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Accelerated Warfare – Four Imperatives for Change

20 February 2019

On 8 August 2018, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, released the Army’s Futures Statement for an Army in Motion - Accelerated Warfare.[1] This paper articulates four imperatives for change, based on four alternate views, enabling Army’s consideration and implementation of Accelerated Warfare.  These alternate views are examples of the diversity of ideas available to Army as we consider Accelerated Warfare’s place in our dynamic futures. The four imperatives for change and four alternate views, are:

  1. A 2nd Lieutenant’s view
  2. Accelerated Warfare’s view
  3. A Generational view
  4. An Innovation view

These four imperatives for change conclude that our Army requires: continuous critical thinking; a cognitive domain; Army’s fifth-generation; and enhanced education for our people. These requirements are intended to stimulate debate as Army, collectively and collaboratively, implements the four objectives of Accelerated Warfare to strengthen our warfighting philosophy, challenge thinking, contribute to joint concepts and encourage a continuous contest of ideas.

Four imperatives for change

A 2nd Lieutenant’s view

Accelerated Warfare – Four Imperatives for Change

Accelerated Warfare aims to enable the Australian Army, first and foremost, to understand ourselves and understand our contribution to Australian joint and strategic capabilities. In a diverse world of change, Accelerated Warfare seeks to stimulate our thinking against an array of future scenarios. To gain an understanding of challenging scenarios our future Army leaders face, consider this statement from a United States Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant upon his entry to military service in late-2017:

During Officer Candidate Course 226 [similar to the Royal Military College, Duntroon (RMC-D) program] in September 2017, we were told that North Korea would be our war. In October, we heard about the U.S. soldiers killed in Niger because of a lack of air support, among other factors. In January 2018, when the Bravo Company Basic Officer Course 2-18 class picked up at The Basic School [similar to the field training phase of (RMC-D)], the National Defense Strategy asserted that the future of combat will not be against lightly armed terrorists but sophisticated “strategic competitors,” such as China and Russia, along the full spectrum of conflict in which “every domain is contested—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace.”

As we continued our studies in Bravo Company, we also learned about the growing threat of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs). Islamic terrorist groupsinsurgenciesorganised crime, and other non-state actors around the world were conducting swarm attacks on military forces, dropping ZMG-1 thermite grenades[2] on ammunition depots, threatening aircraft, carrying out reconnaissance, and filming aerial propaganda videos. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.[3]

A similar environment of change, unpredictability and uncertainty exists for our Army’s young officers and soldiers. Accelerated Warfare is an opportunity for Army’s young leaders to develop their own intellectual capabilities in the face of change. Continuous and diverse reading, developing critical thinking skills, innovating following failure, encouraging debate and listening to others are skills our young leaders must consistently practice in preparation for leading our future Army.  

Accelerated Warfare’s view

Supporting the perspectives of our United States Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant, Accelerated Warfare notes ‘success belongs to the side who adapts the fastest’.[4] In emphasising adaptation, Accelerated Warfare identifies three future challenges for the Australian Army:

  1. Geopolitics. Our region is increasingly defined by a changing geopolitical order operating amongst a spectrum of cooperation, competition and conflict. In particular, urbanisation and littorals present significant challenges.
  1. Threat. Our operating landscape is changing—adversaries, including individuals, violent extremist organisations, non-state actors and state-based threats control, employ or influence interdependent and mutually supporting domains. These domains are the traditional five—maritime, land, air, space and cyber—combined with the cognitive domain. The cognitive domain, enabled through the values, training and education of our people, and the people who are our enemies, includes individual and collective knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.[5] Throughout the six domains, our threats asymmetrically adapt human and technical means, against the ADF, including weapons of mass destruction, anti-access and area-denial systems, global positioning networks, remotely piloted aircraft, low-cost micro technologies, social media, communications systems and information.
  1. Technology. While the nature of war, as a violent contest of wills, is enduring, technological disruption is changing war’s character. These changing characteristics include the interdependence and efficacy of fused information, encryption, big data, Internet of Things, quantum computing, artificial intelligence,[6] machine-learning, crowd sourcing, gig and sharing economies, virtual reality, robotics, remotely operated systems, autonomous capabilities, blockchain logistics[7], and precision weaponry.[8]

In summary, Accelerated Warfare recognises that three trends—geopolitics, threat and technology—are influenced and exist across and between six interdependent and mutually supporting domains. Countering these trends, Accelerated Warfare implements Army’s four objectives to strengthen our warfighting philosophy, challenge thinking, contribute to joint concepts and encourage a continuous contest of ideas.

