Concluding Observations on the 11 April 2024 Seminar

By Robbin Laird

The seminar was concluded by comments by WGCDR Sally Knox, the moderator for the seminar, and by Air Marshal (Retired) Geoff Brown.

WGCDR Knox provided a succinct summary of what a multi-domain approach to a maritime strategy entailed.

“An Australian Maritime strategy necessitates a highly integrated multi-agency multi-domain response enabled by, among other things, connectivity, logistics, bases, stores and decision making superiority. In short, it must be resourceful.

“Wherever given the increasingly challenging threat environment we face it must also be characterized by readiness and resilience.

“A successful maritime strategy requires seamless coordination across agencies and domains. From connectivity to logistics, every aspect must work in harmony to ensure readiness. A maritime strategy must be comprehensive.

“It isn’t just about naval operations, it encompasses all aspects of national power from diplomacy to economics, safeguarding our borders and trade. Such a strategy demands a holistic approach.

“However, our demographic landscape presents a complex challenge in achieving our national objectives. Crafting a credible maritime strategy demands a multi-domain, multi-agency efforts.

“A robust maritime strategy is essential for our national security. It’s not just about military capabilities, it’s about leveraging all elements of power to protect our interests effectively.”

Air Marshal (Retired) Brown, Chairman of the Sir Richard Williams Foundation, provided a perspective with regard to the Defence Strategic Review and the expected Defence Investment Plan which was released shortly after the seminar.

He put his concerns this way. “Xi Jinping and Putin are 71. The strategy indicates that we are in a dangerous period something like 1936 and we have a plan for 1956. But I am not sure that these leaders are going to wait until they are 91 to do their damage.”

He then discussed the key issue which in my view really shapes the question of the credibility of the ADF going forward. He noted that the Defence Investment Plan was cutting the current force to pay for a future force, and significantly.

“Despite all the rhetoric, do we have an executable plan. How do we ensure that the ADF over the next three to five years becomes more capable?”

Or as I would put it investments for future forces to be paid for by future governments is always a tricky thing. But cuts in capability such as the fourth F-35 squadron are really and decisive reductions in the current force, the only one which adversaries see and take account of.

I also have a problem with future oriented defence planning. How well did we forecast 2020 when we were living in 2019?