PODCAST: Getting defence, and defence industry, right

jim molan

This week on the Defence Connect Podcast we discuss the fundamental steps the Australian Defence Force and policy makers need to undertake to deliver Australia’s security obligations – and the very important role of defence industry to support this – with Major General (Ret) Jim Molan.

Major General Jim Molan gives his insights around the nature and future of warfare, the influence of the Defence White Paper and the nation's capabilities.

Molan has been with the Australian Army for many years, where he has been involved in numerous postings, including Iraq in 2004. He is now using his extensive background in defence in his writing. His first book, Operations in the land of two rivers, was released in 2005 and his second book, Running the war in Iraq: an Australian general, 300,000 troops, the bloodiest conflict of our time, was released in 2008.

Listen to previous episodes of the Defence Connect podcast:

Episode 27: PODCAST: Brave new world – the ever-evolving defence technology sector
Episode 26: PODCAST: Going global with SMEs
Episode 25: PODCAST: Shaping Victoria’s defence industry
Episode 24: PODCAST: How game-changing geospatial technology is shaping the modern military – and delivering business growth
Episode 23: PODCAST: Drones in defence - changing the shape of modern warfare
Episode 22: PODCAST: Making it in the USA, Vince Howie
Episode 21: PODCAST: Making the team mission ready: Ian Bell, CAE
Episode 20: PODCAST: Getting set for F-35 sustainment – Steven Drury, director of aerospace, BAE Systems Australia
Episode 19: PODCAST: From cockpit to trailblazing CEO – John Lonergan, founder of Milskil
Episode 18: PODCAST: Greg Barsby, QinetiQ Australia & Chris Otley-Doe, RubiKon Group

Automation:

Welcome to the Defence Connect Podcast, with your host Phil Tarrant.

 

Phil Tarrant:

Good day, Phil Tarrant here, I'm the host of the Defence Connect Podcast. Thanks for tuning in. Appreciate you joining us as we discuss issues facing defence industry today. I'm joined by a new regular co-host, and I hope you get on the show as often as she's available, Victoria Lewis. Victoria, how are you going?

 

Victoria:

Hi, thanks for having me.

 

Phil Tarrant:

Thanks for joining us. Today we're gonna have a bit of a chat, and probably gonna have to step outside my comfort zone a little bit, and engage in conversation with someone who is a lot more knowledgeable than what I am on this particular topic. But I'm quite excited about having this discussion, because I'll preface it by saying we live in very interesting times right now. The nature of war fighting today is very different from what it was 10, 20, 50 years ago.

 

 

The delivery of the White Paper last year, has outlined and given us a roadmap for the way in which us, as a nation, need to build our capabilities to ensure that we meet our military and national security needs moving forward.

 

 

The person I've invited onto the show, has some very interesting insights around the way in which our preparation for the nature of warfare today, and into the future, is going to be shaped by this White Paper, and perhaps some inadequacies we may have moving forward, in terms of being able to plan and prepare for what we need to do as a nation to secure our borders, and meet our defence needs. I'd like to welcome Jim Molan onto the show.

 

 

The bio that I have for Jim, I'm gonna try and condense it. I'm gonna do it in a way in which where I don't read it, but suffice to say that Jim has considerable background in the Australian Defence Force. He was with the Australian Army for many, many years. Numerous postings including 2004 in Iraq, where he played a significant role in terms of coalition activities there. Today, Jim is quite prolific in terms of his writing around defence orientated issues, and his experience and background has transitioned right across the defence industry. Today Jim, I want to have a chat around your views towards where we sit today, in terms of a nation, and our capabilities meeting our defence needs, but how that's gonna play out really, considering the defence White Paper, and also how a defence [initiative is 00:02:12] gonna help shape that moving forward. That's a big topic. I might start with, if you can just give us a bit of a background on where you see us today as a nation, and our capabilities in terms of defence?

 

Jim Molan:

Thanks Phil, and thanks Victoria. I think that the big picture is that we are currently in a situation where we have the best defence policy, the best manifest in the White Paper that I've seen, since the end of the Vietnam War. 1976 I think, was the first defence White Paper of this kind that we have at the moment. I've been through many of them in defence, of over 40 years, and this is the best. There's no two ways about it. The second thing I'd say, is that the Australian Defence Force at the moment, is far better than it's ever been since the end of the Vietnam War. Our organisation and experience, et cetera, is pretty good. The whinging and complaining that I've been indulging in over many, many years about the state of the defence force, a lot of those issues have been addressed. But, the one thing that really is not occurring at the moment, is the adjustment of the defence policy, for the reality of the strategic environment. The world has changed.

