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Emerging Threats and Opportunities

Soldier crouched in dry waist high grass

Military Strategy.

Professor Peter Roberts, Director Military Sciences at RUSI, leads a wide ranging discussion with Frank Hoffman, in a podcast format.

A recent symposium addressing the topic of austerity in the face of U.S. DoD budget cuts has elicited a number of short essays from leading American national security writers. For example, T.X. Hammes writes about an end to exquisite weapons and Steven Metz argues an expansion of the aperture through thinking big about defense budget cuts. A wiliness to challenge sacred cows is clearly evident in the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) through the release of the Marine Corps Vision & Strategy 2025. The USMC approach is examined by the Wavell Room, providing a U.K. view of the implications of the USMC change. 

From War on the Rocks, an objective analysis of the Defence Strategic Update discusses the risks inherent in Australia’s stated objectives in “shape, deter, and respond.” The author of this piece, Professor Van Jackson of Victoria University of Wellington, has also released an analytic piece with CNAS examining the strategic challenges of deterring a nuclear North Korea in North-east Asia.

The Australian National University, recently released the new instalment of the Centre of Gravity series, titled How to Mobilse Australia. The overall paper is thus quite timely, landing soon after the Defence Strategic Update confirmed the heightened sense of competition in the Indo-Pacific that might require mobilising actions. Of note, U.S. Army Officer, Nathan Finney, who was seconded to ASPI over 2017, argues for a ‘campaign of learning’ in order to increase the flexibility and stamina of the Australian Army. Also notable, is previous Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral (ret.) Chris Barrie, who argues that it is time to begin a national debate on the nature, form, requirements and incentives for a universal service scheme. 

Nathan Finney has also been busy producing a primer titled On Strategy for the Combat Studies Institute of the U.S. Army. This primer is a collection of articles that has attracted injection from the esteemed Colin Gray and Lawrence Freedman, and Australian perspectives from WGCDR “Jo” Brick speaking to Coalition Perspectives on Strategy, SQNLDR Jenna Higgins exploring Deterrence and Strategy, LTCOL Jasmin Diab explaining Nuclear Strategy, and LEUT Miah Hammond-Errey examining Transformational Technology. The final chapter, on Future War and Competition, is written by MAJGEN Mick Ryan, thus providing an aggregate coalition picture to this discussion of strategy.

Wrapping up this broad discussion of strategy is a report from the National Defence University examining a framework for Crafting Strategy for Irregular Warfare

Major Power Competition

From the U.S. Army University Press, an insight into the evolving Battlefield Development Plan, which provides a holistic campaign assessment for Army modernisation. This report is notable in the context of an additional report released by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, titled An Army Transformed: USINDOPACOM Hypercompetition and U.S. Army Theatre Design

The Regional View

In a well-publicised article from Foreign Policy, India is reported to be signalling strongly toward Australia through inviting participation in the Malabar exercises, rescheduled to late 2020. Drivers behind such outreach might include New Delhi’s response to border incursions during May-June of this year.

From Lowy Institute, Catherine Wilson warns of a looming Youth Bulge dynamic in the Pacific based upon demographic forecasts to 2050, likely to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth bulge dynamics have been a long-recognised indicator of potential conflict due to the attendant grievances of under- or unemployment, lower wages, rural-urban migration in search of work and heightened criminality.  


The Office of the Chief Scientist released the 2020 report on Australia’s STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] workforce last week, and available here. The paper is introduced with the statement that ‘the impacts of bushfires and COVID-19 these last few months have also shown the value of an educated STEM workforce in developing solution for response, recovery and long-term resilience.’ This statement is poignant in the context of analysis directed toward STEM in Defence (page 55), which notes that ‘the proportion of people working in the Defence industry who were STEM qualified has not increased substantially over the last decade.’ By comparison, over the period 2006 to 2016, the Australian workforce grew by 13% in its vocationally educated and trained STEM workforce, and 62% with a university STEM qualification. These statistics are significant in light of the STEM requirements of the increasingly technological capabilities listed in the Force Structure Plan, such as autonomous systems and major platform acquisitions. That Defence has not been able to increase its STEM workforce over this decade reinforces the recommendation within a recent AARC reportAn Uncertain and Dangerous Decade: Preparing the Army for the next ten years - which argued the importance of focusing attention toward developing Army’s intellectual capital. 


  • The ASPI Strategic Vision conference continues online, until 14 Aug, with details available here.
  • Professor Mark Beeson of the University of Western Australia, is speaking to The Decline of the West, from 5-6pm on 5 Aug 2020.
  • The AARC Seminar Series will see DGFLW presenting on the Army Force Structure Implementation Plan in the R1 Theatre at 1200-1300 on Wednesday 5 Aug.
  • Also in the AARC Seminar Series, the RICO Team will host a presentation on Quantum Computing opportunities and threats in the R1 Theatre at 1200-1300 on 13 Aug.

Finally, in the coming AARC Seminar Series will be the hosting Dr Charles Edel of the U.S. Studies Centre discussing the US-Australia Alliance and the future of the Indo-Pacific Competition on 27 Aug. Registration details will be made available on confirmation of virtual or live delivery.

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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