The Australian Defence Force and industry support to operations – is it time for a new ‘national support agenda’?

By David Beaumont.

In 2016, the Australian Government released its 2016 Defence White Paper and the supplemental Defence Industry Policy Statement. Industry Statements signify Government intent to Australian Defence industry, and like strategic policy, combine hyperbole with requirements for change. In this case Government – in extolling the self-evident nature of industry as a ‘fundamental input to capability’ – sought closer collaboration between Defence and industry through the development of a native shipbuilding program, to support capability acquisition and sustainment for other major programs, as well as the enhancement of the commercial support on offer to Defence. The Statement also introduced the notion of a ‘Sovereign Defence Industry Capability’, an industrial resource of such vital concern to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that it must be maintained if not controlled for the purposes of national defence. What the Statement didn’t do, however, was to detail a new path for industry in the context of supporting actual ADF operations.

This issue is one among many examined by Dr Stephan Fruhling, Australian National University, in a recent paper ‘Sovereign Defence Industry Capabilities, Independent Operations and the Future of Australian Defence Strategy.’ As part of the ‘Centre of Gravity’ series of papers, the purpose of its analysis of the idea of ‘sovereign defence industry capabilities’ is to provide strategic policy recommendations, of which there are three.[1] All three are aligned to addressing aspects of the issue of industry support to ADF force structure, and most importantly, operations:

  1. Industry capabilities must relate to scenarios which apply to the force structure of the ADF, ‘not just consider industry as a collection of industry fundamental inputs into capability’.
  2. Australia needs to look beyond a peacetime industry dependence on the US. While reliance was avoided because of the strategic policy orientation of ‘self-reliance’, ‘we must now also move to confront our dependence on US resupply in high-intensity operations’.
  3. Industry will be crucial to enable ADF operations in defence of Australia in the ‘era of long-range precision strike’. This includes the establishment of battle-damage repair capabilities in industry, as well as arrangements for ‘domestic base support’.

Fruhling notes that these ideas are ‘not what the Government had in mind’ with its industry statement. However, they are legitimate concerns that should be echoed in strategic and industry policy calculus. If the Government requires the ADF to be able to operate with any independence from coalition sources of tactical logistics support, the idea of independence should also apply at the strategic level, and with industry in mind.

It is also tremendously worthwhile to consider this issue from the perspective of Defence in its engagement with industry. The role of Defence, and the ADF in particular, in industry policy largely boils down to the articulation of the strategic or operational requirements, and the effective integration of national industrial infrastructure into ADF operations and daily business. This integration is enabled by policy and governance, and through consistent organisational behaviour. Defence presently engages with industry through a multiple of channels, with key agents being the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), Joint Logistics Command (JLC) and a variety of other groups, units, functions, including the Services, responsible for their own component of the logistics process. Each agency or group has its own objectives and requirements, and the approach is demonstrably fragmented. In the past, however, the ADF has concertedly sought a corporate solution to the problem.


Land 400 Phase 2

Contenders for Army’s future combat reconnaissance vehicles undergoing air portability trials. Photo by Department of Defence.


In the late 1990’s the ADF pursued a ‘national support agenda’, a strategic approach to its engagement with industry for ‘ the application of all the resources of the Nation to maximise the defence capability of Australia’.[2] The need for a national support strategy had been born out of reforms as early as the 1980’s, and given greater emphasis as a consequence of the downsizing of the ADF’s organic logistics support capabilities which followed. Industry’s ability to support ADF operations was conceptualised, and tested – albeit in a haphazard and ultimately inadequate way – during the major exercises of the time. The idea of national support culminated with the raising of the National Support Division (NSD) in 1997 during the Defence Reform Program. This Division was a fundamental refocussing of a downsizing Strategic Logistics Division of Headquarters ADF, and was to ‘broaden, shape and improve national and international capabilities to better enable the force generation, mobilisation and sustainment for the ADF.’[3] For just over two years NSD developed concepts and policy which reflected strategic-level logistics at its most essential; extracting support from the national economy for the benefit of military outcomes.

