Lieutenant General Rick Burr has been in the Chief of Army position for just on a year, and by all accounts has not taken a backward step in continuing his predecessors’ programs to modernise the Australian Army.
After working as Deputy to the previous Chief of Army, now Chief of Defence Force (CDF) GEN Angus Campbell, LTGEN Burr was already deeply involved in Army’s transformation, and also had time to develop his own philosophy, one of the ‘Army in Motion.’
“It remains a great privilege to lead our Army of amazing men and women,” LTGEN Burr told ADBR on the eve of his first anniversary as Chief of Army. “I’m very proud of our people, and getting out and about seeing them is inspirational. As you know, General Campbell built on the work of his predecessors, and has left the Army in great shape. We are now ready for the next stage of transformation.”
LTGEN Burr is warm and affable, and has a great memory for names and faces. On face value he appears comfortable talking and listening to people of all ranks and standing. These are important traits for a leader who is not only charged with introducing a whole raft of new equipment, but also one prepared to lead a massive cultural shift in what is typically a very conservative and traditional organisation.
“I have started my tenure by describing our future operating environment through the Accelerated Warfare concept,” he explained. “I think that has been really powerful in defining the unique challenges that we all face, and what we need to do to respond to them.
“The release of Army in Motion has, I think, been very important in describing an Army that needs to be continuously moving, in perpetual motion, adapting to that future environment, embracing the opportunities of technology, and thinking about new concepts and ways of doing things.”
LTGEN Burr describes Accelerated Warfare as both the operating environment and “how we respond”. He says it provides the concept for how Army thinks, equips, trains, educates, organises and prepares for war in order to become “future ready”.
“I’m very pleased with where we are at in terms of thinking about the future, preparing the ground to embrace that future, as well as building concurrent energy,” he said. “As a concept, it’s forcing us to intellectually engage in these challenges to think about all of the domains – land, maritime, and air – our traditional domains, but also increasingly in space and in the cyber domain.
“And if you consider the human domain, then obviously we’re always in that domain as well,” he added. “But those geographic and functional domains are important in providing context when we think about the different way we might need to operate now and into the future. The overall effect it is important for the joint force. Army’s contribution to the joint force, and what we can do in each of those domains, is significant. We do more than we probably give ourselves credit for.”
But LTGEN Burr is also cognisant of the operational obligations Army maintains, and is looking for opportunities to apply the lessons learned on operations into his philosophy and to the Accelerated Warfare concept.
“The Army continues with its current commitments operationally,” he said. “We remain in the Middle East and in the Philippines helping with the mission there. “We’ve always been engaged in our own region as you know with very strong regional cooperation, but we’ve also really stepped up in response to the Government’s commitment to the Pacific in places like Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.
“And I’m very pleased. We bring those lessons home, and it allows us to grow our junior leaders in a great way, to build on those existing partnerships and alliances, and strengthens our world view. It’s really important for our leaders.
“Applying those lessons on operations and dealing with increased demands through the spectrum of cooperation, competition and conflict, has been the other important development. We’re thinking about how we best leverage the Army’s unique value proposition as part of the joint force during the various phases of cooperation, competition and conflict across multiple domains.
“We could be in different stages and different domains all at the same time, and that requires a much more integrated, much more sophisticated approach to how we operate. This lends itself to new principles of design for our forces. We are not just joint by design, but integrated by design. This allows our teams to be more coherent, more organised, and more responsive to meet that ‘Accelerated Warfare’ challenge. And of course, domain convergence is a key part of that.”
While culture and intellectual engagement are major parts of the Accelerated Warfare concept, they would be all for nought if they weren’t supported by significant investment in new equipment and training through the various project in the Defence Integrated Investment Plan (IIP).
In this regard, Army has prospered in recent years, with major projects to recapitalise and significantly upgrade the capabilities of almost every Army vehicle, to the incorporation of new resilient communications systems, to the integration of Army’s key land elements with Navy’s new amphibious ships, to the acquisition of a new short-range ground-based air defence (SRGBAD) system.
