Submission on Defence Review 2000 - Our Future Defence Force

This is one of a number of documents concerning ex-Major Allan K Warren.

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In this submission I give my opinions on Defence events, people and culture that will have a direct effect on its ability to develop its future capabilities.

The Department of Defence Public Discussion Paper (PDP) of June 2000 has received good public response as an information and well-written document. It ought to be for two reasons:

1. it is lobbying popular support for billions from the public purse
2. it is Defence propaganda at its best whilst at the same time providing little if any change in Defence culture.

The potential success of the PDP lies in its marketing strategy. It is easy to digest and has cost little to produce. Furthermore its stated aim "to be more open about the business of making defence policy" promises to bring military policy to the level of popular culture. Military strategy has always relied on illusion. This marketing ploy is no different. Here Defence’s agenda is to prioritise Defence spending in a political climate where Australians are experiencing continuing withdrawal of government services e.g. health and education.

Foremost is the question how has both Defence financial management and military leadership given rise to the electorate’s loss of trust and confidence in it as an organization? Instead the public has the marketing of an "openness" thus putting aside the gravity of Defence’s on-going incompetency and improbity.

Instead of marketing Defence’s need for extra billions of dollars, the salient task of the Community Consultation Team (CCT), headed by Mr Andrew Peacock, ought to be establishing the casual factors of Defence’s systemic failures in maintaining and developing the capabilities of the Defence force. This would be "openness" that would be easily understood by the taxpayers.

Employing a consultant to write what is wanted is well understood. Mr Peacock understands this in spite of his public denial "I’m not a stunt player, I’m out of the game" (SMH 22.7.00). He clearly understands what the game plan is and while he may be out of "it" current politicians and service chiefs (i.e. the decision-makers) are still in "it". Hence their single-minded lobbying for a larger stake of the public purse coupled with their determination to avoid accountability.

The electorate has good reason to be suspicious of new promises of Defence reforms. They have failed to materialise in the past. No one now is in any doubt that systemic failures in miliary leadership have seriously compromised the integrity and worth of the Australian Defence Force’s morale, capabilities and cost-effectiveness. Defence has been dogged by mismanagement, waste and lack of moral courage. Collective cynicism and a culture of denial and cover-up have allowed this state of affairs to continue for years. Its leadership culture is incapable of self-reform. Instead it has embarked on a new cant as a substitute for competency, integrity and responsibility.

The Australian Defence Force Journal (ADFJ) No 142 article by Brigadier (Ret’d) Nick Jans inadvertently gives substance to the case against the culture in military leadership. Brigadier Jans was recently the Chair of Officer Professional Effectiveness Review for the Army (Project OPERA). He is a management consultant and in the past five years has largely been concerned with human resource management issues in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Brigadier Jans’ article starts with an acknowledgement of the recent open criticism by Mr Alan Hawke, Secretary of Dept. of Defence of a "credibility problem associated with widespread dissatisfaction with Defence’s performance in Canberra", particularly the problems of leadership. Hawke states "often it seems that wherever one sits in the hierarchy all problems besetting the organisation in terms of its management and leadership come from higher up the ladder".

It is these very same top ranking officers with their bureaucratic networking who now expect, if not demand, that billions of extra taxpayer dollars be given to them so they can supposedly shape the future of the ADF. The illusion here is that much of this alleged "shaping the future" is no more than repairing the vandalism and stolen opportunities that have been perpetrated by this same culture of failure. This excludes the millions of dollars lost by Defence Minister Moore’s own failure to hedge against changes in the value of the dollar for Defence’s procurement of equipment overseas.

Detailed below are my opinions as to why I believe Brig. Jans’ ADFJ No 142 article demands to be challenged. It is my opinion the cant within his article exemplifies why Defence has habitually failed to provide and maintain competent and professional leadership standards by its senior officers.