With the creation of the Defence Materiel Organisation in 2000, NSD was disestablished with its functions split between the ADF’s capability staff, Strategic Policy Division and the newly raised Joint Logistics Command. This decision came with questionable timing given it was soon after the ADF’s deployment to East Timor in 1999, an operation during which numerous issues with the quality and capacity of national support available could be seen. Only a year later the Departmental-level Defence Committee agreed to the raising of Strategic Logistics Branch in JLC to better progress national support issues, though some of Defence’s senior leaders considered this was merely a temporary solution to the problem. JLC continues to lead in this area, but across the wider Defence organisation the strategic concept of national support has greatly diminished in its potency. The focus now sits on supporting the ADF’s operations at hand, acquisition and sustainment rather than the how and why of mobilising industrial capacity to suit operational sustainability as a strategic concept. By 2003 and the deployment of ADF forces to support coalition operations in Iraq, where much commercial support was obtained through coalition partners and industry engagement was predominantly focussed upon the rapid acquisition of supplies and equipment, strategic engagement for long-term policy objectives was becoming a strategic side-show.

With industry being declared a ‘fundamental input into capability’, perhaps it is time for a new national support agenda. Such an approach will complement evolving strategic and industry policy as depicted in Fruhling’s paper. This does not necessarily mean further wholesale organisational change is required; a succession of changes in the organisation of Defence has already contributed to the degradation of a strategic approach to industry over the last decade. Concepts have been forgotten and policy compromised with entities like the NSD having little time to prove their worth to the ADF. However, it is logical to review authorities and accountabilities, and to reinforce areas responsible for considering industrial capacity and mobilisation on the basis of a purportedly new paradigm in defence-industry relations. It is especially necessary given the increasing engagement of industry as a supplement or complement to military capability, as is being currently postulated through several initiatives being progressed by the ADF’s Services. Finally, it is necessary simply because of its immense importance to any future considerations of how the nation might mobilise in a future war. The ADF may be prepared to launch an operation, but without industry similarly responsive the weight of national power cannot easily be brought to bear.

Just as Fruhling points out that there is much more to ‘sovereign defence industry capability’ to be explained if Government requires the ADF to conduct independent operations, there is also a need for Defence to reinvigorate its approach to engagement with industry to enable effective outcomes in these future missions. The development of proficiencies for military and civilian logisticians and others to engage with industry, or reconsidering the manner and means by which industry is approached, remain important to this end. However, it is also important for logisticians and leaders to approach the matter comprehensively, fully cognisant that national support to operations is one of considerable professional relevance. As the ADF’s strategic and operational logistics ‘tail’ comprises a greater commercial component, the effective engagement of the ‘sovereign defence industry capability’ must be second nature to logisticians and others in Defence. A strong institutional narrative regarding the integration of industry with all Defence activities, and in particular military operations, must become a priority. In the context of Stephan Fruhling’s view on the future of Australian defence strategy, the ADF’s success in strategically independent operations will be a clear reflection of the quality of this vitally important relationship.

[1] These paraphrased points are summarised at Fruhling, S., Sovereign Defence Industry Capabilities, Independent Operations and the Future of Australian Defence Strategy, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific, 2017, p 2

[2] As approved by Steering Committee, July 2001, from the Inspector General Division, Progress in pursuing the national support approach, Portfolio Evaluation Report, Department of Defence, 2001, p2-1.

[3] Ibid., p 2-7

Six strategic challenges – fourth generation warfare and fifth generation equipment

By Hayden Marshall.

In part one and two of ‘Six strategic challenges for Defence logistics’ Air Commodore Hayden Marshall describes how digital disruption and cyber threats are likely to change Defence logistics in the future. In part three, the challenges posed by ‘fourth generation warfare’ and the use of ‘fifth generation equipment’ are discussed.

