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Integrated Campaigning - Part 1

What it looks like Tactically, Operationally, and Strategically

The author acknowledges the efforts, analysis, and assistance of Commander Jorge McKee and Lieutenant Colonel Uliano Polatos. Both officers significantly contributed to, and directly provided, the ideas and analysis that supports this article.

A Royal Australian Air Force airman talks to the C-27J Spartan aircraft crew as they prepare to depart High Range training area near Townsville, Queensland, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019.

History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.

Attributed to Mark Twain.


[Australia’s] strategic culture values engagement with culturally compatible, like-minded worldwide powers, coalitions or multilateral intuitions.

David Kilcullen, ‘Australian Statecraft’[i]


As Kilcullen and others argue, there are enduring themes to Australia’s strategic policy.[ii] One such theme is that Australia never works alone. We work with others to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. Through such efforts, Australia increases its strategic weight and advances its national interests. Whether it is working with partners on trade issues, enhancing stability through intelligence and education, or supporting our allies during times of diplomatic tension, Australia seeks to integrate its national capabilities with allies and partners to achieve a greater outcome for all. Australia’s military history also illustrates this theme of integration. From this history, we learn that not only does Australia never work alone, it should never seek to fight alone. This enduring theme of integrating with allies, partners, whole-of-government, and community is the heart of the ADF’s capstone concept: Integrated Campaigning.

As a capstone concept, Integrated Campaigning guides how we think about and solve problems. The focus of the concept is the employment of military power to support national objectives. However, Integrated Campaigning should also shape how we, as military professionals, work within combined and joint teams, whole-of-government groups, and in coalitions. This article outlines how Integrated Campaigning works at the tactical, operational, and strategic level. First, the article provides an overview of military power within the Australian context. Then, the article discusses how Integrated Campaigning is both a concept for future action and a mindset. Understanding this mindset helps the article illustrate how Integrated Campaigning can be applied at the tactical, operational, and strategic level.

The Australian Context of Military Power

Australia is a middle power that lives in a changing, dynamic, and increasingly precarious strategic environment.[iii] In such a context, Australia cannot view; and historically has not viewed; its strategic challenges as purely military or diplomatic problems. Australia’s long-established approach has been to apply all national instruments to any national problem. This approach exists at all times: cooperation, competition, conflict, and war.[iv]

History shows that during times of great conflict, Australia works within an alliance. Such alliances are led by great powers that share our interests and values. Even out of war, Australia has always supported the regional and global rules-based order.[v] Historically, our military support is often provided through contributions that reinforce; and recently sometimes lead; stability and support operations. These contributions achieve two outcomes. They allow Australia, as a nation, to manage its constrained national instruments to support the global order. Secondly, these military contributions help reinforce our diplomatic and economic actions.

The above context shapes Australia’s thinking about, and use of, military power. The ADF, and Defence as a whole, exists in complement with the other instruments of national power for the pursuit of the national interest. This interest includes beneficially shaping our strategic environment, deterring actions that threaten our interests, and responding when necessary with decisive force. This context has created a military that, throughout its history, has been tactically brilliant. Yet tactical brilliance is not enough. A focus on pure tactics often leads to limited thinking about strategic problems and national power.[vi] In the past, Australia’s success has been due to both the tactical capabilities of our force and its leadership. Such leadership was brilliant at tactical thinking, while also appreciating the national interest.[vii] Accepting and recognising both tactical and strategic thinking is a key part of Integrated Campaigning.

Integrated Campaigning as a Mindset

There are two aspects to Integrated Campaigning. First, it is the ADF’s capstone concept that outlines how the ADF thinks about and employs military power to support national objectives. The second aspect is to guide how we, as military professionals, think about conflict and competition within the Australian context.

