Why the ADF Risks Failure in the Next War

In talking to Australian high school audiences, I found, when I asked directly, that only one in ten … were prepared to fight for their country. —  Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenk at ADF Academy, April 12, 2023 

In April 2023, the Albanese Government’s National Defence: Defence Strategic Review declared the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to be “not fully fit for purpose” to meet the most dangerous strategic environment facing the country since the Second World War. Such a frank statement, with its haunting echoes of the unreadiness of the 1930s, reflects not only the ADF’s materiel shortcomings, but serious weaknesses in its military education. If wars are first prepared for in the minds of an officer corps, then, a “not fully fit for purpose” defence force is failing in the intellectual preparation of its personnel. 

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This should come as no surprise given the decline of knowledge-based learning in Australia’s schools and universities. A faltering military education system reflects plummeting educational standards in the parent society, not least in key areas such as civics and pride in our Anglo-Celtic civilisational heritage. Ours is a morbid era of moral and intellectual confusion in which information dominates over knowledge; where the detritus from a social media deluge drowns out sophisticated analysis of current affairs, allowing the decadent to dominate the dedicated; and where the memes of electronic propaganda eclipse the wise judgment that flows from perceiving truth. 

The postmodern schoolrooms of Australia have succeeded all too well in displacing patriotism with narcissism. When teenagers are taught to chant “From the river to the sea” rather than an understanding of the basics of Western cultural literacy, we should not expect Australia’s military to remain unaffected. It is a matter of national concern when senior ADF officers prefer to talk about climate change rather than military art, and define strategy in the language of corporate governance rather than that of Clausewitz. Moreover, when soldiers from the Special Forces can be accused of war crimes—but no senior officers are held accountable—something is wrong in the professional culture of the ADF. 

The Australian-born British general Sir John Hackett, in his seminal 1983 book The Profession of Arms, warned that the military is simultaneously a shield and a mirror of a democratic society. Reflecting on military recruitment in democracies, Hackett famously wrote: “When a country looks at its fighting forces, it is looking into a mirror. What a society gets from its armed services is exactly what it asks for, no more or less.” For Hackett, this social mirror was all the more reason for the military to ensure that those who join its ranks embrace an austere professional ethos free from contemporary ideological fetishes. While Australia’s democratic civil society can, in the name of liberal tolerance, accept unpalatable currents of cultural and intellectual behaviour, a small, regular military such as the ADF must relentlessly guard itself against negative social forces that may threaten to overwhelm its ethos and cohesion as a fighting force. 

The effectiveness of the Australian profession of arms depends on a rigorous military education that is at once unique and specialised for the needs of warfare. Yet, in the twenty-first century we are faced with an unprecedented decay of Australian military education which, if not reversed, may impair the operational and strategic proficiency of our forces. Today’s ADF is an undermanned, “come as you are” military with little reserve strength or expansion base, and no evident plans exist for the mobilisation of the population to defend our way of life. For these reasons, a military failure—especially in the first act of any future major war—is likely to be disastrous for our political fortunes. The ADF must be an educated force that is able to fight and hold its own in the first battle of the next major war, if only to buy precious time for the nation to recover its senses and rally around the flag. 

The central message is simple: the organisational health of the ADF depends on an organic link between military professionalism and military education. Over the past two decades, this link has been weakened to the extent that critical gaps now exist inside the ADF that raise important questions about Australian military readiness and resilience.

Three areas explain how this unfortunate state of affairs has developed. First, the ADF’s reliance on outsourced civilian-based university military education has contributed to the creation of a defence force that is intellectually unprepared to meet the rigours of a major, inter-state war. Second, the ADF needs to embrace institutional renewal through a reaffirmation of the unique role of the profession of arms in society. This demands moral clarity on the role of military exceptionalism in defence of society and acceptance that future success will rely on reformed military education that values professional expertise, not academic credentialism. Third, the ADF must link educational reform to improved professional standards. The defence force must transform its philosophy of education from a twentieth-century approach based on the duality of military training and academic education into a tripartite twenty-first-century system. 


