The role of the 2nd (Australian) Division, consisting primarily of the Reserve workforce, is becoming focused after many years of fluidity. Under Plan Beersheba, the Reserve workforce functioned as a supplementary workforce to full-time brigades. In recent years, the role shifted to a national emergency response force as bushfires, floods, and a global pandemic called for the services of the Reserves to supplement government services.
This year, National Defence, Defence Strategic Review (DSR), provided “Enhanced domestic security and response Army Reserve brigades will be required to provide area security to the northern base network and other critical infrastructure, as well as providing an expansion base and follow-on forces.”
Furthermore, on 28 September 2023, the Deputy Prime Minister announced significant changes to the force structure and posture of the Australian Army. These changes pertained almost entirely to the 1st (Australian) Division. However, there are some definitive elements for the 2nd (Australian) Division. Specifically, the Australian Army product below outlines current and future states. It denotes that the 2nd (Australian) Division’s brigades are now classified as “Security and Response Brigades” and they are “Optimised to protect Australia at home”.
Figure 1: Army Force Structure and Posture released by the ABC on 28 September 2023, with 2nd (Australian) Division elements annotated in red.
It is now clear that there is a new concept of employment for the 2nd (Australian) Division. The question now lies in how the Reserve workforce can be optimised to meet these Government directed requirements. My proposal is to use innovative methods to manage our workforce, implementing lessons learned from the past.
In the context of accelerated preparedness provided by the DSR, it notes “The transition to the Total Workforce Model has significantly improved the utilisation of the reserve workforce. The ADF Reserves must not just complement the total Defence workforce but also provide the expansion base for the ADF in times of crisis. In order to achieve such an effect, Defence needs to investigate innovative ways to adapt the structure, shape and role of the Reserves, as well as reconsider past programs, specifically the Ready Reserve Scheme.”
In this article, I am seeking to focus on the concept of a new Ready Reserve Scheme to increase preparedness and capability of the 2nd (Australian) Division. I am calling this the ‘Reserve Readiness System’.
Through other recommendations in the DSR, it is evident that the Australian Army (and wider Australian Defence Force) is struggling with recruitment and retention. These issues are also being felt in the Reserve workforce. As a result, it is sensible to assume that readiness levels have decreased due to an inability to have sufficiently trained and rehearsed personnel in the Australian Defence Force.
A recommendation was agreed by Government to undertake “A comprehensive strategic review of the ADF Reserves, including consideration of the reintroduction of a Ready Reserve Scheme, should be conducted by 2025.” In my proposition, I believe there is a critical path to improve recruitment and retention by appropriately incentivising and rewarding those who provide an increased level of capability to the 2nd (Australian) Division.
Concurrently, this will meet Government intent to provide increased capability of the Reserve workforce through readiness. As a result, this will prepare the Reserve workforce to achieve the clear Government directed tasks of domestic operations, with a secondary role of providing follow-on forces.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE READY RESERVE SCHEME
Although previous iterations of the Ready Reserve Scheme demonstrated varying levels of success, the execution of these schemes is no longer fit for purpose. In 1991, the Ready Reserve Scheme was launched by then Prime Minister Bob Hawke in a model that required Reservists to commit to an initial 12-month continuous full-time contract, and then commit to 50 Army Reserve Training Days (ARTDs) per financial year for the next six financial years.
This scheme ceased in 1996 due to budget constraints. High Readiness Reserve and the Reserve Response Force models were later introduced in the early 2000’s. These imposed similar increased service obligations through increased ARTDs commitments and provided lumpsum bonuses at the completion of achieving agreed service obligations.
Globally, the ability to have a Reserve workforce that can respond quickly is desirable for all professional militaries. Israeli Defense Forces called out 300,000 Reservists in the space of 48 hours in response to the Hamas attacks on Israel in October 2023. The U.S. enabled a response from the D.C. National Guard for the 2021 Capitol riots in a matter of hours. Domestically, the first compulsory call out in Australian history was made when 3000 Reservists were rapidly mobilised in response to the bushfires in 2019-2020. For this purpose, the 2nd (Australian) Division needs to be ready – now.
Budget constraints are still a limiting factor in Defence today. However, as this is a Government-directed task from the DSR, the assessment must be made on where cost savings can be made to pay for a new Ready Reserve Scheme and whether it is worth the increased capability it provides to not only the 2nd (Australian) Division, but to the Integrated Force as a whole.
