Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 06:22 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 06:22 | SYDNEY

Defence White Paper debate: Round 10

26 September 2008 11:50

Guest blogger: Marc Gugliotta is participating in our student blog debate on the Defence White Paper.

Let’s talk about land forces then. Instead of using our Army for stabilisation and peacekeeping operations, let's create a non-military force whose primary training is to maintain law and order. A rough idea of what I have in mind is the Italian Carabinieri which, in an Australian context, would be an expanded AFP International Deployment Group (IDG). The idea is to have a force that is capable enough to deal with most low-level operations (eg. light armoured mobility and firepower of a light infantry squad) but whose primary focus and training is on how to stabilise and police rather than how to kill.

I would argue that we should keep the Army for its main purpose, that of combat. In stabilisation missions, the Army would still be needed for the initial phase and as overwatch in case a situation arises which this non-military force cannot handle. And expanded IDG would be cheaper. They would be better at stabilisation and it would take some of the pressure off the Army both in operational tempo as well as training.

In any coalition operation where heavy land forces are required, the wisest move is to send the same units that we could use for our own sea denial strategy. For me that’s combat aircraft and submarines. If we do get the Air Warfare Destroyers, they would also fit in a coalition fleet. But heavy land forces seem to be incongruous for Australia. We can pull our weight in our alliances without heavy land forces, through the use of capabilities like Special Forces and also force multiplying assets such as the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control, KC-30B air-to-air refuelers or even the electronic warfare Super-Hornets (if we get them). These, as well as existing air and maritime assets, would be much more useful than a mechanised infantry brigade. In other, lower intensity situations, existing Army and hypothetical IDG forces would be more than adequate to pull our weight.

I think we should seriously consider Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD). BMD is destabilising between great powers but as we have no offensive nuclear capability, a BMD shield could make sense, especially as defence against coercion by less capable actors in the region. I say this because I believe in the medium term BMD will become more common in the region and the world as ballistic missiles, nuclear or not, proliferate. And if we’re going to buy the Air Warfare Destroyers this might be the role for them.