The sin of outsourcing, 2000–2023

Many of the ills afflicting Australian military education can be traced to the post-Cold War ideologies of neo-liberalism and market economics. These led to a boom in the outsourcing of government services to the private sector on the grounds of higher efficiency and cost-effectiveness. By the end of the 1990s, the Defence Department was partnering with an array of civilian universities and had centralised military education into one overarching Australian Defence College (ADC) located in Canberra. 

Defence’s final outsourcing roadmap came to be based on a December 2000 report, A Review into Military Postgraduate Education, led by two leading Queensland business studies scholars, Professor Ian Zimmer, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Queensland, and Professor Bruce McKern, President and Chief Executive of the Mount Eliza Business School. The choice of two leading business scholars indicated that, in the eyes of the Defence bureaucracy, the input costs of military education were of greater importance than the quality of outputs. 

Not surprisingly, Zimmer and McKern recommended that Defence seek to outsource as much of its postgraduate educational requirements as possible to university providers at an estimated $65 million in savings per annum. The authors, to their credit, expressed concern at the ADF’s lack of organisational understanding of the needs of military education for the ADF. “There is,” said the review, “no strategic policy or philosophy on the skill sets or educational requirements the ADF may need to meet its strategic objectives.” Prophetically, Zimmer and McKern warned that, without proper guidance, officers could choose to take business, management and information technology degrees rather than focus on the core study of military art and science. 

Undeterred, Defence and the ADF plunged into civil university education for its officer corps. Not surprisingly, outsourcing military education caused controversy—not as might have been expected among military professionals, but ironically among Australia’s tiny cadre of scholars of military affairs inside the universities. One of the leading critics was the late Professor Jeffrey Grey of the Australian Defence Force Academy at the University of New South Wales. Grey, a distinguished military historian, had spent the period 2000 to 2002 as the Matthew C. Horner Chair of Military Theory at the United States Marine Corps University in Quantico and was well versed in the requirements of professional military education. On his return to Australia he wrote in the October 2004 issue of Defender: The Magazine of the Australian Defence Association that the officer professional military education system in Australia “is in profound disarray and is fundamentally failing the organisation [the ADF] of which it should be the intellectual gatekeeper and guiding beacon”. 

Outsourcing its education to universities was, Grey remarked, akin “to the churches hand[ing] the training of clergy to McDonald’s”. Without intelligent supervision from the ADF, military education would inevitably drift into the pursuit of managerial and business studies degrees by officers leaving the ADF, and would do little to enhance professional expertise because the Australian military suffered from “a fundamental problem of professional self-confidence regarding the more intellectual aspects of the profession of arms”.

Hugh Smith, founding Director of the Australian Defence Studies Centre at ADFA and the country’s most prominent military sociologist, warned in 2004: 

There is a body of essential knowledge and expertise relating to the deployment of violence which is unique to the profession of arms, though much differs as between land, air and maritime warfare. But military professionals, not universities or other outside institutions, teach this knowledge. Academic learning is necessary—not as part of professional knowledge, but because it provides understanding of the context in which armed force is used or threatened. 

The challenge facing the ADF was to ensure that it possessed a cadre of military specialists and scholars with advanced research degrees and a knowledge of adult education methods. Both Grey and Smith believed that without such in-house expertise, ADF military education would concentrate on academic context, not professional content, and would fail to serve the needs of the armed forces. 

These fears were well founded. Between 2001 and 2019, the number of master’s degrees in Australia tripled from 31,367 to 109,276 and the ADF was part of this explosion. Today, it is commonplace to encounter an Australian military officer with two or three MA degrees, yet such qualifications are a poor guide to actual professional aptitude. Yet, the critiques of Grey and Smith did little to change the direction of Defence’s educational policy. For example, in 2011-12, Major General Craig Orme called for “appropriate treatment” of the profession of arms in professional military education for mid-level and senior officers across the ADF. Geoff Peterson called outsourcing a “second-best option” driven by financial concerns, not military requirements. 

