The purpose of this article is to first, define the meaning of a concept and second, provide Australian Defence Force (ADF) concept leaders, stakeholders, influencers, and authors with five ideas on writing ADF concepts. These five ideas include:

  1. Align to strategy.
  2. Challenge ideas.
  3. Write concepts as a team.
  4. Employ competitive experimentation.
  5. Implement the concept.

Integrated Campaigning, released on the 1st of March 2022, ‘guides how the ADF thinks about and solves problems’.[1] As the ADF’s capstone concept, Integrated Campaigning defines ‘how military art and science are applied across the full range of military operations in a future operating environment’.[2]

Integrated Campaigning conceptualises three key ideas for ADF mission success: ‘unify the ADF’, ‘Australia never works alone’, and the ADF must, for mutually beneficial outcomes, ‘work with others to achieve more’.[3]

Supporting Integrated Campaigning, Concept Aspire: The ADF Theatre Concept ‘orientates the ADF on future military challenges and missions, relevant to its environment and Australia’s place in the world’. This orientation enables Concept Aspire to ‘guide ADF force design and military planning’.[4]

Together, these two concepts inform the development of ADF functional and domain concepts.[5] Functional concepts unify ADF capabilities across all domains – maritime, land, air, cyber, and space – to generate required joint effects. Domain concepts achieve three tasks. First, they support functional concepts; second, they inform the employment of domain capabilities; and third, they describe the ways a domain enhances joint effects.

Next, this article defines the meaning of a concept.

What is a concept?

A concept assists the ADF to iteratively create, experiment, learn, innovate, prepare, and fight. An ADF concept is defined as ‘an agreed notion or idea…providing guidance to domains [or capability functions]… which may lead to the development of a policy or doctrine’.[6]

Concepts provide the ADF with a vision for and outline of how military power may be employed in war.[7] At their highest level, concepts like Integrated Campaigning are often explanatory and philosophical. The next level, such as Concept Aspire, supports the explanatory function by providing more detailed guidance for military thinking and planning. Next, ADF functional and domain concepts, are descriptive through focusing on a specific aspect or context of conflict and war.[8] No matter the level of concept, all seek to enhance organisational learning, understanding, and adaptation.

Importantly, an ADF concept enables ‘two distinctive levels of change’ through combining elements of organisational adaptation through single-loop learning and double-loop learning.[9] Single-loop learning ‘relates to immediate and routine matters, where the group improves its skills, doing better, within its existing organisational values’ and double-loop learning ‘adopts new competencies…operating outside pre-existing policies and governing values’.[10]

Through single-loop and double-loop learning, an ADF concept ‘identifies and frames a military problem and its proposed solution, with the characteristics and attributes of capabilities required for solution implementation’. Therefore, well-articulated joint concepts can ‘provide the interpretive layer from strategic guidance that contributes amplifying detail to Defence [capabilities and] posture’.[11]

Next, this article provides ADF concept leaders, stakeholders, influencers, and authors with five ideas on writing ADF concepts.

Five Ideas: On writing Australian Defence Force concepts

Idea 1: Align to strategy; resist concepts disconnected from strategic ends, ways, and means. Ensure a concept connects to strategy and intelligence, combined with innovations in workforce, technology, and infrastructure. Based on strategic guidance, define the problem and organisational need the concept must solve. Write the concept – including interoperability guidance – to inform force design and enable the ADF to think, learn, build, prepare, plan, and educate. Within concepts, don’t repeat policy, strategy, current campaign actions, or doctrine.

There is an iterative and dynamic relationship between concepts and strategy. Concepts are defined by policy and strategic ends, while simultaneously through capability development and operational employment – supporting and informing policy and strategy. If a concept is not appropriately defined by, supporting, and informing policy and strategic ends: change the concept.

Define the ways the concept employs and integrates capabilities. Develop a value proposition, concept logic, and ‘elevator pitch’ for the concept. The value proposition explains:[12]

  • Why are we writing this concept?
  • What problem does this concept solve?
  • What does the ADF gain from this concept?
  • Why are we best to write and coordinate this concept?

Nest and trace concept logic with policy, strategy, and the tenets of more senior concepts. Connect and integrate concept ideas and capabilities with other functional and domain ADF concepts. Bias platform-agnostic thinking to optimise capability options for the ADF.

Define the means – or resources – required to realise the concept. Through functional and domain concepts, compete with adversaries by employing human, procedural, and technological means. In defining means, the realisation of concepts mandates realistically measured capability requirements, including:

  • Expanding ADF options and constraining adversary options.
  • Decreasing the value of adversary capability investments.
  • Assessing risks of adversary investment and innovation.
  • Imposing challenges for which adversary forces are not optimised to defeat.
  • Delaying adversary countermeasure development.

Ensure disciplined employment of doctrine to enable accurate concept definition and a shared understanding of means required to realise a concept. Doctrinal discipline includes accuracy in concept language, punctuation, service writing, and definitions.

