By Sapper ‘Flex’
RAE (17th C&J AAAS) 62-71
FILE PHOTO (Sept 2016): Australian Army Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles from Darwin-based 1st Brigade drive along the Great Northern Highway during Exercise Northern Shield 2016. Photo by Corporal David Said.
The numbers show the total ARMY strength in WA is 2358, that is, combined Permanent and Reserve soldiers:
(Source: Department of Defence annual Report Chapter 7 – “Strategic Workforce Management”)
Which as a point of comparison is about 1/3 the size of WA’s State Police Force.
The real composition or break down of that number 2358 goes like this:
Reserve Soldiers 1494
SAS Special Forces 800 Arbitrary number
Permanent Soldiers 64
Note: The SAS Regiment has an undisclosed strength but is assumed to be around 800. Whatever the actual number is, it would be unlikely that a full strength compliment would be in Campbell Barracks at any one time, if at ever.
This of course reflects on the REAL number of overall Permanent Soldiers in WA. (ie: The number would be even SMALLER
In the event of a natural disaster or catastrophic occurrence, how could such a small group cope and/or contribute in a real meaningful way.
Let alone provide defence and security to WA’s general public ,Critical Minerals Industries, Oil and Gas Infrastructure , Resources Industries, major facilities such as the Stirling Naval Base and other critical / strategic entities and facilities scattered around the state.
Structure of the ADF
Source of numbers below: Department of Defence annual Report Chapter 7 – “Strategic Workforce Management” – Table 7.9,
The current Defence Personnel strength in Australia (ADF):
Service Permanent Reserve Total
Navy 13,657 2,823 16,480
Army 30,161 13,801 43,962
Air Force 14,838 5,070 19,908
TOTALS 58,656 21,694 80,350
Composition of Defence Personnel in Western Australia,
Service Combined Permanent & Reserve Percentage in WA
Navy 2675 16.2 %
Army 2358 5.4 %
Air Force 602 3.0 %
TOTAL 5635 7.01 % ADF
The ratio of Permanent Soldiers to Reserve Soldiers is like this:
Permanent Reserve Total Ratio P to R
Army Other 29,297 12,307 41,604 1 to 0.42
Army WA 864 1,494 2,358 1 to 1.73
Army ADF 30,161 13,801 43,962 1 to 0.46
Geographical perspective comparing WA to the rest of Australia:
Location Land Area Km2 Soldiers/Km2 Coastline Km
Other States 5,046 8.25 25,683
WA 2,646 (34.4 %) 0.89 10,194 (28.4 %)
Australia Total 7,692 35,877
A quick appraisal of these simple analyses does not take one long to see there is a very good point here and that is, Western Australia is not just being left behindbut pretty much being forgotten.
To push the point real hard, there has to be something serious take place and that could and should be Australia having a two (2) Army policy
- ARMY No. 1 – the existing Army (Eastern States and NT)
- ARMY No. 2 – new Army for (the entire state of WA)
This is not a new proposition as it has been put forward on many occasions before by members of parliaments, politicians and representatives from defence analysis organisations.
- There are still views that a great expanse of water (Indian Ocean) is more than adequate as defence and security of WA.
Some might even add, “And in addition there is the massive land area of half a continent of desolation”.
But hang on a bit, isn’t that half a continent (ie: WA), what we are talking about here.
- Then there is an inference towards those who support a greater ADF presence (Footprint) in WA as basically not having much knowledge on the subject.
This clearly cannot be correct, as if it were, all those countless security / defence experts who have written masses of papers and articles over the years, also must not have it right.
An estimate in the order of 10,000 to 15,000 pieces of “defence and security” articles, papers and general talk fest documents across the past 80 years, would not be far off the mark.
A very large percentage of these writings are centred on this very topic – defence and security of North and North Western Australia.
- The perception that the ADF and particularly the Army has only one sole roll is also not quite right.
The fact is the principal roll of the ADF/ ARMY is certainly Military Defence, but equally important and binding on the ADF is the tasks to:
- Contribute to the Safety of the Immediate Neighbourhood
- Operations supporting wider interests
- c) Contribution to National Support Tasks in Australia
(Source: Portfolio Budget Statements 2019-2020 section 2 Defence Outcomes and Planned Performance):
Call out the Army
Australia’s resent history of catastrophic events such as the horrendous bush fires across most states, extreme flooding and weather events and the present Covid 19 Pandemic have all brought the importance of the ARMY in addressing these situations to the for front / front pages of newspapers all over.
