Journal of the australian naval

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g Contribution to Security.

Ndvol Technology Army Technology Simulation Technology

"Congratulations 4| to the Royal Australian Navy on its 75th Anniversary"

We aire piouci of out association with the RAN in iIn- realisation of recent majoi piojects.


A Sound Decision

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Process'.* The legislative tramework for the relationship between the Secretary and the CDF is to be found in Section 9A of the Defence Act 1903, which says that they 'shall jointly have the administration of the Defence forces', except for matters coming within command' and 'any other matter specified by the Minister' (no such matters have been specified). While this provides a legal basis for joint action, it does not offer any specific guidance on whether their roles overlap or diverge. Nor does it offer any guidance on the mutual limits of their responsibilities.

In the most simplified terms, the CDF is responsible for the utilisation of Defence resources, especially in time of war. The Secretary, on the other hand, is responsible for the provision of Defence resources and guidance on their use. Further clarification of their respective roles is provided in the directives issued to both the Secretary and the CDF by the Minister for Defence. But ultimately no legal or administrative instrument is able to delineate comprehensively their respective responsibilities, joint or separate. Indeed, any attempt to do so would be pointless, since even if it were successful it would simply capture a given moment in history which would in turn be unresponsive to change. The guiding principle on which the joint process rests is the pursuit by both the Secretary and the CDF of a common objective — Australia's defence in the most efficient and effective means possible. Any concentration of functions and methods at the expense of objectives and purpose is sterile.

The efficient management ot the joint process is assisted by carefully designed organisational structures. As was noted by the Defence Review Committee in 1982. various relationships contribute to bringing together the Department and the Defence Force in the development of advice on policy and its subsequent administration'.'' These are as follows:

  • the employment of civilians under the direction of fhe Service Chiefs:

  • the employment of Service personnel under the Secretary;

  • the existence of two-hatted' positions (where the occupants have responsibility to both their own Service Chief for some functions and to the Secretary for others);

As the Review noted further:

'these are mechanisms for mutual consultation and the reconciliation of views. They facilitate informal

communications at the working level, which can range throughout the hierarchy up to the Secretary and the CDFS, depending upon the level of authority necessary to decide and advance a particular piece of business.

Whether it is resource utilisation or the provision of resources, the interests of the Secretary and the CDF in resources questions tend to converge. It is this convergence which gives rise to much of the confusion about their respective roles. For his part, the CDF has major responsibilities in the efficient running of the Defence forces: in order to tender advice to the Minister on operational issues he must have the resources. And for his part, the Secretary m tendering his advice to the Minister on the scale and purpose of Defence plans, must be able to account for the resources allocated to the defence function and their relevance to broader national objectives. If, as suggested earlier, policy is the process of justifying the use of resources, it follows that the Secretary has the major responsibility for strategic policy, force development and programming and budgeting. These are the ultimate justifications for the expenditure of public funds. He also has the major responsibility for the provision of adequate levels of manpower and for their pay and conditions together with the provision of appropriate facilities for both operations and administration. The CDF, for his part, has major responsibilities for operational planning and the development of doctrine as well as for force development, training, the management of the defence force and for ensuring that it is generally capable ol meeting the specific requirements of Government. Accordingly, he too has major interests in strategic policy and force development, albeit of a rather different character from those of the Secretary But while their interests in justifying the use of resources converge, they are not identical, since the fundamental focus of their responsibilities is so different.

The relationship of the CDF. given his general responsibilities for the utilisation of Defence assets, to the central policy divisions of the Department is complex. As study of the Report of the Defence Review Committee (1982) shows, many senior Service officers have sought authority in the personnel and logistics areas, as well as in strategic policy, force development and science and technology. In his submission to the Defence Review committee, for instance, Admiral Sir Anthony Synnot, a former Chief of the Defence Force Staff (CDFS. the direct antecedent of the CDF), claimed that the CDFS should have primary responsibility for:

November '86, Journal ol the Australian Naval Inslilute — Page 27

  • Command of the Defence Force

  • Military Strategy

  • Force capabilities

  • Force development

  • Organisation within the Defence Force

since they fall within command responsibilities/' This view was generally supported by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and continues to enjoy currency in pans of the ADF

Central to this view is a concept of command' which is rather wider than Australian legislation or administrative practice has historically supported, and a concept of the role of a department rather narrower than either legislation or administrative practice has historically envisaged. In particular, the extension of command into the central policy divisions of the Department would effectively deny to the Minister for Defence and the Government what has been a key advantage of the Australian administrative system: independent assessment and policy advice, and appraisal of military proposals.

In this regard, it is perhaps worth noting that the Defence Review Committee 1982 |udged that Defence Force concerns were the 'essence of the Department's work, and that the Department's approach to the Defence function had necessarily to be more comprehensive, embracing such matters as the relationship of strategic policy to foreign policy, equipping of the Force in the context of economic and industrial capacity, and the handling of defence business within the machinery of government as a whole'.

The Committee noted further

... the changes suggested, especially to the extent that they are based on the "command'' responsibilities of the CDFS, are in our judgement misconceived Command responsibilities are exercised within a framework of policies and procedures established by the government and embodied in law, the decisions of the Cabinet and the directions of the Minister: the formulation of those policies and procedures is not. however, a function of command, although it is essential that the advice and views of the responsible commanders should be sought in the formulation process "

And it is here, of course, that the real solution to the problem of the joint process lies. In meeting his legislative responsibilities, the CDF has the

right to seek and expect assistance from Departmental officers. While he may not legitimately, in the sense of command, direct the work of the Department, he may certainly task the vanous divisions of the Department. Indeed, these divisions are under permanent direction to be responsive to his requirements'/ The ADF in general has to be involved in all stages of the policy process. For the Defence organisation as a whole to be truly effective, it must be thoroughly collaborative. Where the Department and the ADF focus their efforts on the pursuit of shared objectives and common goals, rather than more narrow problems of functional delineation, then such collaboration is more likely to be a continuing feature of the Australian Defence policy process. Certainly, an understanding of the nature of the game and the role of the players is important to this end.


1 This article is based on part ol a lecture given at the
Joint Services Staff College on 15 January 1986

2 Policy', in whatever context it might be used, is an
overworked word Generally, the term has the
connotation of statecraft', or for those who enjoy
the more devious approach of Yes Minister,
craftiness' A more complete definition might be a
course of action adopted by Government, party,
etc Even this, however, is too restrictive, since
'policy' goes beyond course of action to embrace
conception, development, formulation and
implementation Accordingly, the term policy' is
here defined as follows, policy is a process
whereby needs are identified, evaluated and met
through planned action and programmes In short,
policy is the process of justifying the use ot

3. For a lucid treatment ol this subject, see His Excellency the Rt Hon Sir Ninian Stephen. The Role ot the Governor-General as Commander-in-Chwl ol the Australian Defence Forces. Defence Force Journal No 43. Canberra. Nov Dec 1983. pp 3-9

  1. There is an extended treatment ot the joint process in The Higher Defence Organisation in Australia, the report of the Defence Review Committee. Canberra. 1982. pp 23-27 This report will be further ciled as DRC 1982.

  2. DRC 1982. p 25.

  3. DRC 1982. p 30

  4. DRC 1982. p 34

  5. loo cit

  6. Quoted from the submission to the DRC by Mr W B Pntchett. Secretary to the Department ol Defence. in DRC 1982. p 36

Page 28 - November 86. Journal ot the Australian Naval Institute

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