Accelerated Warfare - some Opportunities for the Army Reserve as part of the Total Force
Presented by Colonel Mark Armstrong, Project Director HQ 8th Brigade
“I require all of Army, at every level, to discuss and debate the themes framed through the notion of future conflict, or what Army is now describing as Accelerated Warfare”. Chief of Army 2019 “I require all of Army, at every level, to discuss and debate the themes framed through the notion of future conflict, or what Army is now describing as Accelerated Warfare”. Chief of Army 2019
The topic of national security has been prominent in the media this year. Events in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and East Asia; along with the renewed spectre of great power competition; have generated much commentary about the implications of a changing global order and advances in warfighting technology. In Australia, events such as the re-election of the coalition government, significant investment in new military capabilities and speeches from the new Minister of Defence and Chief of the Defence Force are generating discussion on the need for a new Defence White paper and associated force posture changes.
Accelerated Warfare is the title of the Future’s Statement for the Australian Army. Building on guidance by the Australian Government and Australian Defence Force it describes a context and outline of the key strategic and military trends and the implications for warfare in the coming decades. The Army in Motion framework provides a basis for the transition of the Army to a force that can prevail in accelerated warfare. The largest part time component of the Army’s Total Force is the Army Reserve. Over the last two decades this component has effectively transitioned from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve. In this capacity it has been critical in sustaining the Army’s high operational tempo. However, the demands of accelerated warfare provide an opportunity to think differently about the contribution of the Reserves in the Total Force; a point made by commentator Alan Dupont in 2015:
“Making the existing reserves more combat ready is only part of the solution because there are not enough active reservists with the right skill sets… more innovative approaches will be needed …This goes well beyond finding a few hundred extra infantry soldiers, or a handful of doctors…”
This article will draw from various Futures Statements to summarise significant trends that are predicted to affect warfare and how they might do so. The Australian ‘Army in Motion’ approach will be overviewed before a discussion on the rationale of part time military forces. An analysis of the strategic guidance over time for the ADF Reserves will then lead a discussion of the implications of the status quo. Finally, some opportunities for the Total Force will be presented.
Significant Trends that are predicted to affect future war
Predicting the shape and character of what war will be in the future is a vexing and important task. With so many variables, inherent uncertainty and dynamic forces at play prediction can seem futile and risky. However, a forecast must be made if Governments and militaries are to equip, structure and organise for the next war, rather than the last one. An examination of open source policy guidance documents from the US, UK and Australia reveals some common key trends across demographics and the rules based global order that will not only affect society but also future war.
Key demographic trends include:
• Population growth and movement. The populations of the world’s least developed nations are projected to continue to increase rapidly, putting pressure on infrastructure and the environment. However, for Western countries, non-immigration population growth will continue to stagnate, contributing to an aging population and associated economic costs. Factors such as population growth in underdeveloped countries, economic migration and conflict are likely to see large scale population movement across national borders. Population movement, environmental damage and economic opportunity will see continued growth of cities with most of the population globally residing in urban environments by 2035.
• Decreased individual affinity with the state. Social media (through the growing influence of virtual communities), population movement across borders and weakening sovereign institutions will see individuals becoming less likely to define themselves by their nationality than they do today. As individuals feel less connected to the state they reside within, they are also likely to become less interested in supporting it or it’s institutions.
• Changing nature of work in Western economies. The proportion of part time work continues to grow; predominantly in the service-based industries. In Australia the part-time share of total employment is nearly one third, a growth of two percent over the last 5 years. A related consequence is that less people work a standard Monday to Friday, business hours type work pattern. The so called ‘gig economy’ continues to grow. This economy of on-demand part time casual (or freelance) work has increased rapidly with the proliferation of on-line labour/service brokers such as Uber, Deliveroo and Freelance.com. The penetration of the gig economy into the labour market has not been comprehensively measured yet but in the US is estimated up to 30% of the workforce are contingent workers of this type. This type of work is characterised by choice of work, minimal induction training requirements, pay for task and work on demand.
