Pulling Forward the Future - Welcome to the Land Power Forum 2020
Welcome to the Australian Army’s Land Power Forum. The forum, now six years old, exists to sustain a conversation about Army and its future. It is a place for the stakeholders of this future to offer their perspectives, whether they be serving military personnel, civilian officials, academics, members of industry and other partners invested in Army’s growth as an institution. These perspectives may include discussion on topics extending from the theoretical to the immediately practical; from perspectives of the future characteristics of war to opinions on Army’s organisation and purpose. It is a way in which Army capitalises on the informed analysis and opinions of forum contributors, and a way in which Army communicates with the partners invested in its future successes. The Land Power Forum and other Army publications provide opportunities for people to present ideas that can be raised, discussed, dissected, and promoted.
Accelerated Warfare, a statement released in late 2018, stimulated thinking about Army’s future. Accelerated Warfare highlights potential (if they aren’t here already) strategic threats, the transformational impact of technology on society and warfare, and Army’s capability and capacity to operate in an increasingly integrated joint force. Adaptation, innovation and decision-making are critical in making Army ‘future-ready’ and capable against contemporary threats. Now Army recognises that they are the same factors that ensure Army can mobilise, scale, posture and respond to crises, contingencies and tasks that no-one had predicted. Army has sustained a ‘contest of ideas’, ranging from the discussions of the Chief of Army Seminar in 2018, and this will be publicised in articles and commentary by the Australian Army Research Centre in the future. Most importantly, the ideas that rose in this mix have been bound into the Army strategic documents emblemised in Army in Motion: Army’s contribution to Defence strategy, and practically applied in transformational initiatives to Army training and capability development.
The initiatives underway are not a beginning, nor are they an end. Just as the Army’s circumstances are changing rapidly and in unforeseen directions, the response required to be both ‘ready now’ and ‘future ready’ will naturally shift with every one of these movements. Army has always combined incremental change with wholesale reform when external and internal pressures demand it. Organisational change is not just inevitable, but entirely normal. Yet the expectation, now, is that the marriage between what Army does well already and the establishment of an environment to transform into the future must quicken. Army’s capacity to innovate will be reflected in its ability to offset against emerging organisational challenges or strategic threats, or responding to crises. Responding quickly, efficiently and effectively to an unforeseen strategic need will be a direct consequence of how Army sets the environment for transformation right now.
What does ‘pulling the future towards us rather than wait for it’ mean? On one hand it encourages Army and others to embrace what is already coming. On the other it encourages Army to create the future by exploiting opportunities before it. A pathway has been set through Army’s strategic plans, but there will always be a need to remain vigilant. New sources of advantage or risks to be mitigated must be identified, steps discussed and developed to respond, and requirements are gathered to respond. A culture of inquiry and critique must challenge preconceptions and cultural conveniences. This does not mean Army has to accurately predict the future; it does require Army to apply thoughts towards capability and capacity, preparedness and posture, which give it the best chance to transform effectively when a trend becomes something more.
Here, in the Land Power Forum and with the Australian Army Research Centre’s new website, prospective authors can place their ideas directly in the hands of those who are expected to lead Army’s preparations for the future. It is an opportunity for Army’s soldiers and officers to collaborate with others in the Australian Defence Force and Department and Defence, but also with industry, academia, research institutes and the Australian community to produce the institution that the nation not only wants but needs. All have a stake in the creation of an Army that is well prepared for the challenges ahead. I encourage you to contribute here and assist Army to identify what no longer works as well as it should, the nature of the change in circumstances Army faces, and what it must do so that Army has choices to respond to events rather than having events choose what Army must do.
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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Editor's note: This Land Power Forum post is now open for discussion.