A Generational view

Context for Accelerated Warfare is enhanced by, the late, Professor Jeffrey Grey’s idea of Australian Army ‘generations’. For the Australian Army, he argued that each generation builds and culminates in conflict, then enters periods of peace before transitioning to the next generation. Each transition implies ‘a certain overlap or blurring of lines’ between generations.[9]

According to Professor Grey, after formation in 1901, the first-generation Australian Army was defined by World War I, culminating in 1918, both on the Western Front and in Palestine/Syria. Facing post-war austerity, this generation struggled through neglect and decline into the 1930s.

The second-generation Army rose and matured in World War II during which Army’s senior leadership contributed in demanding roles at the strategic level for the first time.[10] This Army also declined following World War II, but its leadership was able to take the organisation forward ‘to a new generation of development and activity, made possible by the very different strategic circumstances that confronted the nation after 1945… and by a shared memory of the consequences of decisions made by an earlier generation of political leadership’.[11]

Between 1946 and 1972, the third-generation Army was characterised by the creation of a standing field force in peacetime and the extensive use of that field force on operations in Asia. During this generation the Army nurtured and developed a professional warfighting ethos.[12] The experience and professionalism of the third-generation’s standing field force strongly influenced the Australian Army, particularly as it transitioned to Army’s fourth-generation.[13]

The lengthy transition from the third-generation to the fourth-generation Army occurred between 1973 and 1999. This transition, during an extended relative peace for Australia, laid the foundations of today’s fourth-generation Army. Concepts and practice for training, equipment, readiness and structure, were set by far-sighted senior Army leadership between 1973 and 1999. Emphasising this point, the former Chief of Army Lieutenant General Morrison stated:

There were groups of men and women, who the nation will never know, who wear no campaign ribbons, who joined the Army after Vietnam [in 1972] and left before East Timor [in 1999]; and in the face of steady decline, both financially and support from the Australian population, kept the faith, held standards high, made young officers like me learn the meaning of failure and learn from it, and when we were required to stand up, we managed to do so.[14]

The fourth and current generation Army emerged following Australia’s intervention in East Timor in late-1999.[15] Since 1999 the fourth-generation Army, like the third-generation Army, has deployed almost continuously on operations; this time throughout the world.

Based on Professor Grey’s thesis, when the next period of relative peace is achieved the Australian Army may transition to its fifth-generation. Therefore, the question for the Australian Army, as we develop Accelerated Warfare, is when will today’s fourth-generation Army culminate from our current set of mainly advise and assist missions, in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines, to enter a period of relative peace?

Perhaps, Accelerated Warfare is the Australian Army’s catalyst for fifth-generation change. Indeed in 2015, the then Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett defined an imminent ‘fifth generation of national naval capability’,[16] the Royal Australian Air Force’s F35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is a 5th Generation fighter,[17] and in 2019 Australia commences installation of ‘fifth-generation cellular networks, known as 5G for short… [that] will also affect… industrial robots, security cameras, drones and cars that send traffic data to one another’.[18]

If Accelerated Warfare is the Australian Army’s fifth-generation transition, then capability changes for Army into the next decade can be combined with three trends – geopolitics, threat and technology – and six interdependent and mutually supporting domains. These capability changes include: completing amphibious trials; continuing digitisation of communications; integrating the LAND 400 Land Combat Vehicle System into our force;[19] and improving Army’s cognitive performance and resilience.[20]

An Innovation view

Accelerated Warfare’s fourth, and arguably most important, objective is to encourage a continuous contest of ideas for Army’s innovation and modernisation through nurturing wide engagement within and by Army across Defence, whole of government, industry, education providers, community, allies, international military partners as well as new and emerging partners. The Chief of Army, in his Army in Motion, Chief of Army’s, Strategic Guidance 2019 reinforces this point [emphasis is in original]:

Army must encourage a broad discussion to maximise the ideas of its people. We must identify opportunities and seize them. The development of Army’s Strategy starts with unconstrained ideas and questions as part of a contest of ideas. This contest of ideas is continuous and will be established as a cultural norm.

