Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 16:17 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 16:17 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: What to do with our not-warships


Sam Roggeveen


8 August 2008 12:02

Campbell writes (my response follows):

I would like to congratulate you on advancing the idea that other governmental departments could utilise our logistical defence assets for roles that we are perhaps more likely to deal with as opposed to 'traditional' military responsibilities. This is not to say that I argue against the ADF primarily focussed on traditional state-on-state conflict scenarios, but it seems rational to suggest that we could use the assets we buy for the purposes of traditional usages for more likely humanitarian or disaster scenarios in the interim.

As a student currently studying strategy and defence, I understand the often tedious debate surrounding 'traditional' versus 'non-traditional' roles for the ADF. I can understand both side's arguments in regards to personnel and combat capabilities and the problems encountered through 'flexibility of force'. However, it seems a little irrational to suggest that an asset bought for a 'traditional' role and yet perfectly suited for alternative functions is then left unused. My only criticism however, is that we then encounter a situation whereby we may start looking at traditional capabilities and purchase assets based primarily on whether we 'can make use of them' whilst we 'wait' for a state-on-state situation to arise.

Cheers for the great work on the blog. Right now I am sitting through a week-long course on Chinese Strategic Challenges, and The Interpreter provides me with an occasional breather.

Music to my ears, Campbell. I'm in my mid-30s, yet I still wake in fright occasionally after dreaming that I have an exam the next morning. So I'm glad to offer any distraction I can for you and your fellow students (intellectually nourishing distraction, of course).

On the substance of your email, I don't think the issue of using ADF assets for non-military purposes is all that controversial, although some argue that we expect too much of the ADF in disaster scenarios.

But the argument I floated in my post goes further, suggesting that maybe some of these assets should not belong exclusively to the ADF at all. I picked the new amphibious ships as examples because the chances that they will ever be used in their war fighting role is almost zero. So why do these ships need to belong to Navy? Why not renounce the fiction they are warships, and exploit them fully for the role they are most likely to fulfill anyway?

Of course, it's one thing to argue what these ships should not be, but quite another to offer suggestions as to what they should be. I suggested refering to the amphibious ships as 'national logisitical assets' operated jointly by various government agencies, but I don't yet have any specific idea as to what that would involve, or what kind of structure could be put in place to achieve it. It's a work in progress.