Writing Competition | Simplifying Army: Training Transformation at a Sub-Unit LevelBy McLeod William Wood November 23, 2020
Accelerated Warfare states that the character of war is changing quicker than our processes, concepts, capabilities and structures were designed for. Army in Motion reinforces this statement by providing a framework for Army to think about ourselves, continue good practice and create an environment to transform for the future. Central to these concepts is the assertion that our people are a critical capability as we move into a rapidly changing geopolitical environment. Over the last decade, it would appear that sub-units have been the primary unit of action for any domestic or international response due to their size and in-built command and control structure. Therefore, how do we transform the processes and training at this level to make them simpler and reinvest the time saved into becoming Future Ready? This is not an easy challenge or one that will generate singular agreement as to the best pathway forward. This paper will explore three areas that could transform a sub-unit’s ability to be Future Ready by simplifying Army processes and increasing intellectual knowledge. Areas to be examined are training administration, force preparation and understanding of the geopolitical environment. These areas will provide a lens to support transformation and simplify Army’s process and training at a sub-unit level, by gaining time efficiencies and supporting our force to be Future Ready.
Suggestions within this paper are not solely focussed on what Army could transform to support sub-units saving time. Most suggestions could be introduced immediately by sub-units and units to reinvest time into becoming Future Ready. A deeper analysis of the issues highlighted in this paper may identify that concerns surrounding policy or doctrine reveal that some inefficiencies are self-induced, whilst others may reside outside of Army’s control, such as contracting and manufacturing limitations.
The Army Training System is currently undergoing a ‘once in a generation’ transformation, which is essential to making our Army Future Ready. A key component of the system is training administration. For the purpose of this paper, training administration refers to the processes that Army stipulates must be conducted to initiate any live fire range, a field exercise or on-barracks training. Training administration incorporates completion of documentation such as ammunition and ration requests, risk management tools, range / administrative instructions, health support plans, training support requests (TSR), and Land Vehicle Safety documentation. This administration forms the bedrock of all training and consumes a substantial portion of staff effort; it also presents a significant opportunity for Army to simplify its processes and re-inject the time saved into the training continuum to support a Future Ready force.
For sub-units, this training administration consumes a large amount of time and personnel. This has the impact of removing both Non-Commissioned Officers and Officers from daily training serials. The 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, reported that the conduct of a single day live-fire readiness shoot for an infantry company required 29 staff hours to complete all administrative requirements. The staff work was required to be completed at least 60 days prior to the planned shoot (to meet ammunition lead times) and a ration requirement would extend the lead time to 90 days. Furthermore, if range required a medic, a TSR would need to be submitted in either October (for January to June) or April for (July to December) to coincide with the Forces Command TSR conference. Whilst submission of a short-notice request for this administration can be approved by a Brigadier, this further increases the administrative requirements to achieve training. The question during Army’s period of training transformation should be, “Does our training administration support our ability to do more tasks, more of the time, in more places?”
The transformation of training administration within Army has the potential to significantly increase the time and flexibility for sub-units to train. The reduction of self-imposed lead times, simplification of administrative processes and a rationalisation of administrative requirements would allow sub-units to be more flexible, achieve more training outcomes and focus on becoming Future Ready. The three primary areas which could be addressed to provide time back to sub-units and make them more flexible are:
1. Consider reducing administrative lead times to 21 days.
Justification. 2020 demonstrated how disrupted a training year can be in a rapidly changing environment. Despite the potential of increased organisational cost and the requirement to re-negotiate contracts, reducing lead times will make it simpler to execute training and to take advantage of training opportunities. It will also allow training to progress in a rapidly changing environment.
2. Consider replacing Administrative / Joining / Range Instructions with our purpose built SMEAC (Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration and Logistics, Command and Signals) orders format.
Justification. Army invests heavily in training officers and non-commissioned officers in the Military Appreciation Process and the linked SMEAC Orders format. Removing bespoke administrative documents will simplify processes, reinforce the delivery of orders, and cement the linkage between our planning processes and execution. It will also save considerable time on ab-initio courses where bespoke documents will no longer need to be taught.
3. Quantify the number of administrative documents and processes required to enable sub-unit training, with the intent to reduce administrative requirements.
Justification. It is hypothesised that Army is unaware of its complete training administration requirements and the load placed on sub-units. Quantifying administrative requirements and associated time requirements will provide Army a detailed understanding of where transformation can occur and what requirements can be removed to simplify processes and give time back to sub-units.