Jans argues the problems of "higher leadership" that persistently undermines the Department of Defence are in Jans’ words: "All this is nobody’s fault" (ADFJ No.142 p7). Instead he blames "the system". For all Jans’ flawed reasoning in arriving at such a perverse conclusion he would have done better to put the blame on the fairies at the bottom of the garden. His reasoning runs something like the following: - General Cosgrove is a current good example of how the best of the best officers rise through the system to get the top jobs. He, and others like him (including himself) are the product of Defence’s focus on training them in the art of war as central to their career development. But this focus on the "tactical" and "operational" levels of war is at the expense of training in "the way that (the military) shapes and positions itself within its operational environment (ADFJ p.6). Hence senior officers posted to the "sociologically complex arena" of Canberra are untrained for the peacetime appointment that awaits them there. Thus Jans’ model advances the bizarre argument that General Cosgrove is bound to fail in his new Canberra appointment as he has not been properly trained for it! To substantiate his position Jans states that the task of deploying the INTERFET force to East Timor is different to running a military personnel system (in Canberra). He then advances his argument that "the system is to blame". He uses the implausible logic that whilst tactical objectives are clear to the art of war trained officers such as General Cosgrove, these same officers, once posted to Canberra have difficulty running a "military personnel system". Jans claims this is made more difficult because these Generals now have to cope with the "small-p organisational politics" at Canberra.

My concerns at this point are:

False imagery of General Cosgrove as a victor in the art of war and in tactical excellence has been exploited by Brig. Jans for insidious motives. The serious question for the Australian public is is General Cosgrove acquiescing in this misrepresentation? He certainly has a motive and perhaps is playing the "small-p" politics of Canberra that Jans implies is above the learned skills of the generals. Cosgrove’s aim would be to seize as many extra billions of taxpayer’s dollars as he can get for Defence.

Jans continues his argument in a clear and methodical way. The persistent failure of our top generals to competently perform their "higher leadership" duties at Army Office, Canberra is attributed to their lack of training and experience in non art of war or non-tactical duties. Coupled to this is their lack of skill and experience in "small-p" politics in Army Office. His conclusion in essence is that these generals are not responsible nor should be held accountable for their habitual incompetencies and failures whilst posted to Canberra.

One has to question why the government is paying Brig (Ret’d) Jans as a consultant on military leadership and personnel management. Contrary to what Jans tells us, General Cosgrove has demonstrated excellent skills in "small-p" politics, as have most of the cunning generals who preceded him to Canberra.

Whilst Jans argues that the generals are unskilled in the art of politics the reality is that they continue to function as an untouchable and unaccountable class beyond the scrutiny of successive Ministers e.g. Collins Class Submarine Project and the Military Justice Procedure Inquiry.

Nor is there anything novel in Brig. Jans’ additional point (ADFJ No.142 p6) that service officers’ skills and craft are compromised by job rotation every two to three years, often in unrelated areas. It does nothing to advance his aim to establish that the generals are not to blame for their incompetence in Canberra appointments, for example in charge of a military personnel system.

The problem of job rotation in the military has existed and been studied for over half a century in Australia. It has not been resolved because the trade-off in making longer tenure postings for individual officers is loss of experience and multiple skill acquisition for those same officers. If officers are more specialised and become battle casualties they are not readily replaceable. Hence one of the basic principles of war - flexibility - is lost. This point is poignant to the ADF as it is a small force and its numbers have been significantly reduced in recent years.

Brig. Jans’ claim that focus on tactical training of top military officers inhibits their competency to perform Canberra peacetime jobs is nothing less than warped. It is over a quarter of a century and not since Mr Andrew Peacock was then Minister for Army that the ADF was in a real war situation in Vietnam. If the generals haven’t been able to manage a peace time ADF for the past 20 years then there is no valid reason to suggest that they can better develop the "higher leadership" capabilities needed to manage it into the future, with or without a General Cosgrove. It therefore begs the question why they would be demanding more from the public purse?

Ex-Senator David MacGibbon no doubt would recognise from my six submissions to the 1998 Inquiry into Military Justice Procedures in the ADF that there is a grave incapacity of the army generals to distinguish between proper and improper military law and administration. Nor can they comprehend the consequences of their incapacities. Brig. Jans argues that they should not be held responsible and are not to blame, as they have not been trained to run a military personnel system. Such an argument is merely posturing excuses for present and future incapabilities. It is no solution.

Defence senior officers have failed to live up to the standards of professionalism and competency they seek to enforce on their subordinates. This is a far cry from the line being promoted by Jans to the effect: "Don’t worry mates, its not your fault - blame the system". No doubt this is exactly the consultancy cant the military chiefs want said and written. It conveniently coincides with:

"…the creation of a bizarre structures at the apex of the (Defence) hierarchy, in which the Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force will serve on a "board" under the chairmanship of the Minister. This means that the minister’s political accountability will become thoroughly confused with the administrative and command accountabilities of his subordinates under the legislation from which they derive their powers and responsibilities" - Paul Barrett, former Secretary of Dept. of Defence SMH 28 June 2000 p19

But the alarming concern remains the almost machiavellism of Howard’s Government to remove ministerial and military command accountability or culpability from their decision-making.