It is forecast that in a changing global order nation-states will have more difficulty in imposing their strategic will in an environment of dynamic complexity: politically, culturally and technologically. Key trends include:
• State actors / authoritarian regimes. A new era of great power competition is forecast with the growing power and reach of China and Russia challenging the global hegemon of the United States. Authoritarian based governments are likely to be able harness the instruments of national power in pursuit of strategic ends, short of war, in a way different to the traditional Western democracies. Meanwhile, Western governments face economic challenges, aging populations and increasingly volatile public opinion enabled by new communications technologies such as social media.
• Weak and failing states. Scarce resources, ineffective government, population movement and environmental issues will contribute to a persistent risk of weak and failing states. They are likely to be the source of regional security issues necessitating international intervention.
• Global order / rules. The global order featuring a relatively open system of free trade and cooperative security arrangements buttressed by International law, alliances and international organisations (like the United Nations), is under threat. As the international order breaks down the system is at risk of becoming more closed and transactional in nature with the major powers dictating terms.
• Environmental and resources issues. The impacts of climate change potentially include population displacement from littoral areas and an increasing rate and severity of natural disasters. Resource scarcity could lead to unfavourable economic consequences and strategic competition for access to, and exploitation of, remaining deposits.
• Non-state actors. In an environment of weakening global order the importance and relative power of non-state actors is likely to increase (Department of Defence 2016, p. 1).
o Privatisation of force. The use of military contractors is increasing by individuals, cities, non-government organisations and governments. This is fuelling the growth of the industry and the para-military capability of individual private military corporations. Consequently, armed force is effectively being re-privatised (from being largely sovereign based) in many parts of the world.
o Influence of corporations. The wealth and power of multi-national corporations continues to rise. Recent court cases challenging the power of social media giants Google and Facebook highlight the enormous amounts of personal data that have been harvested that is now being exploited for commercial outcomes.
o Global supply chains. Unfinished goods and services are now believed to represent the majority of international trade flow as a result of the splitting of the elements of manufacturing processes and production. In the event of conflict this system is vulnerable to disruption in many ways, at many points; the consequences of which are difficult to determine.
The combination of demographic and international global order trends presents a challenging social and straegic environment for governments. In developing their national security strategies, they will also need to anticipate how future wars will be fought in order to guide key decisions such as capability investment priorities, force disposition and force structure.
Key trends for future ware include:
• Grey zone / grey war / political war / hybrid war. This term describes operations that are intended to remain below the targeted nation’s or the international community’s thresholds for military escalation or conventional declarations of war. They are also described as hybrid warfare, non-linear war , active measures or political war. Grey zone operations have been presumed in events such as the annexation of Crimea, separatist conflict in Ukraine, friction in the South China Sea and the cyber-attacks on Estonia. These operations undermine the deterrence effect of conventional military forces and therefore the traditional calculations of military preparedness.
• Continuous competition – not the traditional notions of ‘war’ and ‘peace’. The prospect of the conduct of Grey Zone operations over long periods of time by sovereign actors challenges the customary notion of ‘peace time’. Rather than being at peace, countries may be in ‘continuous competition’ and contesting the grey zone in the defence or pursuit of national interests. Due to the shortening effect on strategic warning times, continuous competition and the deterrence of fait accompli strikes have significant impactions for military force structure, disposition and preparedness.
• Military application of new technology. The battlespace application of new technologies including autonomous military systems, hypersonic weapons, bio-metric targeting, directed energy weapons, Anti-access Area Denial (A2AD) systems and unmanned vehicles are predicted to have major implications for the means of conducting war. In particular, the laws of armed conflict and related rules of engagement will be tested in an environment that is high lethal, dynamic and multi-dimensional.
• Multi-Domain Operations. Future conflicts are likely to be contested across all the warfighting domains of land/air/sea/space/cyber as well as the electromagnetic spectrum and information environment. The challenge for militaries is to develop the doctrine, technology and training to enable the coordination and synchronisation activities across multiple domains (US Army 2019, p. vi). Battlespace geometry will be expanded in time (continuum of conflict) and geography (i.e. includes the homeland’s critical infrastructure) in ways different to previous wars.
• Pervasive Information Operations. The contest for control of the narrative is expected to span the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war and to be waged by multiple, dispersed actors. This battlespace will extend globally with tactical actions conceivably having rapid strategic consequences.
