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Since 2013 the Sir Richard Williams Foundation seminars have focused on building an integrated fifth generation force. Recent seminars have evolved from the acquisition of new platforms to the process of shaping and better understanding the environment in which that integrated force will prepare and operate. In doing so they have, among other things, highlighted the challenges of making the strategic shift from counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to higher tempo and higher intensity operations involving peer competitors.
Within this context, the seminar in August 2018 focused on the importance of a joint approach to building an independent and potent regional strike capability. The topic broadened to begin an examination of new ways and means of enhancing sovereign options as part of an evolving deterrent strategy. The August seminar began a process of looking at the evolution of Australian defence capabilities through an increasingly sovereign lens and concluded there are some important choices to be made if we are to maintain our capability edge and influence in the region.
Allies are crucial to the Australian concept of defence; however, the emerging strategic circumstances demand it is vital we reconsider the ways and means of enhancing Australian sovereignty to better contribute to our relationships and ensure a more sophisticated and independent defence of Australian interests. During the 2019 seminars, the Sir Richard Williams Foundation will develop this theme and address more broadly the question of how to look at the evolution of the Australian Defence Force from the perspective of the sovereign lens and setting the conditions for future success.
Aim of the Seminar
The first seminar will examine the question from an historical standpoint and focus on the importance and challenges of sustaining an Australian Defence Force that can autonomously contribute to the pursuit of Australia’s national interests in an increasingly challenging environment. A key element of our thinking is to focus on the importance of our natural strategic strengths and reconsider Australian territory and geography, as well as the near region, as an integral part of our deterrence posture. This entails building the infrastructure and partnerships necessary to enable more effective mobility so that Australian and partner territory can be used as a chessboard on which we are able to move Australian forces, and upon which allied forces could operate in times of crisis as part of a broader coalition engagement and sustainment strategy.
Enhanced Australian industrial sovereignty and sustainability is a core requirement of a secure and sustained force in times of crisis, where the normal functioning of the global supply chain will be deliberately targeted and disrupted. This will require an integrated strategy for preparedness, operations and sustainment of the force enabled by appropriate industry policy to ensure the delivery of a sovereign defence capability.
This industrial policy must be closely aligned with defence policy, concepts and doctrine and will require a new approach and attitude to partnerships and an increased emphasis on the combat support and combat service support functions of the fifth-generation force. This will further develop the Australian manoeuvre approach to warfighting but set in a much broader context than simply the force elements.
The seminar will address the evolving Australian approach to building new capabilities and systems with an expanded role for Australian industry as part of a broader alliance structure. A contemporary example is how Army is building its unmanned aircraft capability through an innovative partnering strategy with industry. Similarly, the seminar will address how Defence can be a better steward of its major platforms by partnering with industry.
One such sector worthy of consideration by Australia is in emerging technologies and how these might disrupt traditional concepts of supply chains and enhance Australia’s sovereign capabilities. The development of an Australian-based research, design, manufacture, test and sustainment capability is a realistic aspiration and provides sovereign capability which contributes significantly within a broader alliance structure.
In particular, Australia can play a significant role in the development and production of 21st century missiles and at the same time support the needs of core allies who could leverage evolving Australian science and technology, test and experimentation ranges, and advanced manufacturing capabilities within a sophisticated and diverse global supply chain. Above all, this will add diversity, complexity and resilience to the Australian defence and security posture and provide additional choice in the selection of the most appropriate ways and means of delivering a balanced suite of defensive and offensive independent strike capabilities.
The draft synopsis and draft program can be downloaded here.
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