In 2014, the Australian Army commenced an intellectual pivot designed to review the lessons of the past 15 years, better understand the future operating environment and ensure Australian soldiers could prevail in ‘the first fight of the next war’. Elements of this included the Future Land Warfare Report, the Afghanistan lessons initiative, the ‘Building on Beersheba’ papers and the new version of Army’s caption doctrine, The Fundamentals of Land Power.
To continue the intellectual growth of the Army, and enhance its ability to think about how it builds future capability, the Chief of Army has endorsed a new review that has examined the future of the Army’s development of its people. In particular, it focussed on improving education, training and doctrine and ensuring these elements are combined to build individual and collective professional mastery in contemporary and future Australian Army soldiers and officers.
The Army has a tradition of focussing on training and excelling in the day to day operations of soldiering. However, the institutional value placed on education and doctrine has not always reached the same level as that of training and daily operations. One of the key aims of the new review is to ensure that training, operations, education and doctrine are equally valued and that Army’s investment in these areas is well informed and appropriately synchronised.
The Australian Army possesses all of the ingredients for a world class, education, training and doctrine system. It recruits some of the finest young men and women Australia has to offer. It is the beneficiary very good training infrastructure and a well trained instructor workforce. The Army actively thinks about and seeks to shape its future as part of a joint and Defence approach. And yet, as the review notes, these assets separately do not guarantee a world class education, training and doctrine system now or into the future.
The constituent elements are generally sound, but they are not knitted together in a cohesive, unified system within Army that is guided by strategic view of Army’s future human capacity needs. The current system could also better exploit ‘futures’ studies and forward planning to ensure the Army is able to generate individual and collective professional mastery over the next two decades.
The review examines a range of issues but centres on four key elements: the ‘system’, a loosely defined and implicit object at present; education and professional military education; training and doctrine. The review provides recommendations and priorities – and these have now been endorsed by the Chief of Army. The review also contains a range of initiatives. The key initiatives are described below:
- Army is to produce a unified strategy for the development of its human capacity. An explicit system, driven by an Army Human Capacity Strategy, will provide strategic direction that is executed through mission command at schools, training centres, units and individual initiative. Subordinate strategies for workforce, career and talent management, training and education will also have utility.
- There is no evidence that Army’s people lack imagination, inquisitiveness or innovative spirit. Current mechanisms encourage bottom up innovation however innovation at Army schools and training centres is tactical in nature and hindered by training tempo. Strategic innovation should be nurtured to review future institutional needs and world’s best practice learning methodologies. Further, the Army research and development plan should also be revised so that more focus is placed on future learning methodologies and technologies. A new future training and education section will be established to meet these requirements.
- Army will institute an Officer and Enlisted Professional Development Framework. This framework will be closely linked to the revised All Corps Officer and Soldier Continuum. As part of this, Army should build an online resource, designed around Chief of Army professional development priorities, that provides resources for the conduct of self-study and for the conduct of ongoing unit professional military education to support the professional development framework.
- The Army will review its objectives for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) qualified personnel, as well as the level of technical competencies it expects in its broader workforce. This could be an element of the proposed Army Human Development Strategy.
- The Army will codify its strategy for the use of information technology in blended learning within a broader Defence environment. The Army, in cooperation with the Chief Information Officer and the Australian Defence College, is to develop a plan to implement distributed learning which exploits trials and takes into account training institutions, unit locations, reserve depots and the use of personal computing and communications devices by reserve and regular personnel.
- The Army will reinvigorate its doctrine and affirm the hierarchy, structure and authorship of all Army doctrinal publications. Army’s doctrine will be made more accessible and where possible released for an online unclassified library.
- The extant foundation warfighting training management framework will be redeveloped so that it incorporates individual Corps, All Corps, and joint outcomes. Additionally, Army should embrace a campaign approach to significant collective training activities such as Exercise Hamel. In looking out five to ten years in planning these exercises, Army can set longer term capability development outcomes– for Army, joint and coalition operations.
Priority tasks from the review have commenced implementation. In 2016 alone, the Army will develop a unified human capacity strategy, focus more innovation resources on training and education, commence development of its professional development framework, undertake doctrinal reform, produce a new simulation strategy, streamline the command and control of training institutions and build its campaign for large collective training activities.
To that end, the review represents a plan of action for Army in its campaign to enhance its education, training and doctrine. That is not to say that this will be a simple task. As with all large institutional programs for change, there are cultural, implementation and technical risks. Each of these is examined and addressed in the review. Army seeks to learn the lessons of previous large initiatives – in our Army and in others. This is to ensure that the objectives described in the review have high level advocacy, are resourced and that the rationale for change is well described to Army’s people.
As the review notes, the Australian Army training education and doctrine system, in its current form is not ‘broken’. But it is not well positioned as a system to exploit advanced learning techniques and delivery to enable the organisation to retain its human capacity edge over the next two decades. It should provide enhanced direction and advocacy for education, training and doctrine, as well as a synchronising mechanism for personnel policy, management and ongoing learning.
An explicit system, which provides top down strategic direction which is executed using mission command from schools, training centres, units and individual initiative, will provide Army with the best chance to ensure it is appropriately oriented for future operational commitments. With strategic direction, commanders empowered with appropriate authorities and resources, and the right level of connectivity and feedback mechanisms described in this review, Army can achieve a more streamlined and transparent achievement of human capacity development. As such, the implementation of this review will ensure Army is able to think about its future training and education needs and then ensure that its education, training and doctrine system is appropriately oriented for the demands of the next two decades.
About the Author
Brigadier Mick Ryan recently completed his time as Commander 1st Brigade in Darwin and now oversees training for the Australian Army as Director-General Training. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, the USMC Staff College and School of Advanced Warfare, he is a passionate advocate of professional education and lifelong learning. Follow Brigadier Ryan at Learning Army.