In August 2012, an external review into military education by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Educating for the Profession of Arms in Australia, not only highlighted a persistent lack of warfighting preparation but also identified the existence of two “ten-year gaps” in professional knowledge that developed because of reliance on episodic residential courses at the expense of systematic career-long learning in the defence force. ASPI urged the formation of a small, internal faculty of specialised Defence scholars with higher research degrees to guide the ADF’s military learning to improve professional expertise. It had little impact beyond the creation of the General Sir Francis Hassett Chair of Military Studies as a “one-man expert military faculty”. Even the views of retired major-general and former Secretary of Defence, Duncan Lewis, failed to change educational policy. In 2013, he observed damningly: 

[I am] in despair over what has happened out at Weston Creek, where the [ADFs] Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies [delivering the senior Defence and Strategic Studies Course] has effectively become dumbed down. The earlier courses were attended by brigadier-level service people, and they attracted top-level outsiders. Now we have a course for colonels that attracts few top-level outsiders.

Despite Lewis’s declaration, inertia and austerity continued to reign and the period from 2013 to 2017 were years of the locust. Greater financial austerity and intensified outsourcing followed, elevating managerial efficiency over educational effectiveness. The ADF’s attitude to military education came to resemble Plato’s “Ship of Fools” in the Republic, where the philosopher talks about the tendency of governance processes to prevail not based on expert knowledge.

Only between 2018 and 2023 was educational reform attempted under Major-General Mick Ryan and Air Vice-Marshal Stephen Edgeley, both products of American postgraduate war colleges, who, on appointment, became dissatisfied with the weak state of Australian military education. In 2019, Ryan formed an Australian War College by uniting the Command and Staff Course and the Defence and Strategic Studies Courses around the ADF’s basic purpose, the study of warfare. Yet this initiative was highly unpopular in some Defence circles and was hampered by reliance on a civilian university. Edgeley concentrated on creating continuous, rather than episodic education, supervised by an in-house cadre of “profession of arms experts”. Yet progress was glacial due to a Maginot Line of institutional and budgetary obstacles. 

Framing educational reform: Reaffirming the role of the Australian profession of arms

The starting point for any serious attempt to reform Australian military education is to reaffirm the value of masterful knowledge of warfare honed by continuous professional and academic study that translates into national military effectiveness. Here we confront the central dilemma that the military profession is unique in society. In the words of Sir John Hackett, “the military profession has a distinguishable corpus of specific technical knowledge and doctrine [and] an education pattern adapted to its own specific needs”. To be sure, the profession of arms shares some features with the professions of medicine, law and divinity—such as control over membership, self-regulation, training expertise and a code of ethics. However, the military differs in profound ways. In the words of the American historian Walter Millis, military service has some qualities of a priesthood, a professional civil servant, a great bureaucratic business organisation and an academic order, “but it corresponds to exactly none. It is set apart therefore from those who have followed other walks of life.”

A career in the ADF contains four unique features that require recognition and understanding: the unlimited liability clause of sacrifice of life; the paradox of having the legal authority to command the use of lethal force that is infrequently practised—leading to a theory-practice mismatch; jurisdictional pressures on ADF officers to become national security professionals as well as war-fighters which, if not managed well, threaten military professionalism; and the intellectual challenge that the military lacks a common body of academic knowledge for educational purposes. 


The unlimited liability clause 

Unlike the civil professions, the military officer serves one master, the state, and is bound by a covenant that demands discriminating between combatant and non-combatant when applying lethal force. The unlimited liability clause requires that those in military uniform assume the burden of danger and death on behalf of society. As William Pfaff writes in The Bullet’s Song (2004), the soldier’s “warrant to kill is integrally related to his willingness to die”. The sacrificial character of military life means that those in uniform will always be citizens, but for so long as they serve, they will never be civilians.

Theoretically, unlimited liability is the foundation stone of the Australian profession of arms. Yet in an ADF education system dominated by civilian academics, it is hardly emphasised. Indeed, in 2019, I supervised a competitive selection process at the Australian Command and Staff College in which one of the questions called for candidates to explain the unlimited liability clause. More than half of the fifty officers I interviewed had either never heard of the phrase or thought it was a financial services term. 