Previous models positively increased the capability of the Reserve workforce and wider Australian Defence Force. However, the requirement for a 12-month continuous full-time commitment is more than the majority of Reservists are willing to do, unless it is for an operation. This is why, if any form of a Ready Reserve Scheme is to return, we need to make it work within the feasible bounds of reservists’ capacity to commit.
Even within the Service Category (SERCAT) 5 Reserve workforce, you will find that there is capacity to provide service above 100 ARTDs per financial year with the potential for the competency of soldiers to reach closer to full-time equivalents.
Reservists who have the capacity to provide an increased level of capability to the 2nd (Australian) Division should be enabled to do so. With access to increased training opportunities and improved workforce structures, the 2nd (Australian) Division can maintain high readiness combined arms formations for rapid deployment. This can be achieved through existing mechanisms and systems. This is why I propose the Reserve Readiness System.
THE PROPOSED SOLUTION: THE RESERVE READINESS SYSTEM
The Reserve Readiness System will provide tiered groupings for the Reserve workforce, imposing an additional battlegroup structure on top of existing unit structures, and incentivise those who can meet increased commitments. At the highest tier, it will provide the most capability for the 2nd (Australian) Division and the Integrated Force by ensuring battlegroup level formations are as prepared as they can be within the constraints of the Reserve workforce to achieve their Government-directed tasks.
In practice, combat formations that train and rehearse together will be able to respond to domestic incidents or to secure our northern approaches. Subsequently, once the Tier 2 Active Reserve is called out, they will be able to rotate with the Reserve Ready Battle Groups who can then be freed up to reinforce the 1st (Australian) Division abroad as follow-on forces. The Tier 3 Strategic Reserve can be called out to bolster the Tier 2 Active Reserve.
Figure 2: Reserve Ready Battle Group indicative locations
OVER-MANNING AS A RESERVE WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY
A foundational principle for the Reserve Readiness System is the over-manning of formations to ensure that sub-unit structures have appropriate personnel to achieve tasks, even if this means that it does not fit standard workforce management parameters. The nature of Reservists having to balance full-time employment with Reservist commitments invites the likelihood that members will prioritise their primary employment at times.
A way to manage this eventuality is to staff sections, platoons, combat teams, and battlegroups with additional personnel to ensure that minimum numbers of manning can be achieved at all times for training, exercises, and operations. If all members in the formation end up attending (which is extremely unlikely), then an additional sub-unit formation can be established (i.e. section, platoon), providing commanders with increased options to allocate troops to tasks.
RESERVE READINESS SYSTEM TIERS
Figure 3: Reserve Readiness System Tiers
TIER 1: RESERVE READY BATTLE GROUP
The Reserve Ready Battle Groups provide soldiers with the ability to train how they fight, in a combined arms battle group in their resident brigade. Battlegrouping is the building block of an Army’s fighting force. In the context of the 2nd (Australian) Division, these will be centred around the infantry battalions of each brigade, supported by other combined arms units and combat support elements.
For example, the battlegroup of 5th Brigade is Battle Group Waratah, consisting of combat teams formed by 4/3 Royal New South Wales Regiment (RNSWR), 1/19 RNSWR, 2/17 RNSWR, and 41 RNSWR. It is enabled by 1/15 Royal New South Wales Lancers (RNSWL) and other combined arms units including 5 Engineer Regiment, 9 Regiment and 8 Signals Regiment. Additionally, the logistical support elements provided by 5th Combat Service Support Battalion are crucial to providing organic force support group capabilities to this Reserve Ready Battle Group.
The trade-off for personnel being in this tier is that they must meet higher readiness requirements and commit to a minimum of 50 ARTDs per financial year, with the majority of their time spent on exercises for certification and rehearsals. Qualification and currency in the six combat behaviours at the individual soldier level is the gateway to move into a Reserve Ready Battle Group.
Figure 4: Combat Behaviours
The combat behaviours have associated qualification and currency courses and should provide the benchmark to indicate individual readiness. This is in addition to mandatory Army Individual Readiness Notice requirements. If soldiers are unable to meet the requirements set through the six combat behaviours, they may be considered to move back to the Tier 2 Active Reserve. To demonstrate the collective capability of the Reserve Ready Battle Groups, mandatory attendance will be required for certification exercises such as Hamel and Talisman Sabre. Additionally, frequent lead-up training will be required in the form of weekends and potentially 4-5 day training blocks.