• Persistent likelihood of complex Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) and Stabilisation Operations in weak or failed states/cities. While the focus in the various futures statements is peer on peer high intensity warfare there remains a strong likelihood of complex Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) and Stabilisation Operations in weak or failed states/cities. These operations require a range of capabilities that are less emphasised in conventional warfighting such as civil-military cooperation, partner capacity building, Other Government Agency support and project management.
Institutional response – an ‘Army in Motion’
The Australian Army’s ‘Army in Motion’ framework supports the transition of the current force to the future force (i.e. one orientated to accelerated warfare). Army is to “Be ready now, while concurrently becoming future ready”. It based in the four command themes of: Preparedness, People, Profession and Potential. Some key points especially relevant to the part time component of the Total Force include:
• The need to capitalise on the full suite of national skill sets and knowledge.
• Diversity makes Army more capable.
• Particular attention will be paid to ‘scalability’ (mobilisation) – it must be fast and planned.
• Need to acquire new capabilities not yet in the total force.
• Requirement for an ‘intellectual edge’ – the Army will need to be able out-think their opponents.
• Cultural change is required to support the transition.
The rationale of part time forces
The fundamental justification for Reserves is one of cost effectiveness. At a simplistic level a part time member will be paid less than a full time member. So, a military capability can be maintained for less cost (although there will be important trade-offs). With Defence budgets constantly under pressure from increasingly expensive military technology, growing workforce expenses and other government spending priorities cost effectiveness is a compelling attribute. However, there are some different dimensions of cost effectiveness that can be exploited:
• Lower fixed costs. The part time component generally has a higher rate of variable costs and therefore can be more efficient means to meet changes in demand.
• Part time penalty. Studies show that part time jobs generally pay lower wages and benefits than do full time jobs. This is known in research as the ‘part time penalty’.
• Dual-use skills. Some skills required on military operations cannot be readily sustained in a military for reasons including: a low day-to-day requirement, high training /skill maintenance costs and/or high labour market demand for that skill.
• Talent retention. Part time components are a means to retain access to the skills of full time personnel who would otherwise exit.
• Comparative Advantage. Comparative advantage is an entity’s ability to produce goods and services at a lower opportunity cost than that of trade partners. A comparative advantage gives an entity the ability to sell goods and services at a lower price than its competitors and realize stronger sales margins. So, in economic theory, just because an entity is better at manufacturing a good than other entity does not mean that it should (if it can produce another good of greater value). This theory can be applied to full and part time military forces. Just because the full time component can provide a capability better than the part time component (or another provider such as a contractor) does not mean it should if the opportunity cost is greater than what the part time component could provide it for (with the associated limitations).
Other benefits of part time forces include:
• Access to more of the national talent base. The part time component can facilitate access to a greater segment of the national talent pool. This includes those who do not want full time work or those unable to undertake full time work. There are also those that are unwilling to commit to the particular service requirements of full time military service
• Flexibility (to support surge requirements).
• Links with community, business and state. Where the full time component is often concentrated in barracks or garrison cities, the part time component will generally be more distributed across the country. These links may increase the support for the military, provide a cost-effective way of having a local military presence at regional activities, enhance local disaster relief operations and support broader organisational goals such as recruiting.
• Diversity. The part time component can add to this diversity in a number of different ways. For instance, part time members bring their experience and skills from their civilian workplaces. These different perspectives can potentially enhance decision making, expose others to corporate best practice and foster cultural awareness. The part time component may be a more attractive employment offer than the full time force for various groupings (such as ethnic, religious or regional) that would otherwise be represented in the full time force. For example, the Australian Army’s Regional Force Surveillance Units which have a high portion of indigenous members.
The elements of this traditional rationale broadly link with key parts of the Army in Motion framework. So, in an environment of contested government spending, a small/ aging national workforce and valuable civilian acquired skills that can be applied in a military setting, part time military forces should remain relevant in force structures oriented to accelerated warfare.
Strategic guidance for Reserves over time in Defence White Papers (DWP)
The ADF Reserves have been included in every one of the DWP but the specific discussion has varied both in depth and content (from a high of 242 mentions in the DWP1994 to a low of 12 mentions in the DWP2016). Discussion of Reserves in the various DWP include rationale, functions, tasks, force structure, training, equipment and facilities.
