Marise Payne: lessons from D-Day
9 Jun 2017|

This week is the 73rd anniversary of perhaps the most complex joint and integrated military operation in history. Operation Overlord, the 1944 D-Day invasion of Europe, involved the largest amphibious armada ever seen, and brought together a daunting sea, land and air military force at one place at one time, all without computers and mass data storage, digital communications, or even PowerPoint.

I sometimes wonder if we could do it again with only slide rules and typewriters. How did they mount a 1,200 plane airborne assault, a 5,000 ship amphibious landing, and put 120,000 soldiers on the beaches in one day?

I believe it was less about technology and platforms, and more about attitudes, behaviours, and organisational agility. While we commemorate the combat losses incurred, let’s also remember their example of joint and integrated effort, and identify the lessons.

The 2016 Defence White Paper said there’ll be ‘more emphasis placed on the joint force—bringing together different land, air, sea, intelligence, electronic warfare, cyber and space capabilities so the ADF can apply more force more rapidly and more effectively.’ It’s important that we drive and reinforce this change.

When government advocates for ‘a joint and integrated ADF’ we want more than a networked and integrated tri-service force. We want an ADF that is a joint actor, meshed with the government sector, industrial sector and civil society sector to produce an integrated national effect.

When we talk of using ‘all elements of national power to resolve national challenges’, we want Defence to be a well-integrated and joint resource and an integral part of an international ecosystem of appropriate capabilities, operating in a connected, effective and efficient manner.

The modern world is widely networked, deeply integrated, and highly agile and technology is disrupting industries from media and banking to hotels and taxis. Clearly Defence, and government more broadly, are not immune.

I don’t underestimate the challenge this rapid change represents. Aboard HMAS Arunta in the Strait of Hormuz, I spoke with crew members about planned upgrades to their IT hardware. They were excited by the benefits the upgrades would bring but it can take years from the initial upgrade proposal to when the last system is installed in the final frigate. This is an age in IT terms and, like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you are potentially starting the process again as soon as you finish.

Our democracy is founded on supporting and maintaining a rules-based global order which comes with obligations. Support to nations under pressure or in distress, and intervention to defend that global order, or to counter global threats, is needed from time to time. Such support and intervention needs to be graduated, scalable, agile, and sophisticated, and at times nuanced. It requires a Defence contribution that is properly joint and well-integrated.

As part of a community of like-minded nations, we share alliances, treaties, and relationships ranging from the formal ANZUS alliance, the core of Australia’s security and defence arrangements, to an enhanced opportunity partner arrangement with NATO. Our security and prosperity depends on a stable Indo-Pacific region and a global order, in which power is not misused and tensions can be managed through negotiations based on international law.

Being able to respond effectively to regional security challenges and opportunities relies on cooperation with allies and partners.  As ASPI’s Executive Director Peter Jennings highlighted, integrating the three services is the start but the ‘definitive edge will come from Australia’s ability to exploit joint, allied and regional abilities to integrate.’

Today’s challenges and threats are increasingly complex, ranging from the variants of the terrorist threat and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to the effects of climate change and cyber attacks.

Any tendency to complacency born of a belief that our increasing economic interdependence acts as a guarantor of security is a false belief. We need to invest the same commitment and ambition in our security cooperation as we have in economic cooperation.

And we need to make new efforts to uphold and reinforce the rules-based order that has enabled us to get to where we are today. An effective way for us to defend against rules being bent or selectively applied is to strengthen regional cooperative mechanisms.

Through increasing engagement with our regional partners and allies, whether by bilateral and multi-lateral exercises, or embedded staff, or student exchanges, or shared operational activity, the ADF develops its ability to work more closely with its regional counterparts.   This draws us together and binds us in the collective self-interest of stability and security.

Our interoperability with the US and the coalition enabled us to respond to the threat posed by Daesh in 2014. Within three weeks, our Air Task Group began operations, the result of a Defence decision over a decade ago to ensure we could ‘plug in’ to coalition missions with the RAAF sending personnel on exchanges and exercises with other nations and training the way it would fight.

In the Coalition Air and Space Operations Centre, the nerve centre of the air campaign in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, I saw Australian personnel sitting side-by-side with allied counterparts to deliver air support to the Iraqi Security Forces.

The US Alliance remains the core of Australia’s security and defence arrangements and at the AUSMIN talks this week we committed to continue to strengthen the relationship, including through our continuing joint military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and force posture initiatives in northern Australia. Australia has more than 600 ADF personnel, scientists and engineers in the US and an Australian major-general is deputy commander of the US Army in the Pacific.

Secretary Mattis is a strong supporter of the alliance and continued US engagement in the Indo-Pacific, which he reaffirmed at the Shangri-La Dialogue and in Sydney saying the US commitment to was based on ‘strategic interests and on shared values of free people, free markets, and a strong and vibrant economic partnership.’ Australia and the US underlined our shared, commitment to strong regional organisations, especially the East Asia Summit, APEC, and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus.

The government is committed to working with industry to ensure we’re able to develop and maximise the skills and knowledge we have in Australia to deliver the capability we need to achieve a truly joint and integrated ADF, a force that is integrated by design, not stitched together afterwards.

Innovation focused on continual improvement and collaboration among science, industry and defence has ensured our forces are among the best equipped in the world. This required Defence to work closely with industry in innovative ways, as we are doing for programs such as Plan Jericho.

A significant improvement of the RAAF’s new P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft over the Orions, is that the information gathered can be fed out in real time to other ADF assets on the sea, land and in the air. Not only is that a leap forward in capability terms, it’s a completely new proposition in that it’s entirely networked.   Every part of the ADF needs to be ready to capitalise on that.

HQ Joint Operations Command is an excellent example of the maturing approach to operations.

But there’s much more to do to create a truly joint and integrated ADF. We need to continue to drive engagement with our regional partners and allies and with industry and government agencies. We need to drive technological change and organisational change.

The First Principles Review addressed the need for a unified Defence organisation, including a joint force more consistently linked to its strategy. In the past, the organisation has not been appropriately structured and it’s been insufficiently unified in the way it conducts business. Reforms have been too narrowly targeted to effect the necessary mindset change.

Both the government and senior leaders in Defence recognised that the organisation at the time was not best organised to meet these challenges. So far 63 of 75 of the review’s recommendations have been implemented.

To deliver the capable and sustainable joint forces we require, Defence must be more integrated with clear accountabilities and streamlined decision-making. That’s why we created the integrated ADF Headquarters to set the foundations for joint forces with the highest levels of military capability and technological sophistication.

Integration will require ongoing cultural change. Attitudes, behaviours, and organisational agility are key to ensuring we can create a truly joint and integrated ADF. We live in a world in which economic power, and all that flows from it in terms of strategic capability and global stability, is shifting. A strong network of defence relationships, internally and externally, is fundamental to our national security.

To maintain a regionally superior Defence Force capable of meeting challenges and seizing opportunities over the next few decades, our military must be structured appropriately and be able to operate as a truly joint and integrated force. Not just as three services cooperating, but a genuinely joint organisation that can integrate with domestic agencies and industry, and our international partners and allies.

As demonstrated on D-Day, joint and integrated capability is more than the quantity and quality of platforms and equipment. It’s about attitudes, behaviours, connections, and confidence.