Training administration is a fundamental component of how Army achieves its training. The aggregate effects of individually developed requirements may not be fully evident at the strategic or enterprise level when initially developed, it is not until these requirements hit the end user (sub-units) that they are realised. It is essential that, as Army progresses through Training Transformation, it includes opportunities to improve processes, conducts broad stakeholder engagement, reduces the time required to generate training administration and improves the overall capacity of its sub-units to be Future Ready. Without transformation in these areas, sub-units will be unable to quickly adapt in a rapidly changing environment or generate forces capable of responding to domestic or international crises.
The generation of forces capable of being deployed into either domestic or international crises requires Force Preparation. Force Preparation is designed to reduce the risks associated with Defence members deploying into a threat environment and to ensure members are administratively prepared to spend significant time away from their home-station. At present, the Army applies a bespoke methodology towards force preparation; this is particularly true for named domestic operations where Joint Tasks Forces have different requirements for the same operation. At a sub-unit level, this means that personnel are unaware of the specific force preparation requirements until they are force assigned. What transpires next is best described as an administrative scramble to get sub-unit personnel prepared for operations and requires approximately 48 – 96 hrs to complete, as seen during Operation Bush Fire Assist 19 and COVID 19 Assist.
Without a common, standardised and replicable force preparation methodology, Army’s sub-units are spending increasing amounts of time preparing, rather than being able to deploy more rapidly. For example, a company from the 7th Combat Service Support Battalion that conducted 72 hrs of force preparation for Operation Bush Fire Assist 19, completed another round of force preparation of 72 hrs to deploy on Operation COVID 19 Assist. As Army transforms its training to do more tasks more of the time in more places, it must also identify simpler methods to train forces to the ‘prepared’ standard. Army must also be conscious of the resource limitations experienced by all sub-units. For example, the requirement to complete online campus courses, or to submit electronic forms, decreases expediency at a sub-unit level as up to 70% of personnel do not have access to Defence computers and must rotate through what is available, increasing the time required to achieve Force Preparation. Although time consuming, at present, Army has options to simplify processes and transform achievement of force preparation.
The purpose of training transformation, as outlined in ‘Transform to Accelerate – Now!’, is to have Army appropriately prepare individuals (its greatest capability) for increasingly complex, dynamic and accelerated environments. At a sub-unit level, training transformation could generate tempo and support Army’s unit of action through the refinement of force preparation in the following ways:
1. Identify the common requirements of force preparation and include them as a component of yearly mandatory training linked directly to readiness status.
Justification. This will significantly decrease force preparation times and reinforce the ‘readiness’ component of the ‘Army Individual Readiness Notice’ (AIRN) by giving it a quantifiable outcome. Sub-units should then only require ‘hasty’ mission-specific training before deploying.
2. Consider placement of force preparation training onto UNCLASSIFIED systems such as ADELE (U).
Justification. De-linking training packages from the Defence Protected Network would enable wider access to forces in the Combat Brigades. Members could complete all online based training via their home networks or individual phones. In recall scenarios, soldiers could hypothetically complete force preparation lessons whilst in transit, improving response times and reducing the bottleneck on Defence computer systems. This was highly successful when used for the COVID 19 Awareness Training in early 2020.
Force Preparation is the final training outcome for Army prior to releasing forces on active operations. At the sub-unit level, the achievement of force preparation in a timely and efficient manner is critical to mission success, therefore, simplification and transformation of the processes and requirements surrounding that force preparation must be considered under training transformation. By implementing these efficiencies Army will have forces that are Future Ready and capable of deploying more frequently, and more rapidly into any environment. All that remains for these deploying forces is to ensure they understand the geopolitical environment they are entering.
Understanding The Geopolitical Environment
The character of war is changing quicker than our processes, concepts, capabilities and structures were designed for and so is the geopolitical environment. The environment in which Army operates has become more complex and more difficult to understand. Army, and Defence, has invested heavily in its intelligence collection and analysis capabilities at the strategic level over the last decade. However, as the Future Ready Army prepares to send more sub-units into more places more of the time, there needs to be a transformation of how soldiers are trained to operate in this changing geopolitical environment. This training should be focused on developing awareness and building familiarity with different operational environments. Where intelligence training is mentioned in this paper it specifically refers to enhancing access to sources and improving the nature and use of intelligence at the tactical level.
Army in Motion identifies that people are our most critical capability as we move into a rapidly changing geopolitical environment. A challenge that Army faces is understanding how to transform its training methods to better prepare individuals and units for operations in an unstable geopolitical environment. To achieve better preparation, Army needs to address a decade long trend of focusing intelligence product and training upwards to the strategic level. The purpose of this is not to halt strategic intelligence, but to ensure intelligence is shared at the tactical level enabling an increase to Army’s collective understanding of the geopolitical environment. At a sub-unit level, transformation in intelligence training could generate a shared understanding between planners and practitioners. It could also improve Army’s ability to operate in a joint environment where all personnel have an improved collective understanding of the capabilities housed within their task forces and what capabilities oppose them in their deployed / operating environment. Army presently trains its personnel to achieve these outcomes; however, it is sub-optimal, could be simplified, and could be improved to generate more capable forces more of the time, all ready to operate in more places.