The contract for the acquisition of Enhanced NASAMS SRGBAD system being acquired under Project LAND 19 Phase 7B was signed in Canberra on June 20, less than three months after passing its Gate 2 approval milestone, and barely two years after Gate 1.
“That air defense capability inside Army is very much needed,” LTGEN Burr explains. “It really developed a stronger, more coherent air defence capability that is integrated across Army, Navy and Air Force, particularly with AIR 6500 coming along.
“That really elevates our thinking and our intellectual engagement with the battlespace,” he added. “To me, while that is another important way of satisfying the air defence capability need, it allows us to think more broadly about how we employ lethal fires in the battlespace, and the integration of sensors and effectors. This then leads into the broader modernisation priority that I have around lethality and the need for long range fires.
“If we start to build the DNA, we start to develop the capacity and capability inside Army to be a much stronger contributor to the joint force across all of those domains.”
LTGEN Burr comes to senior leadership not only from a strong operational and leadership background with the SAS and Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also an equally strong instructional and training background through leadership stints at both the Australian Defence Force Warfare Training Centre (ADFWTC) at RAAF Base Williamtown, and at Royal Military College Duntroon.
“I think it’s progressive,” he said. “Like all people or leaders, you keep building on lessons and experiences and observations. And for me, and certainly with my own background, the power of teams is essential. Those teams can be anyone and anything that contributes to the problem at hand, but the focus on connectivity and enterprise level thinking is really powerful in this regard.
“We need to be working together, helping each other.” he added. “Certainly for the land force, what we can do to better enable maritime and air forces is an area that I know can be enhanced. An Army is not just a beneficiary of a Navy and an Air Force, but I think the same is also true in reverse.
“It’s the interdependency in all of those domains – we all bring different capabilities to the table, and we need to be able to leverage each other’s strengths and unique capabilities in a more coherent way, from cooperation, competition and conflict.
“To me, that sophistication of thinking, that cultural maturity if you like is a real coming of age, and it’s a pleasure to be able to lead the Army at this time..”
To take advantage of the next generation of weapons systems and their enabling capabilities, all three ADF services have embarked on cultural change programs to best position themselves in the future. Air Force has led the way with Plan Jericho, followed closely by Navy with Plan Pelorus.
Army had previously embarked on Plan Beersheba which was essentially a restructure which saw three multirole manoeuvre Brigades created – the 1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades (1, 3, 7Bde) – to better integrate infantry, armour, artillery, engineers, logistics and communications components.
The restructure also included the establishment of 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) as a specialised amphibious force, and a greater integration of the Army Reserve into the regular Army for deployments on stabilisation operations.
As part of the amphibious component of 2RAR, a key element of Beersheba was a commitment to work closer with Navy and Air Force on enhancing the interoperability between the three services, particularly with the Project JP 2048 Phase 4A/B Canberra class Landing Helicopter Docks (LHD) and other amphibious platforms. This has since been expanded with the training and lessons learned by 2RAR to be rolled out across all Army units.
LTGEN Burr’s Army in Motion message in many ways takes Beersheba to the next level. With the structural and training elements now in place, and many of the key capabilities either in service or deep into their project cycles, the next step is to bring Army’s people along through ongoing engagement.
“Through development of Army in Motion and Accelerated Warfare, and a very active engagement program, we’ve got out to visit all the Brigades and the different parts of the Army,” LTGEN Burr explained. “But also across the joint force and where our people serve, just to build that understanding and support for what we are trying to do.
“And I think my view is that logic wins every time,” he added. “If you can explain the logic and it’s sufficiently compelling, then people will support it. My big focus has been on understanding the challenges around transitioning from being ‘ready now’ to being ‘future-ready’, including accepting that some things have to change in order to accommodate those new requirements.