No matter the level of war, Australian military professionals must have a mindset grounded in Australia’s use of military power. We should recognise that our force, historically and into the future, is ‘always on’ and actively seeks to work with others towards national interests. We need to be brilliant at our tactical thinking, but also understand how our military actions, and the actions of others, relate to our national outcomes. We cannot focus solely on the tactical objective of battle. Therefore, ADF professionals must have a mindset that not only recognises the value of other groups, but actively seeks another group’s perspective and input. These perspectives test our own thinking and, by finding commonality, help create stronger plans. Although this may sound like joint or inter-agency, it is not. These previous approaches often saw groups work next to, or alongside, others to reduce organisational weaknesses. Joint and inter-agency has the mindset of individual components that overlap. The underlying logic of Integrated Campaigning seeks to work with and within other groups to create a new, greater, ‘whole’. In future conflict, where Australia will have limited mass and may be technologically overmatched, such ‘wholes’ are vital.

The above approach requires military practitioners to not only understand the bigger picture, but seek to understand how others achieve their part of the wider outcome. Furthermore, such practitioners should actively support the actions of others to achieve a greater national goal. To achieve this approach, military professionals will require an open mind, understand the opinions of others, and be willing to revise their own views due to other people’s perspectives. These characteristics are known as a habit-of-mind, and form a golden thread of logic within Integrated Campaigning.[viii] This habit-of-mind also shapes how Integrated Campaigning is practiced at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels now and into the future.

The Tactical Level of Integrated Campaigning

To illustrate Integrated Campaigning in action, it is useful to first discuss the tactical level of war. At this level, Integrated Campaigning sees the existing joint approach occurring at increasingly lower levels. Although this may seem the same as now, growing threats and domain-specific technological overmatch requires greater integration of all domains to achieve tactical military outcomes. Specialist non-military expertise will often be needed to resolve tactical and technical problems, such as adapting novel technologies to emerging threats. Furthermore, the ADF will continue to fight alongside partners and allies, likely at lower levels. Because Australia is a middle power, our tactical actions will need to be linked to national objectives, while also supporting alliance tactical and operational outcomes. Failure to achieve these objectives can occur just as easily out of battle as in it.

Within this tactical context, combat will often occur within an Australian military team, which fights alongside other partner teams. Here, junior professionals must be brilliant tactically, while also recognising that Australia’s national interest is best served through the support they can, where able, provide their partner; be it a great power or another smaller nation. Given this, junior officers and soldiers, sailors, and aviators must be competent in their specialisation. Nevertheless, they should seek ways to develop their broader knowledge on how other specialisations, coalition partners, and domains can complement each other. Such knowledge will set the foundation for future development.

As junior military professionals increase in rank and experience, their broadening knowledge becomes broader understanding.[ix] Such military professionals are experts of their specialisation, understand their domain, and actively look for ways to enhance other partners and groups. Within Integrated Campaigning, it will be these people that often coordinate the ‘on-the-ground’ integration of military teams. Their understanding of Australia’s strategic context and national interest, coupled with a willingness to actively seek out how best to support partners; be it other government agencies, partnered militaries, or coalition allies; will ensure that tactical success directly contributes to our national interests and outcomes. Such success is reinforced at the operational level.

Operational Level of Integrated Campaigning

Integrated Campaigning expects conflict at the operational level to expand beyond joint, and default to coalition warfighting. Much like Australia of the 1940s, Australia’s operational level of conflict is both with and within a great power coalition. Where the tactical level sees the ADF working jointly and alongside other partners, Integrated Campaigning requires a greater fusion of other partners within conflict at the operational level. To achieve this, the ADF must be willing to work seamlessly within coalition military environments. While the ADF operates within a military coalition, it works with Australia’s other national instruments to coordinate mutually supporting and sometimes overlapping activity. Such overlap ensures that Australia, as a nation, achieves its objectives of security and prosperity. This approach demands a deep understanding of ADF, coalition, and partner activity.

