Australian Army: Beersheba and beyond
9 Jul 2014|

Students of the Australian Defence College listen to Ngunnawal elder, Aunty Agnes Shea as she conducts the Welcome to Country ceremony.

Army’s Plan Beersheba, currently being implemented, has changed Army’s force structure to provide a wider range of ready, sustainable land force capabilities. While this has set the conditions for the transition from an analogue- to an information-age Army, further modernisation is necessary. There’s a requirement to build on Beersheba.

The Army must undertake an ‘intellectual pivot’, founded upon the operational experiences of the past 15 years, an appreciation of history and an analysis of future trends. In executing that pivot, the Army must reach beyond traditional sources of analytical expertise. It must look to a wider variety of external academic institutions, think tanks and other service providers to identify options and solutions to the challenges of remaining relevant in the future. Looking out to 2025 and beyond, it’s apparent that ongoing modernisation will be shaped by four key challenges.

A revolution in training and education. Recent breakthroughs in understanding how the brain operates, learns and repairs itself, will provide those who invest wisely in human sciences with a significant cognitive edge in the future. Those breakthroughs will have implications in the fields of recruiting, leadership training, career streaming, and potentially in the field of cognitive augmentation. Building and sustaining advantage based on Army’s people—a cognitive edge—is where Army is most likely to gain a competitive advantage.

A more strategic approach to Army’s collective training. The Army needs to embed the training of the landing force for amphibious capability into its force generation system. That will require better inter-service collaboration in training and assessing land forces. It will also demand enhancements to inter-service networking, training, education, and simulation. An ongoing requirement also exists to gain efficiencies in the force generation process.

Developing a digital Army. As the ultimate expression of human interaction and competition, warfare will continue to be influenced profoundly by global digital connectivity. Army must view digitisation beyond the realms of networking and communications. It will help shape the integration of land and joint forces; the training and education of all ranks; the ideas and structures used to train, deploy and fight; and, the interaction between national forces, other agencies and private military and logistic organisations.

A truly joint Army. Army must develop updated command and control, operating and logistics concepts to enable the full exploitation of the range of Army and joint capabilities. The capability of the deployable land force must be enhanced through digital networking to coordinate the employment of fire support, intelligence and surveillance capabilities. Those changes are not a function of transformation in Army’s digital hardware; rather, they derive from its digital software—how Army thinks about its operations and structures within a joint force.

The Army is entering a period where reduced operational commitments will allow it to direct more resources to the intellectual endeavours that will ensure it’s prepared for future contingencies. In openly discussing the types of challenges described above, Army seeks to execute an intellectual pivot that will enable it to better serve Australian interests in the future.

Brigadier Michael Ryan is the director of General Strategic Plans – Army, Department of Defence. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.