Mr Barrett has called upon the government "to show leadership - to face up to the issues and get on with it." But it cannot nor will not. Instead it seeks to obfuscate and evade responsibility and accountability whilst at the same time contrives the means of extracting billions of additional taxpayer dollars from the public. Mr Barrett has also publicly asked of Minister for Defence, Mr Moore not to be coy about the amount of taxpayer dollars he is after.

On 13 August 1981 the then Field Force Commander, Major General Grey was reported in Melbourne’s ‘The Age’ newspaper for his statement on military discipline. He criticised solders for their cynicism and complained that middle and junior officers lacked moral courage in leadership.

Without doubt these are signs of poor morale. They result from poor leadership by senior officers who have for nearly two decades typically:

Soldiers and junior officers are well aware of these attitudes so they become cynical and have little respect nor trust in their senior officers.

Major General Grey’s 1981 position runs in tandem with Brigadier Jans’ 2000 position. Consequently we have had 20 years of military financial waste and irresponsibility coupled with failed leadership models. To rectify this senior officers need to show they have moral courage themselves. They should accept responsibility for their failed standards in leadership. Criticism of lower ranks or merely blaming "the system" ignores the causes of failures in strategic human resource management in the ADF.

Evasion of issues is one of the most widely employed managerial techniques used by

Senior officers in the ADF. Such mentality is transparent in and indicative of "higher leadership" over the past 20 years.

Improving the future shape of the Defence Force must start with an honest acknowledgement by the responsible minister and the service chiefs that loyalty to ‘old-boy’ network cultures must not have dominance over and be subversive to fidelity to public duty. "Old-boy’ cultures breed self-interest and improbity. They undermine the military ethos. "Higher leadership" incompetence and financial waste and irresponsibility follow.

So what has Defence done to date to solve these grave problems? It seems that it has hired ex-senior officers as consultants to advise it not to blame the generals - just blame the system. It is no wonder that Mr Paul Barrett is repeatedly calling upon Defence Minister Moore to be honest with the public; to have the moral courage to face up to the causal factors for the systemic failures in Defence leadership and to "get on with it".

In the past a succession of Ministers for Defence remained silent and inactive on the serious issue of failed military leadership. This has been to explicitly and implicitly accept chronic maladministration and financial squandering within their Defence portfolio responsibility. In turn this has undermined the public’s trust and reliance in the legality, ethics and competency of Defence leadership.

The Government now seems to want to play upon the personality imagery of one man - General Cosgrove - to smoke screen years of systemic Defence mismanagement. Much of that imagery is illusionary and built upon myth such as to be found in Brig (Ret’d) Jans’ ADFJ article. The Government’s agenda now is to use this imagery as part of its propaganda to fillet off the Australian taxpayer billions more dollars for Defence.

There is an insidious twist hidden in Brig. Jans’ reasoning. General Cosgrove, now Chief of the General Staff- Army, will be incompetent in fulfilling his "higher leadership" duties at Army Office. But he cannot be held responsible as the system is to be blamed. Then taxpayers will be asked to put billions of dollars MORE into Defence to compensate for his failures and the failures of others like him.

Brigadier Jans ADF article, like the Defence PDP "Defence Review 2000" is well written and its credentials look most plausible. Hence the mendacity of both texts needs to be laid bare.

Only an indifferent or gullible public would agree to an increase in Defence expenditure until it had established a long term and sustainable improvement in its honestly and competency in its dealings with portfolio responsible ministers, the parliament, the public and subordinate service men and women.

It could start with an honest and competent resolution of the ex-Major Warren case which "higher leadership" has covered-up and cowered from for near on 20 years. And ex-Senator D MacGibbon would know exactly what I mean by this. My submissions to his 1998 Inquiry were a call to the government to respect the rule of law and for the Generals to show moral courage and leadership. Parliamentarians had the opportunity then in that Inquiry to turn the tide against the improbity and incompetence of the Canberra generals. Nothing has changed within the military as a result of that Military Justice Procedures Inquiry. Senator MacGibbon is in the best position to know why this is so. In the same way nor will Defence culture change as a result of Prime Minister Howard’s "consultation" and "openness" with the public with regard to the future of our Defence Force. And Andrew Peacock would understand Howard’s "game" been played against the taxpaying public.

Yours sincerely,

Mr A K Warren

31 August 2000