The paradox of command of lethal force and the theory-practice paradox

The second unique feature of military life is the paradox of command of lethal force and infrequent practice. The legal authority to employ organised violence is a responsibility held by no other institution. Aspects of armed policing cannot compare with organised warfare in a contested area of operations. An officer’s control over human lives makes military command different from leadership and management norms in civilian professions.

The application of lethal violence by a military professional is contingent rather than continuous. Unlike doctors, engineers, lawyers and priests, the military professional may not practise their core expertise regularly. This makes military education all the more important to uniformed professionals who must study what war will involve long before they experience it. If not managed well, this can make the military vulnerable to strains of anti-intellectualism. If an atmosphere of stasis as opposed to study flourishes, an erosion of military members’ interest in their vocation as a social trust profession is likely to follow. It comes, then, as no surprise to learn that some ADF members do not believe the profession of arms is a bona fide profession. In August 2021, an ADF one-star officer stated: 

The “profession” of arms is a polarising term. I do not think the military is a profession and think that the “profession of arms” bit is overdone in the doctrine. If this is intended for all ranks, do junior ranks consider the military a profession? Does the military meet any of the tests to be a profession and is the answer consistent across all ranks? [The] Profession of Arms may not be an accurate title/reference for the whole of the ADF. 

It is a mistake to dismiss this view as merely that of a maverick. It draws its rationale from the reality that functionally the Australian officer corps often resembles a hybrid of profession and bureaucracy. The ADF cannot afford to neglect the bureaucratic aspect of military activity. It is the task of the strategic stewards to ensure a proper balance exists between bureaucratic efficiency and military effectiveness, with the former prevented from compromising, or displacing, the latter. 

Militaries whose leaders fail to balance their bureaucratic-professional interface successfully, invariably experience a decline in their professional character, as many observers have noted with regard to the German Bundeswehr and several other Western European militaries.


Expanding jurisdictional pressures: The military officer as a national security professional

Australian military professionals are often required to operate in a broader framework of “whole-of-government” national security. In recent years, the ADF has been involved in immigration control, drought relief, flood and bush fire emergencies and in Covid pandemic control. There have been calls for the Australian military to become an “alchemical blend of multiple archetypes” encompassing ersatz emergency services officer, diplomat, police officer and social worker. 

Such calls are ill-considered and unpersuasive. Military professionals are not, except as a last resort, civil emergency workers. No sensible country designs its armed forces to carry the burden of emergency requirements at the expense of their role as war-fighters. As Harold Lasswell observed in 1950, “there are no experts in national security. There are only experts on aspects of the problem.” In the 2020s, the ADF must be prepared to lead “whole-of-government” defence missions and contribute to humanitarian and disaster relief operations, but never in the role of first responders. Military operations, not civil missions, are the ADF’s core business and concern the lawful delivery of organised violence in the service of the state. 


Lack of a single body of academic knowledge for military education

American Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling wrote in his 1960 book The Strategy of Conflict that “the military services, in contrast to almost any other sizable or respectable profession, have no identifiable academic counterpart”. Unlike law or medicine, the body of knowledge required for the military is interdisciplinary. Military art and science represent a corpus that encompasses academic education, professional expertise and training regimes. This led Napoleon Bonaparte to famously proclaim that the military profession was “the giant among the branches of learning for it embraces them all”.

As a result, Australian military education is generalist in character, with academic material assuming a significant role but often lacking clear military specification of what fields or disciplines must be studied. This leads to academic context dominating over professional content, because most Australian universities lack defence studies expertise. Professional subjects such as military theory, the history of operational and strategic art, military sociology and civil-military relations are either ignored or treated superficially. 


Reforming Australian military education

The endemic weaknesses of Australian military education are not appreciated by the stewards of the ADF. One might, then, pose Lenin’s famous question: “What is to be done?” Four reform measures are essential in an age of automated warfare and precision weaponry. 

