02 April 2009

Defence: understanding the diarchy

Letter to the Editor, Australian Financial Review – submitted 2 April, published 3 April


It is clear that ADA Executive Director Neil James (Letters, 2 April) has no idea what the diarchical leadership of Defence is all about. It is not, as he appears to believe, a dastardly plot to enable civilians to meddle in military business and foment strife between the Services.

The diarchy provides the only firm legal basis for the Australian public to have the benefit of seamless advice to the Defence Minister, and seamless control of complex processes and operations involving both military and civilian personnel.

Most things that happen in Defence are on the specific authority of the Secretary or the CDF. The CDF provides military advice to the Minister and issues military commands. The Secretary provides other advice to the Minister and controls money, physical assets, and civilian personnel. The Secretary has no power to command the military. The CDF has no power to tell public servants what to do or to authorise expenditure of money.

Some things must be a genuinely "joint" responsibility - the effective running of the blended organisation as a whole, the management of alliance relationships, defence cooperation with regional neighbours, and intelligence functions.

By having the Secretary and CDF act in concert on certain matters we gain, on a proper legal basis, the benefit of the blended civilian-military workforce that is required in the 21st century. On the occasions when a joint instruction is necessary, it binds everyone in the organisation, and enables everyone to get on with their job.

Neil James appears to hanker for an apartheid system in which every element of the Australian Defence Organisation would have to be purely military or purely civilian. How that would assist the Minister, the public or the ADF is a mystery.

Paul Barratt

Former Secretary

Department of Defence

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