As described in part one, this article is an edited component of a larger paper has been divided into three parts, each of which contains two key issues relevant to Defence (strategic) logistics. Each is followed by questions as prompts for future consideration. The topics have been written with Australian Defence (ADF and Department) in mind, but you will find the themes equally applicable to other militaries and Defence departments

Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) 

Modern military theorists, encouraged by the ideas of William Lind, are citing the emergence of a new generation of warfare whereby sovereign states are losing their monopoly on war and future conflict will be linked to cultural, not sovereignty issues. The legitimacy of states will be challenged, wars will be undeclared and the contest will be more about the supremacy of ideas as opposed to traditional territory battles.

Third generation warfare is based on “blitzkrieg” or manoeuvre warfare following World War I. The tactics of speed and surprise to “bypass and collapse” enemy forces represent a significant challenge for military logisticians with high reliance on decentralised logistics to support dispersed forces. Therefore, what are the challenges of 4GW that need to be addressed by today’s (and tomorrow’s) logisticians?

An interesting observation by Parag Khanna, an international relations commentator, in his recent book where he suggests that supply chains and connectivity, not sovereignty and borders, will be the organising principles of humanity in the 21st century.[1] For both military strategists and logisticians, the challenge to understand supply chains and their dependencies will be important however, further consideration will need to be given to understand interests of other parties in the same supply chains.

With this in mind, how well do we understand our own supply chains? Through the work of Parag Khanna, I was introduced to some very interesting research by DHL through their Global Connectedness Index. The annual report provides a series of graphical representations of global trade volumes, information exchanges and financial transactions. These views confirm Australia’s vulnerability due to distance and stark economic realities as to where priorities lie. For a fee, there are some software products (e.g. Sourcemap) that provide end-to-end mapping of your supply chain that could provide a new perspective to identify risks and opportunities.

Questions to consider:

  • What measures need to be considered to ensure that supply chains are appropriately protected, as distinct to traditional military approaches of considering SLOCs, GLOCs and ALOCs?
  • Do our preparedness assessments appropriately consider supply chain variables?
  • Should the ADF be investigating the applicability of supply chain mapping tools?

Fifth Generation Hardware 

The ADF is presently undergoing the most significant recapitalisation of defence capabilities since WWII, across all three Services. Legacy fleets of hardware are being replaced by newer and far more capable equipment that will be managed under very different maintenance/support regimes. The recent announcement of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan provides a very clear indication of the proposed scale of industrial development activity that will significantly reshape capabilities in the two key shipbuilding locations of Henderson (WA) and Osborne (SA). The “industrial ecosystems” that will emerge in these locations are likely to present new opportunities for logistics support options.

The new defence equipment has less failures (comparatively) and periodic maintenance (preventative) does not need to be undertaken with the same level of frequency. The logistics support requirements for the future force will be fundamentally different to the logistics support requirements of the current force. Increased use of technology for systems diagnostics will ensure that maintenance activities are given clear direction and priority. In turn, supply support will be better informed of required stockholding levels. New materials offer improved protection and resilience for defence equipment. For many components, there is no intent to repair any damages, as it is cheaper and quicker to replace with new items. Nanotechnology is offering further opportunities for improvements in electronics, medical therapies, energy utilisation and environmental remediation that will also reshape logistics support requirements. Increased use of artificial intelligence will progressively replace many areas currently prone to error and bias that currently lead to sub-optimal results. In short, the future looks to be very bright.

Questions to consider:

  • What does this mean for the disposition of logistics support activities in the National Support Base?
  • What logistics support activities will continue to be performed by military personnel?
  • How do we make the transition to 5th generation logistics support?
  • Do we really understand the extent of change on the horizon for logistics support that is associated with new technologies that are no longer in the world of science fiction, but are today’s reality?

The six strategic challenges for Defence logistics

The list of challenges/issues/opportunities is not exhaustive – the intent of this and preceding posts is to stimulate thought and discussion – with a view to identifying other internal or external influences. Many of these issues are bigger than Defence, but we will need to develop plans that clearly identify how we intend to respond, along with an assessment of resources required to respond to the challenge. As a community, we need to develop the necessary policies, processes and tools that will provide operational commanders with the confidence that the Defence logistics system will be sufficiently resilient and responsive to support mission requirements. Increased levels of confidence provide the ability to more fully explore new and emerging opportunities to optimise the supply chain in all circumstances, while clearly understanding risks and vulnerabilities.