The first is philosophical and requires a re-conception of Australian military education as a holistic activity embracing three tiers (training, professional foundation studies and academic study) 

Second, the ADF must reduce its reliance on long episodic residential courses in favour of shorter continuous learning. It needs to exploit digital technology to keep its officer corps abreast of changing operational and strategic conditions. 

The third reform is the creation of a “soldier-scholar” cadre of specialists in military subjects that are beyond the capacity of civilian universities. 

Finally, the ADF would greatly benefit from the creation of a joint studies centre to ensure that changes in warfare can be fed into education for up-to-date professional practice. 

For Australian military education in the twenty-first century to be effective there is a pressing need to introduce a three-layer continuum of education in which academic study and training are linked by professional foundation studies (understanding of war and the military vocation). In such a system, military education is understood holistically as a gestalt in which education and training both contribute to an effective military. As General David Berger, Commandant of the US Marine Corps, observed in July 2019, “we will not train without the presence of education; we must not educate without the complementary execution of well-conceived training”. 

In Australia, Berger’s symbiosis between military education and training can only be achieved by developing a tripartite system. First, military training (provided by uniformed military experts); second, professional foundation studies (provided by permanent defence scholars and military professionals in unison); and third, academic education (provided by contracted university scholars). What is missing at present are professional foundation studies, defined by the Routledge Handbook of Defence Studies (2018) as studies which draw on academic and military knowledge to promote the effectiveness and viability of military organisations. Today, what passes for professional foundation studies in the ADF is either conflated with academic teaching or confused with training regimes.

Contemporary military education is being transformed by digital technologies that permit lifelong learning through a hybrid of residential and remote courses. Into the 2030s, we face the coming of a human-machine learning interface that is likely to revolutionise how military professionals are intellectually prepared for their duties. The traditional “sage on a stage” will be joined by the “guide on the side” on a screen in smaller, shorter, blended “remote-residential” courses designed to keep defence professionals up to date.

As the American Joint Chiefs of Staff pointed out in May 2020 in Developing Today’s Joint Officers for Tomorrow’s Ways of War, military education in all advanced armed forces must produce an “outcomes-based approach” derived from a clear understanding of the accelerating forces of technological and geopolitical change. A series of Profession of Arms Foundation Courses, scaffolded across a thirty-year career, needs to be introduced to ensure no gaps in military knowledge are allowed to emerge. It should cover the history and sociology of the profession of arms; the philosophy of war and military and conflict theory; civil-military relations and the sinews of mobilisation; the principles of operational and strategic art; and key trends in the future of warfare. 


Professional expertise to guide academic input 

There is a popular saying among military educators that “chalk dust must support gun smoke”. One of the reasons for the poor state of Australian professional military education is that external academic providers allowed chalk dust to eclipse gun smoke. There is a constant, unresolved philosophical tension between academic imperatives and enhancing military effectiveness. 

This results in a “knowledge vacuum” because of the ADF’s institutional inability to define the kind of education it needs at a given time. A central paradox thus exists because academic university educators are not military specialists and professional military specialists are not academic educators. This leads to an intolerable situation if what is taught in the lecture hall fails to reflect what is occurring in professional practice. As a result, the ADF is often forced, by its own lack of expertise, to pursue an education policy that pursues peacetime efficiency in preference to preparing for wartime effectiveness.

At the core of the knowledge vacuum lie the cultural differences between soldiers and scholars. As James Holmes, a leading military educator at the US Naval War College, noted in 2014:

Theory for professional schools is prescriptive. It’s a toolkit the practitioner uses to analyse tough problems he encounters in the bare-knuckles world of politics and strategy. Theory for university departments is largely descriptive. It’s a tool to appraise the nature of nation states, the structure and dynamics of the international system … It supplies context. 

Oxford-educated United States Air Force officer, Brigadier General Paula Thornhill, a former Dean of Faculty at the US National War College, and the Canadian military theorist Colonel Charles S. Oliviero have pondered the paradox that while Western military officers are more highly educated today than ever before, their eclectic collection of university degrees bear little resemblance to the demands of a twenty-first-century profession of arms. 