The “call out for the ARMY” slogan by all and sundry, indicates the public generally and even Politicians and Governments think the ARMY is much much biggerthan it really actually is.
Right at this time there are reported to be 2500 Soldiers in Victoria carrying out Covid 19 security, separation and control rolls in support of the Health Department and Government of Victoria.
There are also random numbers of Soldiers in other states carrying out similar rolls and duties.
What the general public and most Politicians and Governments don’t know or realise is that the majority of the Soldiers engaged in these Covid 19 rolls are Reserve Soldiers. Many of the Reserve Soldiers are already in jobs that conflict with their dual working life, in a situation like this Covid 19 pandemic. That is many are in Public Service jobs such as Police, Health, Nursing, Government Administration and the like. Taking these Reserve Soldiers out of their Civilian Jobs created a compounding effect on manpower across all these areas.
Perhaps this has been addressed and the current second wave Covid 19 assistance by the ARMY is now totally made up of Permanent Soldiers.
So there must by now be some concern about all things dependent upon the size and strength of the ARMY.
Consequently the Federal Government and the ADF Command must seriously consider and act on the following points:
- Is the ARMY in its existing strength able to carry out its prime roll
- Is the ARMY in its existing strength capable of carrying out its primary and secondary rolls
- Is the ARMY situated across the country in sufficient strengths to have a realistic capability in either or both rolls
- In addressing the above should the capability of the ARMY in Western Australia be advanced to be on par with the rest of the country?
Old Story New Scribe
The way to tell any story and paint the picture clearly is, if you like, not to reinvent the wheel.
That is, why spend time writing other version of the same thing, when countless experts have told and retold the same story in the past. Also most of these experts are far more qualified on the subject, so why not use some of these articles as a step to present comments and perspectives that add to the story and propositions.
To this end the passage directly here under is an extract from a paper, The Australian Defence Force in northern Australia 9th July 2015 by Dr Nathan Church (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Section)
The issue of a military presence in northern Australia has been an enduring one for Australia’s parliamentarians.
In 1940, Adair Blain (Member for Northern Territory) declared in the House of Representatives that:
In a spirit of political complacency we are burying our heads in the sand and leaving the north-west to defend itself.
We are relying upon its remoteness for security …
There are cogent reasons why the Government should concentrate upon the effective control and defence of the north-west of Australia, particularly when we realize that the influence of the Axis powers may extend, and we may even have more enemies than we have today.
More recently in 2014, the Minister for Defence noted ‘we have hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of investment in offshore developments, particularly in the north and northwest of Australia’.
Both statements infer that Australia not only needs naval assets to appropriately provide national security, but also appropriate defence facilities located in the region to support the required defence assets.
Ditto Dr Nathan Church’s introductory Executive Summary section follows, with comments added in bold and underlined, which convey the opinions on these passages from the viewpoint of the proponents of an ARMY in WA and particularly the NW being established and based in the NW and be maned and operated 24/7 year on year ad-infinitum.
Also, that view is based around the ARMY in WA / NW to be principally made up of Permanent Soldiers: –
- The Australian Defence Force (ADF) regards northern Australia as strategically important, both for national defence and as a forward base for regional engagement.
- The ADF presence in northern Australia also directly contributes to the economic and social development of the region.
This may have truth in Darwin but is not the case for a blanket statement, as it has NO RELAVENCE in the North West or indeed the whole of Western Australia.
- A substantial amount of new ADF assets will either be based or operate in the vicinity of northern Australia, requiring new or upgraded facilities. These include new strike and patrol aircraft as well as the Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs), Australia’s largest ever warships.
Not sure those huge warships are necessary, but great numbers of Helicopters YES
- The increasing presence of US Marine rotations within northern Australia will also require additional infrastructure and base capacity.
- However, future growth in the ADF’s northern Australia presence is constrained.
The only constraint is that Governments and ADF heads have not made decisions and expended in any meaningful way across eighty (80) years.
This has created a huge effect on Australia’s ability to defend the North and North West of WA and WA as a whole.
ADF Footprint has not increased in WA, and it has actually diminished
The shutting down of 22 Construction Sqn RAE back in 1990, left the SAS at Campbell Barracks as the only Permanent Army unit in WA.