The above operational context requires ADF professionals to go beyond tactical brilliance. It indicates that they must become interlocutors between Australia’s interests and the coalition’s wider objectives. At the operational level, we must ensure that Australia’s fighting increases both our security and our strategic weight. Here, Integrated Campaigning demands practitioners that not only understand Australia’s strategic context, but actively pursue it within the coalition environment. This may mean that ADF officers, who are tactical commanders within a coalition setting, have operational responsibilities to support Australia’s national interest. For example, a sub-unit or unit commander (battlegroup, ship, or air task unit) within a coalition environment should seek ways to meet coalition tactical tasking, while also integrating Australia’s interests within the coalition context. Our recent experiences in the Middle-East have helped us recognise this dynamic. Nevertheless, we must continue to evolve and grow such thinking within our officer corps. Such thinking is helped through posting and deployment exposures as embeds, in-line officers, and secondees.

ADF officers who work with other militaries, either before conflict or during it, should actively seek to understand, support, and where appropriate integrate with the culture of the partner military. Such integration reinforces inclusion and enhances planning. These actions further coalition objectives while supporting Australian interests. This thinking is also relevant to other government agencies, both at the operational and strategic level.

Strategic Level of Integrated Campaigning

The greatest impact of Integrated Campaigning is at the strategic level. Yet, this impact cannot be achieved without the activities and experiences of the tactical and operational levels. The strategic level sees shared national objectives distilled into actions for each instrument of power, and coordinated with international partners. Economic, information, and diplomatic capabilities are interwoven with military power to apply constant national action within conflict. Such action is not just related to winning the war. It is also linked to furthering Australia’s prosperity and security before and after conflict. Such integration, effectively applied before conflict, helps minimise the chance of conflict occurring. Consequently, the strategic level focusses on sustaining cohesive and effective action across all instruments of national power to influence both the adversary and partners. Future military practitioners working at this level will require a deep understanding of strategic risk, government agencies, partners, and adversaries.

Within the above context, Integrated Campaigning recognises that, at the strategic level, the ADF is both an instrument of, and an enabler for, national power. As an instrument of national power, the ADF’s role is to integrate with, and enhance, coalition military might. Although this is done predominately at the operational level, such integration allows the coalition, strategically, to win the war. However, military power is also an enabler for national power. In this role, the ADF enhances the efforts of the other levers of national power to shape, influence, and position Australia within its alliances and beyond the conflict. This means military professionals will need to be ready to work within and across government and coalition; both equally and continuously; before, during, and after conflict. Such capacity requires a strong understanding of other agencies’ cultures, planning, and approaches to problem solving.

To achieve Integrated Campaigning, military professionals must develop a strong habit-of-mind. This habit-of-mind is grounded in a willingness to have an open mind, understand the opinions of others, and revise one’s views based on others thinking. Such a habit-of-mind appears simple. Yet, history shows that it takes time to grow and effort to sustain.[x] This article has described how this mindset is founded on how the ADF thinks about and solve problems within the Australian context. The article has also outlined how this mindset manifests at the tactical, operational, and strategic level. Australia and the region are entering more complex and challenging times. Integrated Campaigning makes clear that the ADF, and Australia as a whole, never fights alone. We should always seek to integrate our efforts with other government agencies, partners, and allies to achieve Australia’s national outcomes.

In Part 2 of Integrated Campaigning Nick Bosio explores Developing Our People.

[i] David J. Kilcullen, "Australian Statecraft: The Challenge of Aligning Policy with Strategic Culture," Security Challenges 3, no. 4 (2007): 50.

[ii] A range of scholars provide this analysis. For a summary see: Graeme Cheeseman and Michael McKinley, Australia's Regional Security Policies 1970-1990: Some Critical Reflections, ed. Peace Research Centre, vol. 101, Working Paper, (Canberra, ACT, AUST: Peace Research Centre, 1990); Graeme Cheeseman, "Back to "Forward Defence" and the Australian National Style," in Discourses of Danger and Dread Frontiers: Australian Defence and Security Thinking After the Cold War, ed. Graeme Cheeseman and Robert Bruce (St Leonards, NSW, AUST: Allen & Unwin, 1996); Kilcullen, "Australian Statecraft."; Stephan Frühling, A History of Australian Strategic Policy Since 1945, PDF ed., ed. Department of Defence (Canberra, ACT, AUST: Defence Publishing Service, 2009); Rod Lyon, Strategic Contours: The Rise of Asia and Australian Strategic Policy, Strategy, (Canberra, ACT, AUST: Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 2012); Rod Lyon and Hayley Channer, Strategic Interests and Australian Grand Strategy, vol. 108, ASPI Policy Analysis, (Canberra, ACT, AUST: Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 2013).