This guidance also provides the start-state for our thinking as we develop Army’s Strategy and contribute to future plans that will drive investment and force structure decisions. These plans will also be influenced by Army’s ongoing call for a contest of ideas.[21]

Leaders enable contested ideas through challenging assumptions in doctrine, processes, and planning.[22] Lack of resources must not constrain our leaders in enabling innovation through a contest of ideas. For example, Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett explain that between the ‘great world wars’, military institutions in France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States, ‘came to grips with enormous technological and tactical innovation during a period of minimal funding and low resource support’… ‘some succeeded… others were less successful… and some resulted in dismal military failure’.[23]

Examples of successfully contested ideas, that laid the foundation for victory in World War II, occurred between 1919 and 1940 when, according to Williamson Murray and Macgregor Knox, military institutions that successfully innovated:

  • Examined World War I lessons in a careful, thorough and realistic fashion.
  • Tested systems and ideas—including armoured warfare, amphibious warfare, aircraft carrier operations, submarine operations, strategic bombing, tactical bombing, and radar—to breakdown rather than aiming to validate hopes or theories.[24]
  • Enabled simple honesty and free flow of ideas between leaders and employees—which allowed learning from experience.
  • Worked to improve organisations as a whole, rather than singling out people who had allegedly failed.[25]   

Murray and Millett also emphasise that contested ideas rely upon connections between a military’s, and increasingly society’s, training and education institutions and warfighting practitioners. In recommending this connection, Murray and Millett provide analysis useful for the Australian Army as we seek to establish the continuous contest of ideas as a cultural norm.

A significant portion of innovation in the interwar (i.e. between World War I and World War II) period depended on close relationships between schools of professional military innovation and the world of operations. The US military lost its belief in professional military education after World War II… despite the connection between success in World War II and education at Leavenworth [US Army, Command & Staff College] and Newport [US Navy, Command & Staff College].[26]

Murray and Millett state further:

But any approach to military education remains a central concern throughout the entire career of an officer [italics in original] … [where] one can foster a military culture where those promoted to the highest ranks possess the imagination and intellectual framework to support innovation.[27]

Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal define organisational culture, which includes military culture, as ‘a social reality among the majority of an organisation that is founded on values, standards, traits, principles, knowledge, skills, vision, philosophies, history, traditions, and customs that are accepted, internalised, and manifested through attitudes and behaviours.’[28] For Murray and Millett appropriate organisational culture enhances:

… genuine innovation, [which] like democratic government, is unlikely to be a tidy process… [and] senior leaders who manage to choose a fruitful vision of future war during periods of fundamental change in how wars are fought, can certainly set the basic direction for long-term innovation.[29]

Supporting the four objectives of Accelerated Warfare, Murray and Millett explain that senior leaders must ‘inculcate the requisite intellectual atmosphere and institutional processes within the military societies involved’.[30] Professional military education of senior leaders and people in their organisation provides a platform for change and innovation. Without education, bureaucratic process and organisational inertia predominates.

Paulette Delgado supports the education ideas of Murray and Millett and the need to contest ideas, emphasising that in the 21st Century:

The public sector has the most urgent need to face the impact of technology through a restructuring of the educational system to one aimed at improving soft skills. It also needs to support social policies aimed at creating a lifelong learning ecosystem for students and employees, and stimulate job creation according to local and global demand.[31]

Murray further explains that in peace militaries can only innovate; in war they adapt or fail:

… one cannot replicate in peacetime the conditions of war. In the case of innovation, there is always time available to think through problems, whatever their nature, but peacetime invariably lacks the terrible pressures of war as well as an interactive, adaptive opponent who is trying to kill us. In the case of war, on the other hand, there is little time, but there is the feedback of combat results, which can suggest necessary adaptations, but only if lessons are identified and learned, the latter representing a major “if”.[32]

In enabling a contest of ideas, Murray’s thesis of adaptation in war relies upon educated leaders and empowered military organisations. Murray argues that, without education, adaptation through lesson identification and learning is limited. He emphasises that adaptation has accelerated since the mid-nineteenth century Industrial Revolution ‘began to interfere with the process of war’ through increasingly rapid ‘technological and sociological changes’.[33] Accelerated Warfare’s recognition that three trends—geopolitics, threat and technology—are influenced and exist across and between six interdependent and mutually supporting domains aligns with Murray’s acknowledgement that rapid and evolving technological and social changes are influencing the changing character of war.