General Thornhill has called for “quality staff officer education” to be emphasised and has criticised the prevalence of academic credentialism over professional expertise. For those who support “academic university knowledge” as the lynchpin of officer education, it is preferable to promote broad-based critical ability drawn from a general study of history, the social sciences, ethics, international relations and country area studies. The university approach in military education is most firmly associated with American civilian critics of war colleges such as Thomas Ricks and Howard Wiarda, who fear that the hierarchical culture of military institutions is inherently antithetical to the free contest of ideas in education. 

In advanced military education systems such as those of the United States and Canada, a judicious balance between “pen and sword” is sought. The dilemma Australia faces is that the scales between the sword of professional expertise and the pen of academic knowledge are heavily weighted in favour of the latter. The stewards of the ADF have a moral responsibility to ensure that what is taught supports, not supplants, the needs of military knowledge. Anything less represents a dereliction of duty.

Added to the lack of education expertise inside the ADF is the absence of a joint studies centre to support learning, promote professional knowledge and undertake applied research. This has led to a creeping intellectual devitalisation.

A joint studies centre would also provide a useful home for the “soldier-scholar” cadre that Australia desperately requires. Lacking any institutional focus for the interdisciplinary study of war, many Australian military professionals are content to leave theoretical investigation of war to civilian scholars and pundits in university departments and think-tanks. The problem with this is that since most academics and pundits have never worn military uniform, their musings on war have the surreal quality of lifelong celibates engaged in meditations on sex. As Australia enters the most volatile and dangerous strategic environment since the end of the Cold War, the logic for a joint studies centre is compelling. 



The philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote that “the central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people”. Over the past quarter of a century, Australian military education has faltered in this core task.

In December, I sat at the annual Australian Defence College graduation at ADFA in Canberra surrounded by scarlet and black academic gowns and a Ruritanian assembly of glittering military uniforms. In an atmosphere of splendour, student officers received their degrees and diplomas from the Governor-General and were applauded by an array of senior military dignitaries as well as families and friends. As officer after officer passed briskly before me, I reflected that I was watching the generation most likely to be called upon to lead the Australian armed forces in the danse macabre of any future major war. I pondered sadly the inadequacy of the educational system responsible for their professional readiness, and the moral culpability of a generation of Defence officials and military leaders in failing to introduce timely reforms to meet the demands of twenty-first-century warfare. I was overcome by a sense of foreboding and, as I rose to depart, the words of Aeschylus came hauntingly to my mind: 

So, in the Libyan fable it is told that once an eagle, stricken with a dart, said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft, “With our own feathers, not by others’ hands, are we now smitten.”

Professor Michael Evans is the General Sir Francis Hassett Chair of Military Studies in Deakin University at the Australian Defence College. This article draws on a major study by the author, Vincible Ignorance: Reforming Australian Professional Military Education to Meet the Demands of the Twenty-First Century (December 2023), available at

16 thoughts on “Why the ADF Risks Failure in the Next War

  • DougD says:

    Look no further than today’s Herald:

    “Military dog handlers will be retrained to limit “cultural sensitivity risks” when confronting enemy fighters or terrorists, in a woke extension of the ADF’s Special Forces overhaul.

    The bizarre edict from Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell is among 48 newly completed culture directives stemming from the damming Afghanistan Inquiry”

    No wonder the general thinks we now need to recruit mercenaries from the South Pacific..

  • Daffy says:

    If the ADF is now worse than it was, I reflect back to my experience as an officer cadet in the 80s at Bardia Barracks. I was singularly struck by a few things aside from the comical charade of ‘discipline’ as pimply second lieutenants kept guard in the mess as though we were a bunch of recalcitrant children. There was the comical ‘abuse’ to ensure we knew our place, but I knew Sgt. C knew that we knew it was part of the play he was directing.
    No, what struck me were some astonishing events; a fellow cadet asked about ‘cannon fodder’ and bayonet charges. Clearly a student of the comic book history of WW1. Sgt mumbled an answer…couldn’t give a real one. I thought it would be improper for me to explain it for them. Then was the famous episode at a training session in field health, taken by the same versatile Sgt C. who, when the RMO didn’t show informed us that he would give this lecture, as he’d ‘heard it a hundred times’. I was impressed at the Army’s approach to training.
    But the jackpot event was a chat with a US friend who wondered what reading list of military classics we’d been given…just for perusal in our own time. I let him in on the national secret: none!