Hayden Marshall is a Logistics Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, with considerable experience as a tactical, operational and strategic logistics commander and planner. He is currently posted to Joint Logistics Command.

[1] Khanna, P., Connectography: Mapping the Global Network Revolution. 2016

In the interests of full disclosure, the paper was prepared to support the professional development of ADF logisticians at the rank of Wing Commander, Commander and Lieutenant Colonel and beyond, and was produced in the interests of stimulating discussion. It therefore does not reflect any official position.

Six strategic challenges for Defence logistics – Part One

By Hayden Marshall.

Logistics In War is privileged to have been given permission by the author to publish a series of posts based upon a Discussion Paper written by the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) Director-General Strategic Logistics, Air Commodore Hayden Marshall. You may remember his leadership insights from the post ‘Surviving your time as a military logistician’. In the interests of full disclosure, the paper was prepared to support the professional development of ADF logisticians at the rank of Wing Commander, Commander and Lieutenant Colonel and beyond, and was produced in the interests of stimulating discussion. It therefore does not reflect any official position.

For the purposes of this series of posts, the original paper has been divided into three parts, each of which contains two key issues relevant to Defence (strategic) logistics. Each is followed by questions as prompts for future consideration. The topics have been written with Australian Defence (ADF and Department) in mind, but you will find the themes equally applicable to other militaries and Defence departments.

Enjoy the articles, and we would like to hear your thoughts on the topics presented by Air Commodore Marshall.


As senior logistics officers in the ADF, you will soon (if not already) be placed into key positions that will require you to make important contributions to shape and influence Defence’s logistics capability to be ready to support our current and future military objectives. This will require you to develop new skills, improve your understanding of Defence priorities and gain a broader appreciation of the bigger picture.

The purpose of this discussion paper is to provide you with a collection of potentially unrelated, but relevant, future issues that you may encounter in your future roles. The paper should also generate a sense of urgency to encourage you to better prepare (or improve) your networks and connections to give you the opportunity to review and assess industry (or international) trends as potential opportunities for Defence. This will not be a simple task, but will be made easier with ongoing discussion and active debate amongst the Defence logistics community. Current indicators suggest that the Defence logistics system will need to be more flexible, more adaptable and more resilient than ever due largely to anticipated technological influences, which are already beginning to have an effect.

At the same time, many of the basic tenants of our logistics system will endure, as we will still need to purchase, transport, maintain, store and dispose of stuff – how we do it and how we make use of the best available tools will be the challenge. Through an assessment of the issues considered in this paper (and any others), against a clear understanding of performance requirements and operating constraints, you will need to determine if Defence should be a leader or a follower.

Digital Disruption 

Much is made of the trends in e-commerce and the influence on the supply chain. Many commercial customers are expecting same day delivery for consumables as part of a drive to reduce overhead costs; therefore delivery options need to be effective as stock holdings by users are often limited or non-existent. Amazon continues to explore the use of Drone delivery for small payloads within a limited range, with the realisation that it will be the price and timeliness that will capture the attention of customers. The use of ‘big data’ and ‘cloud’-based applications is becoming increasing prevalent as customers and suppliers understand the possibilities. An interesting quote from an industry observer:

‘It will be especially important for logistics managers to truly weigh up the benefits of leveraging supply chain information against the ability to implement improvements to their logistics strategy.’

Technology improvements will also see a focus on supply chain tools such as beacons and scanners to streamline retail purchasing transactions and monitor stock movements back to the warehouse. Real-time updates to inventories will offer improved situational awareness and the ability for timely intervention where required

The growing use of 3-D printers in commercial applications will have an impact for Defence logistics. The previous challenge of resupplying repair parts to forward deployed units will be replaced with the challenge of resupplying printing media (plastic and metal), along with the computer hardware and power systems necessary to operate industrial 3-D printers. Also 3-D printers require highly stable platforms to allow production of complex items to high tolerance levels, which may not be feasible for deployed units that are operating in austere conditions. The US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is working on a program to ensure effective controls are in place for data packages that are only available to an endorsed network of commercial 3-D printers when they receive orders from US military units.