Army’s Futures Statement, Army in Motion - Accelerated Warfare was released by the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, on 8 August 2018. Accelerated Warfare is designed to achieve four objectives: strengthen Army’s warfighting philosophy; challenge thinking; contribute to joint concepts; and encourage a continuous contest of ideas.

Importantly, Accelerated Warfare is defined as both the future operating environment and how the Australian Army, as a component of the joint force, responds to that environment. Accelerated Warfare provides the start-state for how our land force thinks, equips, trains, educates, learns, organises and prepares for war and becomes future ready.[34]

Supporting Army’s future readiness, this paper articulates four imperatives for change, based on four alternate views, enabling Army’s implementation of Accelerated Warfare. These views, are: a 2nd Lieutenant’s view; Accelerated Warfare’s view; a generational view; and an innovation view.

Ideas from these four imperatives for change include:

  • Continuous and diverse reading, developing critical thinking skills, innovating following failure, encouraging debate and listening to others. 
  • Expanding the traditional five domains—maritime, land, air, space and cyber—to include the cognitive domain which is enabled through the values, training and education of our people involving individual and collective knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
  • Enabling Accelerated Warfare to support the Australian Army’s fifth-generation transition.
  • Empowering Accelerated Warfare’s contest of ideas, through educated leaders and military organisations, to innovate and change through lesson identification and learning.

These alternate views are examples of the diversity of ideas available to Army as we consider Accelerated Warfare’s place in our dynamic futures.

[1] Chief of Army, Accelerated Warfare, Department of Defence, Australian Army, Canberra, 08 August 2018 accelerated warfare [Accessed 24 November 2018] For further reading, alternate descriptions of Accelerate Warfare include:

- Jan Kallberg, Supremacy by Accelerated Warfare through the Comprehension Barrier and Beyond: Reaching the Zero Domain and Cyberspace Singularity, United States Military Academy, Department of Social Sciences, and the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, West Point, New York, USA, 2018, p. 2. Accelerated Warfare ‘uses time as the vehicle to supremacy by accelerating the velocity of the engagements beyond the speed at which the enemy can target, and precisely execute and comprehend the events unfolding. The space created beyond the adversary’s comprehension is called the Zero Domain. Military traditionally sees the battle space as land, sea, air, space, and cyber domains. When fighting the battle beyond the adversary’s comprehension, no traditional warfighting domain serves as a battle space; it is not a vacuum nor an unclaimed terra nullius, but instead the Zero Domain.’

- Jeff Kline, Joint Vision 2010 and Accelerated Cumulative Warfare: The Masters of War Evaluate a Future Strategy, An Essay Military Strategy. National Defense University, National War College, 1997, pp. 4-5. ‘Accelerated Cumulative Warfare is cumulative warfare plus compressed time for execution enabled by information dominance, precision weapons, dominant manoeuvre and focused logistics. By spherically enveloping the enemy with simultaneous strikes throughout the theatre of operations, Accelerated Cumulative Warfare maximises the ability to be inside the enemy’s Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action cycle (OODA loop),~ and achieves victory by breaking the enemy’s military and political will via total disorientation.’

[2] Incendiary Mine-Grenade ZMG-1 is a thermite charge, a specialist tool used for demolition by Russian special forces, which resembles the U.S. AN-M14 grenade. Grenades of this type burn rather than exploding, and are placed rather than thrown, as they must be in contact with the target. They are filled with a mixture of metal and metal oxide which react to produce extreme temperatures - something over 2,000 degrees Celsius.

