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CALFS 2018: The Application of Land Power in the Indo-Pacific

CALFS 2018: The Application of Land Power in the Indo-Pacific

The Chief of Army’s Land Forces Seminar 2018 (CALFS) was held in Adelaide from 4-6 September and addressed the topic ‘The Application of Land Power in the Indo Pacific’. The Chief’s intent for the focus of the seminar was strengthening partnerships and unlocking our collective potential and this theme was explored by sixteen Australian and international speakers over four half-day sessions. These sessions are summarised below. All speakers agreed that the Indo-Pacific region is characterised by the influence of population growth, changing demographics, growing mass urbanisation with megacities, climate change, and mass movements of people, and it was against this background that the speakers addressed the challenges of working within this strategically important region.

Session one, entitled ‘The Indo-Pacific: the region of global connection’ was hosted by Lieutenant General Rick Burr (Chief of Army) and included The Hon Christopher Pyne (Minister for Defence), Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanyake (Commander of the Sri Lanka Army), Mr Michael Shoebridge (Director Defence and Strategy, Australian Strategic Policy Institute), and Mr Tom Hamilton (Acting Deputy Secretary, Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group). The Chief of Army introduced the session by emphasising the transformational mindset that is required to become an integrated part, not only of the Joint Force but of a broader team that includes international partners, industry and academia. Technological innovation, he stated, would draw on our ‘moral foundation’ to apply it lawfully and ethically. The Minister discussed the importance of the Defence Cooperation Program and promoted the role of Defence Industry as a cultivator of partnerships in the region. It is important, he said, to build relationships before a crisis occurs. Gen Senanyake observed that the Indo-Pacific transcended the north-south divide that characterises so much political engagement, and that cooperation was a characteristic of the region demonstrated by the several bilateral and multilateral fora already operating. Mr Shoebridge and Mr Hamilton stressed the importance of a productive US/China relationship.

Session two, entitled ‘Land power and countering violent extremism’ was presented by Major General Adam Findlay (Commander Special Operations), Lieutenant General Rolando Joselito Bautista (Commanding General Philippine Army), Ms Katja Theodorakis (Program Manager for Foreign/Security Policy and Counter Terrorism, Konrad-Adenauer Foundation Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific) and Mr Duncan Lewis (Director General of Security, Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation). SOCAUST spoke of thinking ‘beyond the armed force to prevent the cultivation of terrorism in the minds of vulnerable people. Radicalisation, he argued, must be fought within civil society by all professions. Gen Batista gave a comprehensive presentation of the JSOTF liberation of Marawi, emphasising the importance of information dominance and involving the media. Ms Theodorakis shared her research on Jihadist cultural narratives and warned against the danger of representing the enemy in an ‘us/them’ binary construct. Mr Lewis echoed SOCAUST’s sentiments of fighting the extremist narrative in a domestic setting. He suggested that land forces have much to offer domestic counterterrorism effort in intelligence, logistics and geographical and topographical expertise. 

Session three, entitled ‘Generating Land Power through partnering’ was presented by Major General Gregory Bilton (Deputy Chief Joint Operations), Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo (Commander Papua New Guinea Defence Force), Mr Richard Sadleir (First Assistant Secretary International Security Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and Mr Glenn Dunbier (Deputy Executive Director, Australian Civil-Military Centre). MAJGEN Bilton referred to the recent cooperation with Philippine armed forces and proposed that an approach that sought the partners’ interests as opposed to imposing our own training requirements was more productive. Gen Toropo called for a maturity in regional partnerships in which the contribution of all partners was recognised and valued, and relationships operated on trust. Mr Sadler advised that DFAT values the long-term relationships that land forces, in particular, make with regional partners through training courses and exercises, and Mr Dunbier related his experiences as an NZ police officer working in interagency activities and observed that the cultural understandings we bring to partnerships can be an advantage or a barrier.

Session four, entitled ‘The character of future Indo-Pacific land forces’ was presented by Major General Kathryn Toohey (Head Land Capability), General Robert B Brown (Commanding General United States Army Pacific), Professor Ji You (Head, Department of Government and Public Administration University of Macau) and Professor Genevieve Bell (Distinguished Professor Florence Violet McKenzie Chair, Director of the Autonomy, Agency & Assurance (3A) Institute Australian National University). This final session firmly placed the focus on the importance of people in the land force. MAJGEN Toohey introduced the idea of rethinking the need for Army specialists next to generalists. Professor Ji spoke of the cultural change needed for all regional forces to embrace jointness. Professor Bell gave a particularly informative presentation on the complex human considerations of artificial intelligence, and Gen Brown asserted that to thrive in the ambiguity and chaos which characterises the current environment, interoperability required a new patience to integrate people and processes rather than systems.

The CALFS recording and analysis team was led by LTCOL Leon Young and included Dr Lyndal Thompson, LTCOL Charles Knight, MAJ Cate Carter and SGT Matt Struthers. An AARC Special Edition of the Full Conference Report will be published in Oct 2018 and will appear here. Podcasts of the analysis team discussing each session will be published on the CALFS18 podcast page. Videos of each session can be found here.

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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