- Climate factors affect the ADF’s ability to operate in the region and maintain its infrastructure,
Really, this SHOULD NOT be the case, as the same climatic conditions affect private industry such as mining, resources, pastoralists, etc. and they run hugely successful operations in these conditions / environment
- While northern Australia’s distance from major population centres increases resource costs and can impede retention of personnel.
Garrison town and other FOB towns should be created and built in the NW of WA just as the mining industry has built mining towns like, Tom Price, Newman, Dampier, and Paraburdoo
- Accordingly, the most cost-effective improvements will likely come through more efficient defence sustainment provided by local northern Australia defence industries
This is a good proposition but the Federal Government and the Department of Defence Industries have to be the leaders here and set up a means of private companies to engage.
Presently the ADI does neither see nor cater for this roll.
The ADI in WA seems totally fixated on the Submarine Maintenance programme, other Maritime ventures and nothing else.
To plan, design, supply and construct the entire extent of infrastructure, buildings and facilities needed to advance and establish a real ARMY / ADF presence in NW of WA, there must be AT LEAST an internet site set up / in place by Defence West / ADI.
Proponents of an overall state-wide complex of the required infrastructure as they propose it or individual projects and locations as the case may suit, would have a point of contact with the Australian Defence Industry.
At present it is impossible for a proponent of anything, particularly a new or perceived controversial idea, to get a look in.
Other than the jobs, rolls, and streams already in place the ADI is a CLOSED SHOP.
Leadership and Governance
There has been an incredible dalliance by Governments on both sides of parliament and the ADF Leaders across the years.
Because of no decision and commitment of any consequence being made over this time, it has left the whole of the North West of WA and its mineral and resource industries and infrastructure vulnerable and defenceless.
Not one of our Chiefs over this time has formulated a detailed plan of the entire ADF, on a base by base, basis. That is Not in WA or the NW from what can be seen.
Every paper, initiative, proposition, etc., etc., has been in terms that never set down location, assets or quantify manpower.
The massive build and investment in the defence and security of WA and in particular the North West of WA, now just has to happen.
It has been put off for over eighty (80) years, it must be commenced now.
The cost now is absolutely irrelevant, as plans, decisions and expenditure should have been progressive across the years as for all ongoing Federal Government commitments.
The bottom line is that our military forces should always be funded, supplied and supported to at least be in a position to be capable of providing security and defence across the entirety of the country.
Australia’s Economic Recovery from Covid 19
Australia is in a pickle at the moment due to the impact of the CV pandemic.
A recovery strategy with numerous legs has to be planned and put in place to generate jobs and reduce the extremely high level of unemployment and build the economy and drag the country back up.
The Federal Budget CASH SPLASH for JOBS CREATIONis all very nice but unfortunately it is not going to be that simple.
All the cash in this year’s budget is directed to and for all Australian companies and individuals to create new jobs and employ people.
There is no real jobs being given / started / created directly by the Government. It is all about putting the money out there and trusting business to do all the jobs creation.
In the past there have been many examples of huge projects being tackled to both create jobs and deliver a facility or service for the betterment of the country and the people.
The biggest and most relevant project that Australia took on and achieved was the Snowy Mountain Hydro scheme. This project was commenced due to the same circumstances that Australia now finds itself in again.
Australia needs a massive project starting right now that can replicate the effects of the Snowy Mountain Scheme had on the economy and employment.
The building of an entire Second Army in Western Australia is just that project.
If ever a Federal Government and the ADF should make this decision and commitment, it is now.
It is a decision that should have been made decades ago anyhow, but now it is paramount and critical for not just the current economic situation but the total future security and survival of Australia.
Interim Closing Statement
This topic is bigger than Ben Hur, so I will give you and myself a break for now.
Other parts to follow will include but not necessary limited to:
- Comprehensive plan and details of all components, facilities and infrastructure required to establish an Army build up in WA along the path of a an ARMY No.2
- Overall strength of the ARMY No.2 presented on a corps, unit and location basis
- Airforce upgrades and additional facilities as required to service the ARMY No. 2 and more so to have an operational Airforce capability based and operating out of WA and more particularly the NW
- Benefits, jobs and rolls created that will be filled by transitioning and damaged Soldiers and others leaving the Services
- Fact finding and presentation of individual Defence and Security issues