CBRNE-Terrorism Newsletter, July 2017, p. 47 <> [Accessed 28 January 2019]

[3] 2ndLt Patrick Cirenza,  Winning in an Air-Contested Environment - Teaching Lieutenants, United States Marine Corps Gazette, November 2018, Volume 102, Issue 11, <> [Accessed 13 November 2018]

[4] Chief of Army, Accelerated Warfare, Op Cit.  

[5] Clark, D.R., Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains, 12 January 2015 <> [Accessed 02 February 2019]

[6] Ahmed Banafa, Open Mind, IoT, AI and Blockchain: Catalysts for Digital Transformation, 15 February 2018 <> [Accessed 03 February 2019]

[7] William M. Brown, Transforming America’s supply chain into a strategic weapon, Defense News, 05 February 2019 <> [Accessed 07 February 2019] Supply chain reform requires: (1) Talent: supply chain teams require diverse skill sets; (2) Engagement: companies are integrating supply chain teams into the value stream much earlier, particularly engineering, to drive efficiencies throughout organisations; (3) Quality: supply chain is now being fully embedded into companies’ operating systems and strategies, and becoming more data driven with key metrics; (4) Digitalisation: companies are embracing digitalisation to address ever-tightening mission schedules and far-reaching global supply bases; (5) Standardisation: companies are establishing supply chain playbooks with key business metrics that enable everyone involved to follow the same proven processes and procedures.

[8] Chief of Army, Accelerated Warfare, Op Cit.

[9] Email Professor Grey to author, 16 January 2015.

[10] Jeffery Grey, A Soldier’s Soldier – A biography of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Daly, Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 1-2

[11] Ibid., p. 2

[12] Ibid., p. 2

[13] Email Professor Grey to author, 16 January 2015.

[14] Greg Sheridan, The Fifth Estate: Chief of Army, Wheeler Centre, Victoria, 12 June 2012. [accessed 01 Jan 2015]

[15] Jeffery Grey, Op Cit., p. 2

[16] Vice Admiral Tim Barrett,  A 5th generation Royal Australian Navy, The Strategist, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 26 Nov 2015| < [Accessed 02 February 2019]

[17] Lockheed Martin Corporation, F-35 Capabilities, Multi-Mission Capability for Emerging Global Threats, 2019  <> [Accessed 03 February 2019]. The designation of fighter aircraft by “generations” began with the first subsonic jets toward the end of World War II, with each new generation reflecting a major advance in technology and capability. The F-35 Lightning II is referred to as a 5th Generation fighter, combining advanced stealth capabilities with fighter aircraft speed and agility, fully-fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced logistics and sustainment.

[18] Don Clark, Financial Review, 5G is coming to Australia. Here's what you need to know, 02 January 2019 <> [Accessed 03 February 2019]

[19]  Australian Government, Department of Defence, Land Combat Vehicle System,  <> [Accessed 03 February 2019]

[20] Australia’s Science Channel, Improving soldier cognitive performance through nutrition, 14 February 2014  <> [Accessed 03 February 2019]

[21] Commonwealth of Australia. Australian Army, Army in Motion, Chief of Army’s, Strategic Guidance 2019, 23 January 2019, pp. 2 & 11

[22] Col Jay Hatton, USMC(Ret), LtCol Robert S. Peterson, Majs Josh Kiihne & Pete Abelson, & GySgt Alan G. Fowler PME in Today’s Interwar Period - Global uncertainty demands high-quality, educated Marines, Marine Corps Gazette, June 2015, p. 12

[23] Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett (eds), Military Innovation in the Interwar Period, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 2

[24] Ibid., p. 3

[25] Macgregor Knox and Williamson Murray, The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 188.

[26] Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett (eds), Op Cit., p. 327

[27] Ibid., p. 327

[28] Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal, Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, San Francisco, California, Jossey-Bass, 2013. See also Gareth Morgan, Images of Organization, Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications, Inc., 2006

[29] Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett (eds), Op Cit., p. 415

[30] Ibid., p. 415

[31] Paulette Delgado, The challenges of the workforce against automation, Observatory of Educational Innovation,  Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, 18 September 2018 <> [Accessed 10 February 2019]

[32] Williamson Murray, Military Adaptation in War: With Fear of Change, Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 2

[33] Ibid., p. 2

[34] Chief of Army, Accelerated Warfare, Op Cit.

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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