Soldiers in the Reserve Ready Battle Groups would be liable for shorter call-out periods (i.e. 24 - 48 hours). This may require an understanding or agreement between soldiers and Government that they cannot travel outside of Australia while they are posted to these positions due to their reduced notice to move requirements. This ensures that they can return to their home location within the time period of a call-out to respond to calls in the most efficient manner. The consequences of not meeting these requirements in a financial year may result in the member being moved back to the Tier 2 Active Reserve. These members will be provided the opportunity to re-apply for rotation into their local Tier 1 Reserve Ready Battle Group, administered by their local brigade.
The workforce of the Reserve Ready Battle Groups will primarily consist of SERCAT 5 and 6 personnel supported by full-time training staff. The success of these battle groups will rely on individuals, particularly Non-Commissioned and Commissioned Officers, to manage their work-life balance around the requirements of being in a Reserve Ready Battle Group. This includes conducting mission planning in between exercises (for example, on weeknights) to be able to deliver orders on a Friday evening and step off that same night.
The integration of full-time training staff provides an opportunity for the retention of SERCAT 7 members who may wish to remain in their home locations. They can continue to provide capability through leading and developing training for the 2nd (Australian) Division across Australia. The expertise of these individuals and their ability to remain engaged in geographically dispersed locations will provide attractive opportunities to both increase retention and the capability of the 2nd (Australian) Division concurrently.
The incentive to be posted to a Reserve Ready Battle Group comes in the form of a cumulative 0.5% percentage bonus based on how many ARTDs you conduct in a financial year, and increases for each ARTD you complete. With a cap of 100 ARTDs, this ensures that members are not receiving any more than a 50% bonus once they are at the highest end of their ARTDs allocation in a financial year. By using this method, the 2nd (Australian) Division can control the number of ARTDs allocated and thus the amount of cumulative bonus available to Tier 1 Reservists. This accounts for current budgetary pressures, which had caused the cessation of the previous Ready Reserve Scheme.
Figure 5: Graph displaying the effect of the tiered cumulative pay bonus by ARTD.
As an example, for your first ARTD, you would gain a bonus of 0.5% on top of your regular pay. Subsequently, for your 50th ARTD, you would gain a 25% bonus on top of your regular pay. After completing 100 ARTDs days, you would be earning the regular pay for an ARTD in addition to a 50% bonus. If you are earning $220 per day and you are on your 101st ARTD, you would earn $330 for that day.
Bonus calculation: Rank and Trade Pay + ((Rank and Trade Pay / 100) * Number of ARTDs) * 0.5
Note: Cap of 100 ARTDs
This incentivises increasing attendance throughout the financial year and appropriately rewards those who commit to the increased service requirements of being in a Reserve Ready Battle Group. Members who are in their Tier 1 Reserve Ready Battle Group still train in their regular unit structures, with the additional Reserve Ready Battle Group obligations imposed on top of their existing unit structures.
This means that those who commit to being a Tier 1 Reservist must be able to fulfil existing unit commitments in addition to Reserve Ready Battle Group commitments. As a result, units will need to organise their training programs around Reserve Ready Battle Group commitments as these take precedence over unit commitments.
TIER 2: ACTIVE RESERVE
The Active Reserve is essentially the current Reserve force with the requirement to conduct a minimum of 20 ARTDs days per financial year and Army Individual Readiness Notice requirements. The key difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 is that the Active Reserve does not attract the cumulative Tier 1 readiness bonus. This tier also has a longer call-out period (for example, up to 72 hours’ notice to move) and focuses on rank and trade progression training within single-corps unit structures to prepare soldiers for rotations within the Reserve Ready Battle Group and for operations.
TIER 3: STRATEGIC RESERVE
The Strategic Reserve force consists of inactive Reservists or those on SERCAT 3 arrangements who are only committing an extremely limited amount of ARTDs (i.e. 5-10 in a financial year). There is no requirement to maintain Army Individual Readiness Notice requirements in this tier. This tier primarily exists to provide a workforce of trained, but not current, personnel to bolster the remainder of the 2nd (Australian) Division in the event of a call-out under subsection 28(1) of the Defence Act 1903.
The 2nd (Australian) Division has provided great capability in the history of the Australian Army with an increasingly focused role and competent workforce. Opportunities exist to increase capability and preparedness in light of the DSR through effective management of the Reserve workforce via the proposed Reserve Readiness System.
We must train how we fight, in a combined arms setting with ingrained combat behaviours. We must incentivise and reward soldiers who have the capacity to provide greater capability in addition to their primary employment. Optimisation of our workforce with effective resource management will meet Government direction and ensure that the 2nd (Australian) Division is ready now, to fight tonight.