“That’s the bit that often gets glossed over – how do you get from here to there? What trade-offs, what risks are you willing to accept? Are you going to reinforce your workforce, or stop doing things here, or take people offline to reskill them in order to do something? Like any change management, that’s the hard bit, and that’s why we are doing this active engagement program, socialising the idea, and then developing action plans to get after each part of this challenge.”
Part of Army’s action plan is the development of training transformation teams. “Training, because our training system is obviously fundamental to all of the services, and our genuine strength is our training system,” LTGEN Burr said. “We are very focused on modernising our training system – the way we approach and deliver learning in our Army, but also making sure we’ve got the capacity to deliver these new requirements for a new generation of workforce as well as reskilling those who are already qualified or trained in existing systems.
“The work force is absolutely ready for that in my view – they’re excited by it,” he continued. “They know that it’s needed, and they know that that’s where the advantage is accrued.
“But the other part of the broader cultural challenge is why. Earlier this year, we reissued an updated version of Good Soldiering which is essentially our cultural optimisation initiative which talks to the power of high performing teams, and how we build high performing teams within our organisation.
“I’m not just talking about the more advanced parts of their organisation, but wherever we are, we work best in teams, and the best way to optimise the performance of that team is by understanding the principles that go into that. These principles are generally around culture and leadership and I put a big focus on that across the Army, and that’s already paying dividends. That just speaks to Army’s strengths – I think naturally that’s what we do, we’re a teaming organisation.”
And as a result of that engagement and the rollout of these changes, LTGEN Burr said there may be more structural changes and an increase in overall manning to come.
“We are working on some initiatives around the future of 6 Brigade , which is the Brigade that develops a lot of our information warfare capabilities, as well as our air defense and UAS capabilities. How can we better organise to deliver against those future challenges? we might see some changes there,” he said. “And I think there will probably be a greater focus on our training institutions to make sure we’ve got that sufficiently resourced to achieve the transformation that we seek.”
LTGEN Burr also said he has been pleased with the response he has had from the other services, CASG, Headquarters Joint Operations Command, other government organisations, and Industry, to his goals.
“We’re pushing on an open door,” he said. “People recognise the need and the opportunity, and where there’s a joint interdependency, that would obviously only occur once we’re all happy. But a lot of these are internal, and we’re certainly well engaged with all the stakeholders and the partners.
“I have five ‘Ps’ – people, preparedness, the profession, achieving our potential, and partnerships – and I think partnerships is where there’s real opportunity as we recognise Industry as a fundamental input to capability. So, what does that mean? How do we better work together? How do we better collaborate? We need industry to know that we’re open for business, that our challenges are recognised, and that people should feel comfortable coming to help share what some of those solutions might be.”
As part of its transformation and in an effort to stay aligned with the other services, apart from the obvious ADF senior leadership team exchanges, LTGEN Burr’s teams also stay engaged with Air Force’s Jericho and Navy’s Pelorus teams at the middle management and rank level.
“The concepts, capital acquisition, and development community, that’s very tight now,” he said. “I think we all learn from each other and, the approach is that we’re all in this together. I’m very pleased with that level of collaboration, sharing and transparency that says, ‘We all want to get better because we all know that Army benefits from a stronger, more capable Navy and Air Force’. And the same is true for those services and for the joint enterprise, so that’s a real sign of maturity in our organisation now.”
With many of Army’s new capabilities either here or due to soon start coming online, LTGEN Burr is acutely aware of Army’s need to evolve its thinking and its way of doing business in parallel with the upgrading of equipment. Almost without exception, much of that equipment to be acquired under LAND 400, LAND 8120, LAND 8112, LAND 19 Phase 7B and others will be much heavier, offer greater levels of protection, have greater fire power, and will be of a whole new generation of complexity than the capabilities it will replace.
