Re. “Defence dysfunctional and at the point of breakdown” (yesterday, item 1).
Why is the ADF leadership so disconnected from the Government and, in particular, the Minister for Defence?
Firstly the upper-level leadership comes from a very shallow gene pool. There are no outsiders in uniform, so numbers of candidates are reduced. Then, the three services only promote from certain specialisations.
The Army — pretty much artillery and infantry. The Navy, salty-seaman officers, and the Air Force, pilots. All admirable specialisations requiring very particular skills, none remotely related to management. Leadership in the military still revolves around who wears more rank, “I am a general, you are a major, therefore I am always right”.
The Air Force fighter pilots, (who float to the top if they don’t leave and fly for Qantas) have fantastic reflexes and motor skills. But come star rank, most have no idea about management outside their world of screaming jets and orders.
Politicians don’t go ga-ga (well most, anyway) at some bloke in a flying suit. Fighter pilots are indoctrinated to make unquestioned ‘snaps’, not political, considered decisions. Senior officers quickly learn the skill of the hospital pass to middle-ranking officers.
The biggest factor — some years ago the Government took away all financial power from Defence and gave it to the Australian Public Service. Now we have the holders of the gold being faceless people with no military knowledge — and military leadership with no political or management skills. Put John Symons in charge — or even Red Symons.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.