Idea 2: Challenge ideas; resist mundane concepts. Concepts are authoritative – but not exclusive – guidance. Write concepts to solve problems, unify capabilities, and disrupt adversaries. Challenging concepts constrain, inform, and authorise ADF actions.

Develop, prioritise, agree, and approve a hierarchy of a defined number of relevant concepts. Assign a leader responsible for each concept and appoint a lead writer. Hold both to account for delivering concept updates and production timelines – combined with concept content, format, editing, approval, and implementation.

Maintain discipline according to the definition of a concept as ‘an agreed notion or idea…providing guidance to domains [or capability functions] … which may lead to the development of a policy or doctrine’.[13] Create concepts unifying adaptation in the ADF through building trust, nurturing relationships, demonstrating initiative, and challenging existing conditions. Incorporate – and discard – new ideas at speed.

In concept creation, avoid unproductive debate through a ‘culture of politeness’. Concept development must encourage people with a ‘minority view’ to speak up without feeling pressured or challenged to ‘compromise too quickly’.[14] If all key stakeholders agree with a concept, this usually means that stakeholders see no imperative to change their current policies, procedures, or practices. This also means the concept is not doing its job of challenging the ADF to think differently, innovate, adapt, and transform.

Idea 3: Write concepts as a team; resist excluding readers through specialised concepts. Define concept purpose, scope, and its relationship with partner and complementary concepts. To optimise reader understanding, interest, and employment of concepts; write in plain English. Develop and maintain a common concept format and structure aligned to partner and complementary concepts. Nurture a collaborative whole-of-ADF approach to concept design, writing, and development.

Develop a maximum of five to seven key ideas in the main concept document.[15] Provide detail in the annexes. Classify the main concept document for context and wide readership, thereby encouraging organisational debate, creativity, application, and innovation. Then, through annexes, narrow readership through an assessment of specialist requirements and need-to-know.

Broad concept consultation, cooperation, and collaboration enables an understanding of opportunities for concept amendment, fusing, or replacement. For example, if a concept is amply resourced and in mature development, consider pausing further writing of that concept. Instead, switch resources to assist writing, consulting, and approving less well-developed complementary and partner concepts.

Concept writers should appreciate that comprehensive concept consultation usually requires more time than originally estimated. As directed, consult concepts through committees for agreement. In addition, consult concepts through person-to-person conversations, briefs, meetings, and emails.

Prepare for iterative concept re-consultation. This includes agreement, disagreement, and contradiction among and between stakeholders on concept purpose, design, and intent. Dialogue enabling concept creation is notably present where concepts propose changes to ADF thinking, innovation, and preparedness.

Learn from and understand best-practice concepts written by wider-Defence, whole-of-Australian-government, inter-agency, multi-national, multi-sector, multi-fora, coalition partners, and allies. Revise iteratively, by highlighting concept changes and returning revisions to stakeholders for concurrence and further review. For future concept creation, nurture reference groups for concept development.

Idea 4: Employ competitive experimentation and analysis enabling ADF options; resist experiments for individual domains. Concepts work together in defining how the ADF generates capabilities and applies joint effects. Defining and agreeing concept boundaries enables identification of linkages between the ways and means of other concepts. Competitive experimentation and analysis of multiple concepts and domains can be used to:

  • Seek new ways to operate in-service or planned ADF assets.
  • Integrate new technology into ADF concepts, assets, and capabilities.
  • Incorporate new methods for disrupting, detecting, and responding to adversary force posture changes.
  • Improve ADF posture and preparedness.
  • Develop cost-effective and/or combat-effective asymmetric capabilities.

Idea 5: Implement the concept; resist resting after concept publication. Concept implementation maintains concept momentum and assures application. For implementation:

  • Develop a plan.
  • Release internal and external organisational and individual advice notifying of the concept’s purpose, logic, release conditions, and published location.
  • Create early success by leading concept implementation with people who, through the concept, recognise the need for human, procedural and technical innovation, prioritisation, and change.


ADF concepts aim to ‘unify the ADF,’ ensure that ‘Australia never works alone’, and, for mutually beneficial outcomes, empower the ADF to ‘work with others to achieve more’.[16]

Following the 2022 release of Integrated Campaigning which ‘guides how the Australian Defence Force (ADF) thinks about and solves problems’, this article defines the meaning of a concept and provides ADF concept leaders, stakeholders, influencers, and authors five ideas on writing ADF concepts.[17]

These ideas require concepts to align with strategy, challenge ideas, value teamwork, employ competitive experimentation, and enable implementation.

Conceptual ideas, writing, alignment, experimentation, and implementation create powerful momentum to empower ADF thinking. This ADF thinking enables ADF success, now and in future – often unimagined – environments.


Author's Note: All errors in the article are the responsibility of the author. Grateful to Rear Admiral Richard Boulton, Colonel Nick Bosio, Group Captain Tony Bull, Brigadier James Davis, Wing Commander Amanda Gosling, Group Captain Ash Howell, and Commander Dylan White for their comments and ideas on draft versions of this article.