What the Reserves are used for, as articulated in the various DWP, can be categorised into the following functions:
• Mobilisation / Expansion base – Reserve personnel and units provide the organisational framework for an expansion of military forces in an emergency. This framework should allow expansion more rapidly and effectively than raising forces from scratch. The framework includes a cadre of leadership, unit structure and facilities.
• Territorial Defence – Reserve units can perform geographically specific, homeland defence roles;
• Round out/Supplementation/Augmentation – Reserve personnel and units can supplement regular forces by forming a reinforcement echelon for bringing deploying elements/units/formations up to strength and sustaining them after deployment;
• Specialists – Reserve personnel can provide highly specialised capabilities, such as surgeons and anaesthetists, that cannot be efficiently maintained in the Army;
• Link with the community – Reserve personnel and Units provide a link with the community away from the major military garrisons
• Complementary capability – Reserve personnel and sub-units can contribute at the lower end of the operational spectrum (for example Stabilisation Operations or Civil Military Cooperation) or long lead-time higher-end capabilities that frees up highly-trained forces for other more complicated and possibly more high-risk operations; and
• Domestic Support – Part time elements have a domestic role (for example event security and disaster response).
In practice these functions may not be exclusive and represent what Reserves have been used for rather than as a result of design. Figure 1 is the summary of an analysis that identifies Main Effort and Supporting Efforts in each of the DWP. It shows that the guidance for Reserves has shifted over time from an expansion base to territorial defence and then to an operational reserve focussed on round out and supplementation.
Figure 1. An analysis of strategic guidance to ADF Reserves over time
This analysis also suggests that the functional focus has narrowed significantly since DWP 2000 with only Round Out and Specialists mentioned in DWP 2016. This focus is perhaps a result of the high operational tempo of the ADF during the period and the important role that Reserves played in supporting multiple deployments.
Indeed, the ADF Reserves have delivered on their assigned priority given that about 18% of the ADF personnel deployed on domestic and overseas of operations in the period 2006-2016 have been Reservists. However there are some implications of this focus that may affect what Reserves can contribute in Accelerated Warfare. So, the Reserves are Ready Now; but are they Future Ready?
Implications of the status quo
The ADF Reserves are more operationally experienced and combat ready than ever, but:
• The Reserves are small, in a small ADF. In any scenario where the ADF must either sustain a significant deployment for a long period; confront an adversary with a much larger population or conduct a substantial stabilisation operation, the small size of the ADF limits options and presents dilemmas in sustainment.
• Largely focussed on supplementary capabilities (that will get harder to maintain). Having reserve forces that are a mirror of the full time force has advantages. It supports surge requirements, it simplifies planning and increases flexibility, but it comes at a considerable cost. Part time forces have much less time and often, resource allocation. Individuals and small groups may be able to reach similar standards, but it is difficult to sustain and simply unrealistic in the face of higher defence technology, more demanding civilian workplaces and lengthening regular training course requirements.
• More similar to 1976 model than different. The structure of the major parts of the Army Reserve is largely consistent with that in 1976. There have been changes such as consolidation of units, changes in command status and the disestablishment of Headquarters 3rd Division but the organisation more similar than dissimilar to the one of 40 years ago.
• The Army Reserve remains largely Infantry-centric. Despite the advanced in technology employed by the Army, changes in force structure, lessons from contemporary operations and the emergence of new capabilities the Army Reserve remains Infantry centric with most resources devoted to generating a light Battlegroup each year.
• Talent acquisition is largely through the entry level and funnelled through linear, traditional military paths. This approach limits the recruiting pool and is somewhat at odds with contemporary work practices. The current approach remains appropriate for specific to military trades but is restrictive in seeking to make the most of the national human capital available.
The Chief of Army via his 2019 intent and Army in Motion declarations has challenged the organisation to look for opportunities across a range of areas into order to ensure the force is Ready Now and Future Ready. One of the challenges is making the most of the talent available in the population. “Army must focus employment principles to meet demographic and societal change. This includes building an agile and sustainable workforce through embracing Total Workforce models, implementing contemporary practices and identifying what skills Army’s future workforce needs and how these should be organised and distributed.”