“It’s all very exciting, but it’s not all happening overnight of course – the plans to acquire and introduce into service these capabilities all have their own plans and pathways,” he said. “Most importantly, considering all the fundamental input to capability implications, and making sure that they’re all addressed so that, ahead of time, we are preparing the ground so that we can start operating them effectively when they turn up.
“So that’s what we’re trying to achieve, whether it is through simulation, or through attachments to armies that are already operating these systems, for example,” he added. “And it’s building expertise and being engaged with the original equipment manufacturer or the industry partner to really progressively build understanding of these capabilities before they come into service.
“And then, of course, there is the synergy between all of them. It’s the links between all these capabilities so that we’re developing our concepts and our operating procedures as early as we can, noting that there are obviously some things we won’t really know until we start operating them.
“That discovery learning, what’s actually possible – one of the most exciting parts of Army and the joint force is we learn by doing, and how our intelligent people see better ways of doing things – things that others may not have seen. They say, ‘why don’t we try this, now that we can do that?’ And then you’ve got a capability advantage which is what our ADF is always in search of.”
But not only does the Army need to learn to operate and to fight with all this new equipment, it needs to be able to move it quickly, to deploy it effectively, and to sustain it on operations.
“In terms of moving this equipment, we currently rely on Navy or Air Force to move Army around,” he said. “And once we’re in a location we have our own organic vehicle transport and aviation support. But I’ve also become increasingly focused on our own watercraft capability to make sure that we have sufficient, organic maritime manoeuvre, and to support these new capabilities.
“I think there’s real opportunity there as we think about the (JP 2048 Phase 5) future watercraft project to make sure that it accommodates both Army’s needs, but also provides opportunities in the region to better collaborate with our regional partners as we think about inter and intra-island movements.
“So there is a project in the IIP for watercraft replacement, and we’re focused on what that might look like to meet these needs,” he added. “Army has operated heavy landing craft in our past prior to Navy taking on the role. And as you know, we have recently provided some of these vessels to our Pacific island neighbours.
“So we’ve been there before, and we still operate the smaller LCM8 as well. That’s an old but reliable capability that does need to be replaced, so as we think about what that future holds, the medium and heavy landing craft concept is certainly an area that we are actively looking at. And I think that will allow us to be much more effective in our own region and make our Army more deployable and more self-contained with little extra overhead.”
As the complexity and cost of Army’s new systems rises, so too does the need to maintain a cohesive and accountable development and sustainment system in order to safely and effectively use these capabilities. To this end, much as Air Force and Navy are focused on structured, documented and accountable air-worthiness and sea-worthiness systems respectively, so too Army has a renewed focus on assuring its systems are ‘land-worthy’.
“Land-worthiness has always been there, but not defined within a single framework,” LTGEN Burr explained. “So over the last couple of years we’ve been drilling into what are the other components of land-worthiness, how are they done? How do they all come together? And so forth. And what we’ve developed is a more coherent framework starting with appointment of Chief of Army as the authority accountable for land-worthiness, much like Chief of Air Force and Navy for air and sea-worthiness respectively.
“I think just is a natural extension of where we go to with air and sea-worthiness,” he added. “It’s arguably much more complex in the land space, because there is so much more equipment, and greater variety of types and fleets. This is even more reason to develop the Land-worthiness framework. So over the next six months we will work through in more detail what our model will be to bring assurance and fidelity to those accountabilities. And then we’ll brief the CDF and the Secretary towards the end of the year.
“It’s not like we haven’t done it before, but it can be clearer and more joined up with accountabilities that are more defined. So to me, this is important. It gives us much more assurance and confidence in the safety and availability, and the effectiveness of the equipment and systems.
“I think it’s about making sure that we have good accountability and good governance around land-worthiness. I think we owe that to our people and to our leadership. And so to me this just needed to be done. The benefits will be the ability to manage with confidence more sophisticated, heavier, and arguably more complex equipment, and that makes us all better.”
This feature appeared in the May-June 2019 issue of ADBR.