How to Work with the Aussies and Brits: Enable the Human Network

Image courtesy of UK Ministry of Defence is of a US Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey Aircraft from the USS Kearsarge, lands onboard HMS Illustrious during Cougar 13. Image courtesy of UK Ministry of Defence is of a US Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey Aircraft from the USS Kearsarge, lands onboard HMS Illustrious during Cougar 13.

 

The Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute recently published a book entitled American Grand Strategy and the Future of U.S. Landpower.  The book is available for free, and includes chapters by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, Huba Wass de Czege – founder of the School for Advanced Military Studies, Michael Meese – former West Point Social Science Department Head, Conrad Crane – one of FM 3-24’s lead authors, David Barno – retired Lt. Gen., and Richard Rosecrance of the Harvard Kennedy School.  I was fortunate enough to have the privilege of writing Chapter 8 (pgs. 177-187): “Rebalancing Land Forces in the United Kingdom and Australia.”

In the short chapter (about 2500 words) I look forward to what relationship we ought to develop and expect from our closest allies.  What follows is a brief introductory selection; the rest can be downloaded here:

On July 4, 1918, four infantry companies from the American 33rd Division fought alongside the 4th Australian Division at the Battle of Hamel.[1] American Corporal Thomas A. Pope earned the Medal of Honor while serving under the higher command of Australian Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash, who in turn was commanded in the British sector by General Sir Douglas Haig.[2]  As this episode suggests, American, British, and Australian soldiers have a deep tradition of shared sacrifice.

Nearly a century later, “austerity” accurately describes the zeitgeist in Washington, London, United Kingdom (UK), and Canberra, Australia. The British Army is reducing from an active force of 102,000 to 82,000.[3] An Australian foreign policy think tank director recently wrote, “Australia’s military spending has slipped to 1.6 percent of gross domestic product…this is the lowest it has been since before World War II.”[4]  In the United States a recent Reuters story highlighted the reductions of 10 brigade combat teams and cuts which total 80,000 soldiers over the next four years.”[5] Moreover, as U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno recently acknowledged in Foreign Affairs, the organization is adjusting to “major changes” like “declining budgets, due to the country’s worsened fiscal situation.”[6]  All three governments face resource constraint.

Austerity, however, is not a strategy. Scholars have defined strategy as the art of balancing ends, ways and means.[7]  The American, British, and Australian ground forces each face a meaningful reduction in “means” and broadly consistent “ends,” which can shift due to the nature of elective politics.  It is therefore important that the “ways” ought to be adjusted to keep each country’s strategy in balance.  It is in this context that this essay addresses the following questions: Are there viable options for collaborative rebalancing strategies? Which partnered policies – e.g. co-production, joint-venture[8] – might be most mutually beneficial for the United States and its closest allies?  When the American, British, and Australian armies collaborate, can they be greater than the sum of their parts?  If so, how?

[1] Gary Sheffield, The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army (London: Aurum Press, 2011), 293.

[2] Ibid, 294. See also “Pope, Thomas A.,” Center of Military History Website, http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/worldwari.html#POPE

[3] Andrew Chuter, “Reductions Will Limit Armed Forces’ Capabilities, UK Military Chief Warns,” Defense News, August 22, 2013, http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130822/DEFREG01/308220013/Reductions-Will-Limit-Armed-Forces-Capabilities-UK-Military-Chief-Warns

[4] Michael Fullilove, “Caught Between the U.S. and China,” The New York Times, September 5, 2013.

[5] David Alexander, “Army to eliminate 10 brigades at U.S. bases in drawdown: Odierno.” Reuters, June 25, 2013http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/25/us-usa-army-idUSBRE95O1IR20130625

[6] Raymond T. Odierno, “The U.S. Army in a Time of Transition: Building a Flexible Force,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2012), 11.

[7] See Arthur F. Lykke, “Toward an Understanding of Military Strategy,” The U.S. Army War College Guide to Strategy, 2001, p. 179-185.

[8] Note: Both “co-production” and “joint-venture” should generally be considered multi-national shared investment in, and the development of, new military technologies for those participating nations.

Author: ML Cavanaugh

Unequal parts strategist, assistant professor, wordsmith, runner, wine-o, reader, philosopher of firepower, and hopeless lover of three ladies named Rachel, Grace, and Georgie.

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