Some Opportunities for the Total Force
There are some converging forces that could support true transformation of the ADF Reserves. These include: the guidance provided in Army in Motion, stabilisation of the Army Reserve recruiting /training models and full implementation of the Total workforce model. Some opportunities for the reserves as part of the Total Force include:
• Articulate a modern value proposition for ADF Reserves
o An alternate strategic rationale (value position) for Reserves could help free the organisation from existing paradigms to pursue opportunities to engage a wider portion of the Australian population.
o There is an opportunity to advance cultural change by including the Part time component as an explicit element of organisational diversity in management programs.
• Pursue ways to engage talent (and corporate Australia) when and where it is needed
o More flexible service options that support ADF adaptation to new capabilities and lateral entry at multiple levels.
o Better accommodate specialists in the organisational/rank structure.
o Target groups with desired skills with a tailored/flexible offer.
o Arrangements that support ‘service from anywhere’.
• Identify ways Reserves be utilised in the ongoing contest.
o More routine use of call out/call for provisions.
• Systemic changes to support proactive alignment of an individual’s Reserve service with their civilian employment
o Sponsored reserves.
• Focus on complimentary capabilities (or subsets of trades) especially where there is a comparative advantage.
o Especially where they support the contingent type requirements of HADR/Stabilisation Operations.
It is important to note that none of these opportunities are completely novel for the Australian Army and a number of these ideas have been proposed in the past or exist in some way already (such as the arrangements for the new cyber workforce, Regional Force Surveillance Units, Specialist Service Officer scheme and the volunteer officers of the Australian Cadet Corps). However, each of these, in practice, tend to be siloed and limited in scope. The wider potential and lessons they offer seem to be lost in the pervasive organisational paradigms.
Accelerated warfare is the Future’s Statement for the Australian Army that describes a context and outline of the key strategic and military trends and the implications for warfare in the coming decades. Accelerated warfare is set in an environment of major power competition, the rising influence of non-state actors and changing global security dynamics. Demographic trends including an aging workforce, a rise in part time work, weakening individual affinity with the state, competitive labour markets, changing worker preferences and evolving skill requirements will challenge Defence Forces as they sustain and transform. Part time military forces are a significant component of the Australian Defence Force. Traditionally they have been a cost-effective way to maintain a military capability, albeit at a generally lower readiness and training level. In recent years the part time component has become more operationally focussed as they played their part in the sustained lengthy campaigns the ADF has been engaged in. Now the Reserves are more operationally experienced and combat ready than they have been for decades. Yet institutional reviews and strategic guidance identify that there remains, still unrealised, potential that could enhance the Total Force.
The demands of Accelerated Warfare mean that Defence forces must be able to gain access to the required skills, some of which are not in the current force, and make the most use of workforce available. In addition to the traditional benefits, the part time component offers a means, via alternative service models, to engage a wider portion of the talent pool as well as a way to target valuable specific and emerging skillsets. These skills sets include those required for Stabilisation Operations, Information Operations and Domestic Security Operations. To fully harness these opportunities some different approaches in force structure, roles, training, career management and personnel policy will be required. Importantly, cultural change will also be necessary for all levels to fully embrace the diversity that the part time component potentially brings. The coming years see a window to recast the value proposition of the Reserves as part of the Total Force and a transformation beyond the traditional paradigms to engage more of the potential of the national human resource base. It is time to look at the Reserves through the lens of Accelerated Warfare; not the paradigms of the past.
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Note: This article (and the presentation made at the 2019 DRA conference) consists of extracts from larger essays that are intended to be published later. The views expressed are that of the author and not the Department of Defence.
Author – COL Mark Armstrong.
About the Author COL Mark Armstrong has served in the Army Reserve for over 28 years and has operational experience on Operation Catalyst (Iraq 2007) and Operation QLD Flood Assist (Brisbane 2011). He has completed the full-time Command and Staff Course and was the Commanding Officer/Chief Instructor of the Queensland University Regiment. His academic qualifications include a Master of Arts (Strategy and Management), Master of Business Administration (Strategic Management), Master of Human Resource Management and a Master of International Security Studies. In his civilian career as a supply chain professional and most recently was the National Manager Supply Chain Optimisation for Symbion (Australia’s largest pharmacy wholesaler). COL Armstrong is undertaking a PhD as part of a Defence endorsed ‘PhD by Portfolio’ program through Deakin University. His topic is “One or two Armies? Ready or not? Relevant or not? - An analytical history of institutional reviews into the Australian Army Reserve since 1999”.