workforce, both in uniform and the public service. Over recent years we have done much in the way of research and analysis to better understand the character and nature of our workforce. Our workforce planning has improved significantly and the employment offer that we have created remains attractive. We, however, like many other organisations in Australia will be challenged in the future to maintain a knowledgeable and productive workforce.
My Order gives specific emphasis to addressing the sustainment issues that have beleaguered Navy this year. There are two aspects to this – rebuilding the Navy’s engineering capability and capacity in order to sustain the fleet, and rectifying the sustainment problem we have with the Collins Class submarines. I believe that already both are trending in the right direction but there is much hard work still to do.
For our Army the key task in the next three years will be the implementation of the initial phase of building a new Army structure that is better suited to the demands of future combat. Army will change in form, in the manner in which it prepares forces for operations and in how it maintains the preparedness levels asked of it. Again, this will be a long journey but much of the ground work has been completed.
Turning now to the issue that has perhaps gained the most intense interest in relation to the ADF this year - the question of the culture of the ADF. In my Order I stated that we, the ADF, must ensure that we have a culture that gives confidence to the people of Australia that we are a just, inclusive and fair-minded organisation.
When I speak about the culture of the ADF I do so in the terms we use when we conduct ‘After Action Reviews’ that is there are things that we must sustain and others where we must improve. There are behaviours that we must sustain and behaviours we must improve upon. In terms of our culture we must sustain the behaviours that have enabled us to be so successful in the conduct of operations, regardless of location and complexity; we must sustain the behaviours that enable us to field thousands of people during their traditional end of year break to respond to natural disasters across our country; we must sustain the behaviours that mean that in every community in which the ADF has a base you will find ADF members running sporting clubs, Guides and Scouts and leading P&Cs – actively participating in their community. But to quote General Hackett again: “It is the unlimited liability which sets the man who embraces this life somewhat apart. He will be (or should be) always a citizen. So long as he serves he will never be a civilian.” We must acknowledge however that we are not consistent in the application of, or adherence to, our values and therefore our behaviours. Improvement is required. I have every confidence that the particular reviews being under taken by Elizabeth Broderick and Carmel McGregor into the treatment of women at ADFA, in the ADF and in Defence, will be very helpful in providing us with positive guidance and direction.
In addressing and implementing the issues I have touched on tonight it would be both arrogant and naive to claim that Defence has all the answers. Clearly we do not. The assistance we receive from the many fine institutions that are involved in the subjects of national security and defence policy is greatly valued. And tonight it is only fitting to congratulate ASPI for the role it plays in leading research and debate on these crucial issues.
In fact this notion of the contestability of advice on Government decision making processes was one of the primary motives for establishing ASPI. So too was the premise that good policy is informed by strong public debate. Both Defence and Government recognise the value in nurturing and investing in an independent body of strategic thinkers.
On behalf of the Defence Organisation, I congratulate the members of ASPI, past and present, on a highly successful first decade. You have achieved a great deal for such a relatively young organisation, carving out a niche in the strategic policy environment. I am very pleased to be here tonight because it gives me an opportunity to thank you and to acknowledge your service to our great country.