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Exploiting the Technological Spectrum to Generate SOF Value in Strategic Competition


Based on almost any metric, Australia’s strategic circumstances are deteriorating. Not since the darkest days of the Second World War has it faced threats to sovereignty and interests that could be described as both truly strategic and potentially existential. The return of great power competition amongst states competing for global hegemony, along with global pandemics, natural and man-made disasters, the possibility of nuclear war in Europe, global inflation, the hyper-transformation and pervasiveness of information, and the likely impact of emerging technology are all testament to the rate and pace of change that has come to define the early decades of the 21st century.

It is in this context that the Australian Defence Force is confronted with the challenge of being able to respond to both traditional and non-traditional threats that the government, and indeed the citizens of this country, now expect their military to possess in order to underwrite its obligation to generate military power for national security. The need for the right force design is critical to this. Whereas military power relies on being able to principally respond to the most consequential threats in the form of military conventional capabilities, it is also increasingly the case that offset and asymmetric capabilities are necessary in order to be able to generate
response options that not only complement conventional force capabilities but are also able to meet these new types of threats with their own forms of
special capabilities, including space- and information-based systems and, of equal importance, Special Operations Forces.

The central proposition of this monograph is that the traditional operational spectrum of peace–conflict–war has been usurped by a more dynamic set of tensions between two states of being: competition and conflict. To that end, and relative to Special Operations Forces, it argues that these capabilities must now adopt a full-spectrum campaign approach to military action, with a focused application of advanced and emerging technologies that generate the asymmetric capabilities necessary to ‘win’. It is these systems, as part of the joint task forces of the future, that will give Australia, whether in concert with her allies or as a self-reliant act of self-defence, the ability to create the kinds of security dilemmas against potential future adversaries that amount to a legitimate form of strategic deterrence.

I commend this publication to the reader. I also congratulate the two authors for their deep thinking, for being brave enough to formulate their ideas and present them to for public scrutiny, and for being prepared to defend them in a robust way. The more that Army’s young leaders and professionals contribute to the debate around the future of war, the better off we will all be.

Ian Langford, PhD