[iii] This is covered in a range of academic and policy papers over the last 15 years. For illustrative examples, see: Hugh White, Beyond the Defence of Australia: Finding a New Balance in Australian Strategic Policy, vol. 16, Lowy Institute Paper, (Sydney, NSW, AUST: Lowy Institute, 2007); Ross Babbage, Australia's Strategic Edge in 2030, ed. David Schmidtchen, vol. 15, Kokoda Paper, (Canberra, ACT, AUST: The Kokoda Foundation, 2011); John C. Blaxland, A Geostrategic SWOT Analysis for Australia, ed. Andrew Carr, vol. 49, The Centre of Gravity Series, (Australian National University, Canberra, AUST: Australian National University, Jun 2019, 2019).

[iv] For a discussion of the spectrum, see: Nicholas J. Bosio, "What Is War? Defining War, Conflict and Competition" Australian Army Research Centre ed. Land Power Forum, Australian Army, 05 March, 2020.

[v] Cheeseman and McKinley, Regional Security Policies, 101; Kilcullen, "Australian Statecraft."; Rod Lyon, Australia’s Strategic Fundamentals, vol. 6, ASPI Special Report, (Canberra, ACT, AUST: Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 2007); Lyon and Channer, Strategic Interests and Australian Grand Strategy, 108.

[vi] Nicholas J. Bosio, "An Analysis of the Relationship between Contemporary Western Military Theory, Systems Thinking, and their Key Schools-of-Thought"  (Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate (research), Australian National University, 2022), 224-27, 56-59, 83.

[vii] David Horner’s analysis of commanders since the Second World War illustrates this mixture of coalition tactical thinking with Australian strategic understanding. See: David Horner, High Command: Australia and Allied Strategy, 1939-1945 (Canberra, ACT, Australia: Australian War Memorial, 1982); David Horner, The Commanders: Australian Military Leadership in the Twentieth Century (Sydney, NSW, Australia: George Allen and Unwin, 1984); David Horner, Strategic Command: General Sir John Wilton and Australia’s Asian Wars, ed. David Horner, The Australian Army History Series, (Melbourne, AUST: Oxford University Press, 2005).

[viii] The importance of habits-of-mind are recognised throughout several disciplines. See Bosio for a summary. For military and war studies, see Gole, Murray, and Mansoor. Henry G. Gole, The Road to Rainbow: Army Planning for Global War, 1934-1940 (Annapolis, Maryland, USA: Naval Institute Press, 2003), 158; Williamson Murray, Military Adaptation in War: With Fear of Change, Kobo eBook ed. (New York, New York, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 1.3-5, 4.28-35; Williamson Murray, War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness, Kobo eBook ed. (New York, New York, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 6.1-56 (Ch 6), 7.13-15; Peter R. Mansoor, "US Grand Strategy in the Second World War," in Successful Strategies: Triumphing in War and Peace from Antiquity to the Present, ed. Williamson Murray and Richard Hart Sinnreich (Cambridge, England, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 11.48; Nicholas J. Bosio, "Moulding War's Thinking: Using Wargaming to Broaden Military Minds," Australian Army Journal XVI, no. 2 (2020): 26; Bosio, "Relationship between Military Theory and Systems Thinking," 58-60.

[ix] Focus is transition from junior O3 to senior O3 and OR6 to OR7/8.

[x] Murray’s work demonstrates this point. See: Murray, Military Adaptation in War; Murray, War, Strategy, and Military Effectiveness.

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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