Transformation could be applied in the following areas to improve Army’s understanding of, and operations within, the geopolitical environment to make it Future Ready:
1. Commence an Intelligence Road Show for the Combat Brigades on a quarterly basis.
Justification. Units within Combat Brigades have very limited access to SECRET level systems and intelligence personnel. Therefore, a road show that includes personnel from across the Defence intelligence community could rapidly and continually improve an individual’s knowledge of BLUFOR and REDFOR capabilities and improve their understanding of changes in the geopolitical environment. It would also aid in the ongoing testing and development of tactical SOPs. Briefs could also be tailored to suit a Brigade’s partnered nations in the South West Pacific. This road show concept simplifies access to diverse intelligence resources by enabling personnel the ability to see, talk to, and learn from intelligence experts.
2. Consider the increased use of Non-Defence Training Areas to replicate realistic and likely training environments.
Justification. Sub-units require increased exposure to diverse environments that are not housed within extant training areas. Using large farms, regional urban centres, or littoral towns for exercises should become normal for the future force. Access to such resources should not be reserved for major activities such as Exercise Talisman Sabre. In many cases this will bring training areas closer to home-stations and increase their potential training frequency. Army’s people must be comfortable operating in and around the civil community if they are to excel in a rapidly changing geopolitical environment.
3. Consider running all professional career courses at the SECRET level for tactical exercises without troops (TEWTs) to incorporate current and emerging threat technology for REDFOR / BLUFOR.
Justification. Army’s career courses provide a solid foundation for all personnel; however, they could be transformed to include real-world capabilities for both BLUE and REDFOR. This would improve Army’s understanding of what is available, its considerations for employment, and its effect when incorporated into a land or joint plan. Army cannot risk Future Ready mission failure, which is a possibility if its personnel do not understand what they can achieve and what might be arrayed against them because they have never planned for missions at the SECRET level using Defence’s full suite of capabilities.
Understanding the geopolitical environment requires a reinvestment of intelligence down into the tactical level and increased access to more realistic training environments. As sub-units are expected to operate in more diverse environments more of the time, there will need to be recognition that learning and understanding the geopolitical environment will not occur quickly. Army must prepare its soldiers to be the ‘strategic corporal’, attuned to their environment and aware of the impacts their actions can have. Army can transform its approach to training, its greatest capability, by equipping personnel with the knowledge to utilise and avoid known and emerging technologies in different environments from Shoalwater Bay Training Area. By developing this intellectual and experiential edge, Australian soldiers will be better equipped to fight in the highly fluid and rapidly changing geopolitical environment.
Army’s undertaking to transform training and simplify processes is a worthwhile mission that will make it Future Ready. This paper has explored three specific areas where Army has the capacity (with multiple options) to transform and re-invest time into becoming Future Ready. The simplification of training administration and force preparation processes would significantly improve a sub-unit’s ability to focus more time towards tactical training and becoming Future Ready. Transforming training processes would allow sub-units to be ready more of the time as training can be executed in an expedited manner. Sub-units will also require increased access to, and training in, intelligence capabilities to ensure they are prepared for operations in a rapidly changing geopolitical environment. Ensuring Army’s people understand what capabilities they have access to, how to integrate them into planning, and what capabilities are being arrayed against them will be critical to Army’s success. This must be conducted at the SECRET level to ensure sub-units are trained the way we want them to fight.
This paper has been written to generate discussion about how Army could approach transformation to simplify its processes to enable sub-units to re-invest time and thus become Future Ready. It is acknowledged that the options highlighted for transformation are written simplistically and would require significant investigation over an extended period. The areas identified are friction points consistently encountered at the sub-unit level.
Future Ready Training System, https://cove.army.gov.au/sites/default/files/future_ready_training_system_strategy.pdf
Transform to Accelerate – Now!, https://cove.army.gov.au/article/transform-accelerate-now
Accelerated Warfare – Futures Statement for Army in Motion, https://www.army.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-11/futures_statement_accelerated_warfare_booklet_u.pdf
Army in Motion – Command Statement, https://www.army.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-05/CommandStatement.pdf
Army in Motion – Aide for Army’s Teams, https://www.army.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-11/aideforarmysteams-print.pdf
Cover Image – Exercise Diamond Strike 2018, https://images.defence.gov.au/assets/Home/Search?Query=20180531adf8558864_651.jpg&Type=Filename