    Send the sisters in arms and brothers in in gender fluid to China for training in their armed forces. As the Chinese military would say: dà shēng xiào!

  • Dallas Beaufort says:

    Ponder this,The Green enemy is waging war inside the gates already backed by Australia’s academies, delinquent, superfluous, running on below industrial empty.

  • pgang says:

    Peace-time countries are never prepared for war. In WW1 our soldiers started off as an ill-disciplined, poorly trained rabble with zero support technology. In WW2 things were even worse – no soldiers, no weapons, no aircraft, nothing. So what’s new? The only question is who will front up our military supplies and manpower when we need them again. Because it won’t be us.
    The big question here for me is why an ambassador from one of the most corrupt nations on earth – a nation that bombed its own population for years – is talking to the ADF and high school kids in Australia. And why would you quote such a person as a source of authority?

  • melb says:

    An excellent and.alarming but on reflection, a not surprising exposition. The bean counters have a stranglehold on the profession. If it continues this way, our demise is assured. Our lack of strategic industry and fuel and the anti-merit diversity, equality and inclusion policies will hasten the process.
    I was struck by this statement; “no evident plans exist for the mobilisation of the population to defend our way of life”. I grew up in the era of school cadets, National Service and the Citizen Military Forces. My mate and I and many others, volunteered for the CMF in the time between the NS schemes. At the same time the Government also encouraged the National Rifle Association of Australia.
    But now we have Governments, both State and Federal, that appear dedicated to the disarmament of private citizens under the false pretext that this will prevent crime. No doubt those same Governments will hand over the registration records of private firearms to the incoming power in the interest of a peaceful transition.

  • Mike says:

    God help us!

    Never a truer saying than, ‘A fish rots from the head’.

    Top spies replaced with climate change boss on Albo’s chief security committee


  • Mike says:

    The Australian Defence Force recruiting ad shown above, ‘Sisters of the Left’, comes in at second place, ranking behind the US recuriting video.


  • Michael Mundy says:

    ‘In advanced military education systems such as those of the United States’
    A great model for the ADF that have resulted in leading or guiding the strategic disasters that are Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Niger, Iraq and Syria.
    The only successes from the USA in the 21st Century have been technology driven through aerial bombing and drone strikes. The anachronistic concept of a military profession smacks of cult and religious thought processes.

  • Alistair says:

    “Why the ADF Risks Failure in the Next War”
    I’m wondering when the last war it was victorious in was.
    OK WW2 (with a little help)
    Iraq? well ? Not exactly a crowning glory over all.
    I’m not even sure that they didnt come second in the Northern Territory Intervention.

  • rmclean says:

    The ADF is a snapshot of modern society , this is even truer today then in years gone by.
    I joined the RAN as a recruit and at the age of 18 retired in 2010,and have noted the decline in society social standards which are reflected in the ADF.
    When I joined the majority of senior officers were WW11 or Korea veterans, they understood the importance, significance and dangerous outcomes of a war at sea.
    These officers are long gone and now we are left with business administrators and gender diversity warriors in Canberra whose only interest is medal acquisition and promotion. With no knowledge how to lead men in times of battle and extreme danger.
    I fear the only way out of this social and military quagmire is the death and injury of many young people and perhaps as a result the true military leaders will emerge. If only we have the time which I doubt.

