Unified Defence Values and Behaviours

By David Guthrie October 15, 2020

I have written this paper to stimulate individual reflection on the recently released Defence Values and Behaviours and to encourage individual ownership of understanding CDF and CA Intent.

In the last two weeks, we have seen key guidance from the office of the Chief of Army about Army’s contribution to defence strategy. As soldiers or officers, we should be asking ourselves how we turn strategic guidance into tactical conduct. The key to this is right in front of us – CA’s Order of the Day on 6 October highlighted Army’s transition from its values of Courage, Initiative, Respect and Teamwork (CIRT) to the Defence Values of Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity and Excellence (SCRIE).

It seems to me that each of the new values represent consideration of the past, present and future Army. But why the change? Why now? Courage remains a core value. We value courage; in war, but also in our decisions and how we represent our service and our force. Respect has not diminished in importance but other values now make the list. Do you think that this means that these new values are more important than those replaced? Or has Defence reinvigorated our values so we all have a fresh look at what we should be doing and how we do it perhaps?

CDF is directing an ‘ADF Alignment’ to support a stronger, more capable, Joint and integrated Defence force. In light of a focus on ethics in the force, as well as the recent domestic and offshore joint operations, it makes sense to unify our organisational values, incorporating our non-uniformed sisters and brothers of the Australian Public Service (APS), who perform vital functions across the greater Defence enterprise, to complete the unification. In doing so, I suggest that we have an individual responsibility to contemplate how that applies to each of us through our service. Should we in Army not value teamwork over integrity or excellence now? I don’t think any of us would suggest that teamwork is less important within Army. The Chief of Army recently said “Shared values, attitudes and beliefs empower Army’s people and ensure they can form teams whenever, wherever and with whomever is needed to succeed.” Teamwork is still important.

So the named values have changed under a unified organisational set. There are accompanying behaviours too and “words matter”. I’ve heard that statement many times during my service. We often use terms like values, ethics, morals, behaviours, traits, character a little too interchangeably and I don’t dispute that accuracy, brevity and clarity when using words is important but don’t get lost in metaphors. Our values and their associated behaviours give us a baseline for thoughts and actions. A start-point. In order to translate the tactical from the strategic guidance, this start-point is valuable. To demonstrate a strength of character, to be ethical in your decisions and accountable for your actions is Good Soldiering.

To aid us in this, we should be reading widely to understand why these changes are occurring (the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, Force Structure Plan and Army's Contribution to Defence Strategy [Ed 2] are great places to start, if you haven’t already), thinking critically (apply your experience but also step outside your thinking ‘comfort zone’) and reflect. The point of reflection can’t be stated strongly enough. For all your knowledge and critical thinking, if you don’t review your thoughts, refine and check the direction of your thinking, it’s quite likely that you will not adapt your thinking to the world around you. Remember that Army’s central idea to respond to Accelerated Warfare is Army in Motion. This idea emphasises balance and transitions between the present and future in individuals, teams, concepts and equipment. This is how we are Ready Now and Future Ready. Our thinking should follow this same Future Ready premise. Also, remember to reflect for a reason. Reflection is not an end unto itself. It needs an outlet and our reflections should be applied through our actions and words. Our values provide a checkpoint in our thoughts to know that, while we are an Army in Motion, we remain moving in the right direction.

Your reading will remind you that Accelerated Warfare means less time for preparation, more tasks and less certainty about the type and sizes of tasks. We each need to be tactically and technically interoperable, demonstrate people skills for the domestic environment as well as for international cooperation, for now and the future. Through your service mindset and individual preparedness, combined with your awareness of strategic and operational guidance, you can determine how to best apply yourself tactically.

We must act in accordance with the Australian Defence Force’s values: Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity and Excellence. I recall the CDF speaking to the 3rd Combat Brigade on 16 September, saying we must be exemplars for the community. Let’s make sure that, through these values, we are exemplars to each other first.




David Guthrie

David Guthrie is an infantry officer with 25 years’ experience. David has been employed in a range of domestic and deployed environments, training, operations and plans staff roles. He is currently the SO2 Professional Military Education Development at Headquarters Forces Command.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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