The Case for Creating a Human Performance Branch
Despite all the hysteria and investment in ‘kit’, the soldier remains the single most important and factor in the projection of land power. LWD1 puts the case far more eloquently, arguing technology is merely complementary to the decisive dimension, the human. More bluntly, where technology is necessary but not sufficient for land power – soldiers are.
If soldiers are the most critical element in the projection of land power then their optimisation is the most important investment Army can make in developing land capability for war. As I have argued, both as Founding Editor of Performance Enhancement and Health and to the Australian Senate, the ‘performance:health nexus’ is the cornerstone to optimising the human condition. Translated into the land power context, the nexus says that soldier performance is optimised only when soldier health is optimised.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health in terms of physical, mental and social well-being, with debate on the inclusion of spiritual well-being as a fourth dimension.
Physical well-being in land power is easily understood as the proper functioning of members through, for example, physical conditioning (exercise) and nutrition.
Mental well-being can be understood as being able to respond appropriately to the environment members find themselves in, from combat to buying milk.
Social well-being is recognising members are also partners, parents, veterans, play sport and are citizens of Australia; that is, members have roles well outside the Army that make for well-rounded people (personhood). Army has a duty of care to ensure members can fulfil their personhood by promoting their social well-being.
Spiritual well-being (as distinct from religion) is about respecting the beliefs of the self and others, nourishing the soul rather than the mind or the body; in my experience it is something that is more felt than understood, and is very difficult to put into words (at least for me).
Army has a strong investment in physical (including RAAMC, RAANC and RAADC), mental (AAPC) and spiritual well-being (Chaplains) of members. There is no clear modernising and administrative centre that looks to social well-being, but can be seen across Army in terms of the support given to members as they make Army part of their journey through life (e.g. AHQ Cultural Renewal Cell).
Realising the potential of the performance:health nexus for land power is achieved through three complementary actions. The first is addressing the absence of a co-ordinating central point for Army social well-being. That is, establishing a Director for Army Social Health (DASH). DASH would lead, among other things, Army’s ongoing efforts to maintain and promote strong civil-military relations, such as taking policy responsibility for helping members transition from Army back into civilian life.
The second is leveraging the investment in health with the establishment of a Directorate for Human Performance (DHP). The aim of DHP is to look to how soldier performance can be optimised through the evidence-based implementation of performance optimising selection, training or technology (currently led by SO1 Human Performance). As I have argued elsewhere, a core function for DHP is establishing and maintaining Human Performance Management Policy (HPMP) and driving debate on the role of performance enhancing technologies in the Profession of Arms.
The third complementary action is that the nexus can only be realised by integrating the policy, planning and enabling elements of Army that support holistic health and well-being with the elements of Army that support human performance. This can be achieved by establishing a Human Performance Branch - Army (HPB), led by Director General – Human Performance (DG HP).
Establishing HPB explicitly operationalises the link between performance and health in the Australian Army by integrating planning, policy and enabling structures. Doing so creates the capability necessary to support performance:health nexus optimisation for Army, as well as Army’s ability to leverage asymmetric advantages into the future. In simple terms, HBP seeks to weaponise the human mind and body by exploiting technological, intellectual, social and cultural advances, within an ethical framework, to create war fighters whose capabilities greatly exceed those of Australia’s potential adversaries.
As soldiers are the ultimate capability in generating land power, HPB fits comfortably within Land Capability Division. Elements from across the health corps and Chaplains can be drawn into a HPB, and alongside DASH and DHP, to provide the strategic leadership necessary to achieve asymmetrical combat advantage through optimising the land power performance:health nexus.
Meeting the vision for Australian Land Power put forward in LWD1 is critically contingent upon optimising its most valuable and decisive capability, asset and resource – soldiers. Optimising each soldier means finding the sweet spot that allows Army to create the right conditions to maximise health, performance and the nexus between the two. The best way to achieve those conditions is operationalising the performance:health nexus through creation of HPB.
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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29 August 2023
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