Access to reliable energy sources is necessary to operate current inventory management systems and supply chain hardware. Power outages in garrison or deployed locations already create problems and contribute to lost productivity. The criticality of logistics support to mission success will increase the need to ensure that appropriate back-up systems are in place to protect against accidental or enemy imposed disruptions to power supplies. Expanded use of power systems using alternative generating techniques (wind, solar, etc) may offer opportunities of “off-grid” solutions for both garrison and deployed situations.

Questions to consider: 

  • What are the trends from the retail/private sector that will have applicability in the military sector?
  • Is Defence well placed to monitor and understand future changes to supply chain management?
  • Who should be taking the lead to champion supply chain innovation in Defence?
  • Should Defence make more use of cloud-based opportunities for inventory management, as well as engagement with suppliers and coalition partners?

Cyber Security 

The “good news” stories associated with innovations in the supply chain generally have links to improved information management, computer software enhancements and more capable smart tools to deliver efficiency and effectiveness gains. The vulnerability of computer networks and smart devices to cyber attacks has received increased prominence, with several high-profile organisations subject to hacking and denial of service attacks. Many of our new Defence capability programs rely on participation in global logistics support programs which require an increased level of systems connectivity with external sources to process resupply requirements and provide critical performance data. The dynamic tension between open information systems to support timely data exchanges and the need for information security to protect national interests will be difficult to balance and will require significant work to understand relevant risks and mitigation measures.

We also need to be aware that potential adversaries are likely to have more than a passing interest in our logistics data. The successful aggregation of information from unclassified sources could provide insights into stockholdings and maintenance availability that could be areas of potential vulnerability or exploitation.

Questions to consider:

  • How does Defence ensure that commercial suppliers are adequately protecting their information networks?
  • What logistics information does Defence need to protect?
  • What are the implications for supply chain security resulting from potential cyber attack?

Part two will follow shortly.

Joint logistics by design – is it time for a permanent joint logistics formation?

By Editor.

Meegan Olding, a serving Australian Army officer writing on the Land Power Forum, contends that emerging requirements are strengthening the case for us to rethink joint logistics and its role in capability development, force generation and its role in the operational area. Contentiously, she also argues that it is time to consider whether logistics formations and functions relevant to theatre entry and tactical force sustainment, currently single-Service responsibilities, should be ‘joint by design’.

This challenging argument posits force efficiency can be improved by reducing duplication and improving coordination. The establishment of joint theatre capabilities would continue the trend by which the joint logistics enterprise is seen to offer considerable command, control and logistics efficiencies currently evident at Defence’s strategic level. Furthermore, with hollowness existing in enabling functions and logistics capabilities in all three Services of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), such a solution sounds promising for force generation reasons, but also with respect to the stewardship  of logistics capability.

The major cost to this approach is recognised as being a loss of control for the Services as ‘domain owners’ and force generators who must accept further risk and trust that the joint logistics system will deliver even more than it does today. Understandably, this makes the option a particularly ‘uncomfortable’ proposition. Perhaps, as suggested, the alternative is to make joint theatre capabilities a responsibility for the Army-led ‘Deployable Joint Force Headquarters’?

The article alludes to one key question worth considering; although logistics interdependence in operations may be best achieved through robust capabilities held by the Services, are such theatre and force sustainment capabilities more effective and easier to generate as part of a joint, tactically-oriented, logistics force?

A strong joint force needs a strong land force, but this should not be at the expense of developing a world class joint logistics system …. The establishment of the ADFHQ provides momentum for the development of a joint enabler capability, however it requires bold decisions, less risk aversion and trust amongst the Services. The time for ‘joint logistics by design’ is now, but is the ADF mature enough to manage the delicate interplay between competition and cooperation?

Enjoy the article – found here.