  • rmclean says:

    The ADF is a snapshot of modern society , this is even truer today then in years gone by.
    I joined the RAN as a recruit in 1968 at the age of 18 and retired in 2010,and have noted the decline in society social standards which are reflected in the ADF.
    When I joined the majority of senior officers were WW11 or Korea veterans, they understood the importance, significance and dangerous outcomes of a war at sea.
    These officers are long gone and now we are left with business administrators and gender diversity warriors in Canberra whose only interest is medal acquisition and promotion. With no knowledge how to lead men in times of battle and extreme danger.
    I fear the only way out of this social and military quagmire is the death and injury of many young people and perhaps as a result the true military leaders will emerge. If only we have the time which I doubt.

  • W.A. Reid says:

    ‘… Moreover, when soldiers from the Special Forces can be accused of war crimes—but no senior officers are held accountable—something is wrong in the professional culture of the ADF.’

    This acute observation by Professor Evans demands far more attention than being a passing remark in an article that, for all its erudition, will receive scant contemplation and attention.

    Below is an extract from a letter from me to national newspapers that was not accepted for publication [double quotation marks are used here for emphasis]. It should be read bearing in mind several relevant quotations:

    • In 2022 the CDF, General Angus Campbell, told the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, ‘It is command. It is my responsibility, my accountability … I am accountable and commanders are accountable.’ [The Canberra Times, 27 June 22]
    • In 2023 retired Major General Mick Ryan wrote, ‘Two Australian judges have exposed war crimes by Australian special forces soldiers but have also shown how the command and leadership culture of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) failed.’ [The Canberra Times, 22 June 2023]

    ‘Senior military commanders must be held legally and morally responsible for the actions of those under their command.

    ADF doctrinal publications, issued by authority of the CDF, state inter alia that ‘Military commanders of all Services and at all levels bear responsibility for “ensuring” that forces under their control comply with the Laws of Armed Conflict [LOAC] … A commander is also “accountable” if [he/she] fails to prevent a breach of the LOAC of which [he/she] “should have known”.

    Further, in coalition operations, such as Afghanistan, a “primary duty” of a ‘national commander’ is to protect “national” interests within “national” guidelines. This includes ensuring compliance by Australian forces with LOAC and the Rules of Engagement (ROE), “nation-specific” directions the issuance of which is a “national” responsibility.

    There are no exculpatory notes in the doctrine that allow for factors such as physical location, a lack of direct operational authority, an ‘abandoned curiosity’, or a ‘misplaced trust’.

    In the case of allegations arising from Special Operations Task Group [SOTG] operations in Afghanistan, Major General Brereton reasoned that in exercising ‘national command’ the Commander of JTF633 ‘did not have a sufficient degree of command and control to attract the principle of command responsibility’. This he attributed to the Commander not having operational command over the SOTG, and his headquarters not being adequately positioned ‘organisationally or geographically’.

    By way of example, compare and contrast Brereton’s conclusion with the testament of Major General John Cantwell, the national commander of JTF633 in 2010-11, in his book ‘Exit Wounds’ (2013):

    ‘My Australian military and political masters are hypersensitive to any possible misstep or misbehaviour by our troops, so every potentially negative episode, big or small, costs many hours in reports, investigations, and follow-up actions … The hunger for information is insatiable, the microscope constantly focused on every move.’

    Cantwell recounts being ordered to return from leave in Australia by then CDF Angus Houston, worried that an incident involving a drunk soldier and use of an opiate might have wider implications: ‘… this needs your special leadership skills.’

    Specifically in relation to SOTG operations, Cantwell writes of the ‘many briefings I will receive in this [the SOTG] compound’, of a secure phone call with the SOTG commander telling him of a firefight in progress ‘in a mission which I had recently approved’, and of further SOTG visits and briefings.

    This is evidence of a degree of operational oversight, not to say micro-management, by a ‘national commander’ well into a period when there was ‘a growing body of actual and anecdotal evidence … [suggesting] that the personal and professional ethics of some have been deeply compromised’ (Special Operations Commander Major General Jeff Sengelman, quoted in 2016).

    Within the military ethos it was once sacrosanct that inherent in the principle of ‘command responsibility’ was the understanding that while authority could be delegated, responsibility and accountability could never be. Not so now, it appears.

  • Bosun says:

    It is my understanding that responsibility can be delegated but not accountability.

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