Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 05:51 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 05:51 | SYDNEY

Defence 'jointery': It not about the services

1 April 2010 09:55

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.

Graeme Dobell raises the issue of 'Jointery', but he has chosen the wrong messenger to shoot.

The problem with ADF jointery is not with the fact that that there are three services. The issue is whether or not the three services can fight together. If you got rid of the three services tomorrow, you would just have to re-invent them in a different form, as the Canadians found out.

The ADF is effectively (and admirably) joint at the top, in its strategic functions relating to the political level, in determining and implementing future structures and materiel, and in its operational command and control. This does not necessarily mean that it is doing these functions at the top perfectly or even well, but it does them jointly.

Graeme is right in seeing the ADF's use of the word 'joint' as being mainly rhetorical, at least below the top level. A joint operation is one where more than one service is involved, and operations around Baghdad or in Afghanistan, despite being hundreds of kilometres from the sea, are very joint for the big players. 

But if you are Australia, you place your small, essentially single-service force under foreign control, and then use a joint national commanders to limit severely what they are permitted to do. No screaming reason to be joint here; in fact, no apparent reason for Australia to be joint since the end of World War II.

I have often said that the ADF could not operate in a serious conflict at any level of sophistication as a joint force. It does not have good doctrine for it, it does not have the equipment that works together at any level of sophistication, it does not do joint professional military education, it rarely practices jointery and when it does have joint exercises, they avoid the hard bits, especially when the US is involved. The standards set for achieving joint training objectives are, to put it bluntly, pathetic.

That is not to say that lots of fine army, navy and air force people are not out there trying to overcome this problem, and some of them are very senior. But the fault is at the very top. Firstly, our political leadership, despite frequently using the word 'joint', do not see any value in jointery below the top level with which they interact.

The key to a joint ADF is to focus not on the uniforms, but on how the ADF may have to fight. The person responsible for this is the Vice Chief of the Defence Force as the Joint Capability Manager, but he faces a severe imbalance in decision-making power in the competition for resources with the Service chiefs and others. If I could change one thing about Defence to make it effectively joint, it would be to elevate the position of VCDF far above the Service Chiefs.

Being joint is about leadership and power from the top, and about resources. It is not and has never ever been about the colour of uniforms.

Photo courtesy of the Department of Defence.