 

 

The world has changed in a number of different ways that, a couple of years ago, 2016, one year ago, we had the Defence White Paper come out. That Defence White Paper took a number of years in gestation, and what concerns me, is that it is producing a force by, maybe 2030, which we should have right now. I made the statement, which is as contentious as any other statement, and unchallengeable, but I say that we are five to 15 years behind where we should be in reality in relation to defence.

 

 

defence doing a great job, I'm not bitching and mumbling about that, but what I'm saying is we should realise that we are going too slow for the world. We're making this podcast on the day that a lot of the controversy over the Trump phone calls, President Trump and our Prime Minister's phone calls come out. That just reinforces the total unpredictability about where we stand.

 

 

That's the basic proposition that I make, and I've written about that in a number of forums, and I speak about it often, and I think that's what I'm saying. We have got to adjust for the world as it is, not the world that we hoped it was going to be some years ago.

 

Phil Tarrant:

I've read a chapter that you've written for a new book, called "Making Australia Right". It's pretty much a collection of essays from different areas, related to making Australia right.

 

Jim Molan:

Society, yes.

 

Phil Tarrant:

Moving forward. You sort of captured the defence sector and your thesis is pretty much what you've outlined there, in terms of we're five to 15 years behind where we need to be. Yes it's a big tick on behalf of government to deliver a White Paper, which you say is the best that we've had in years, or ever. But five, 15 years is a big spread. But even five years, if we progress the rate we're progressing right now, that spread's gonna get bigger and bigger. In terms of the way in which the security environment exists today, compared to how it was five, 10 years ago, what are the fundamental differences, which it's shaping that, moving forward?

 

Jim Molan:

The fundamental differences between now and then, really are the rise of other nations in the world, the diminution of real American power, and American leadership. Those three things. The first thing, on the rise of other powers in the world. The last Defence Secretary in the US used to say that the threat that the US faced, or, the Western world faced, was four nations and an ideology. The four nations pretty obviously are: Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, and the ideology very obviously is: Islamic extremism.

 

 

Now, there's a lot of other threats that we face: pandemics, climate change, et cetera. But, of the kind of force threats, of the change in the world, they're a problem. We can go through each one of those, but let me just leave that out there, that the world has changed, there are big nations with big power who don't share our view of the world, who are not status quo nations.

 

 

The second one, is the relative decline of US power. In the past, post-Vietnam, we could have the dumbest defence policy that anyone could ever have, and we'd get away with it, because the Americans were so powerful after Vietnam, and until recently, that they would hide any idiocy that happened to be in our defence policies.

 

 

We paid our premiums by providing forces for various wars around the place, and we got away with it for many, many years. We could afford even, in 1986, to come out with the DIB report, which was the Defence of Australia Report, where we just defined any threat down, and down, and down till it matched what the Labour Government was prepared to pay for it.

 

 

The diminution of American Power, and there is no doubt that real American power has seriously declined, just for the simple fact that President Trump is gonna pour vast amounts of money into American defence.

 

Phil Tarrant:

Absolutely.

 

Jim Molan:

A year or so ago, when I was making this argument, I had to justify by quoting general, after general, after general, looking at relative powers. But now, President Trump has come in and he's gonna put 500 billion dollars ... When you look at army, navy and air force, marine corps in the US, they have serious problems.

 

 

The third ... And sorry, if I may, the Americans can probably still beat any one of those four countries, and the ideology one at a time. The real challenge the Americans face, and this is ... I have never seen this in any strategic guidance we're getting, is that, if one thing goes off, such as South China sea. Suppose that goes off and significant American navel forces and air forces relocate at that particular thing, wouldn't it be funny if Iran said, "Now's a good time folks to do X, Y and Z," or Russia said, "Now's a good time to move into the Balkans, or to give Ukraine another bit of a push." America can still beat any one nation, but they're not just faced by one nation, that's the reality of the situation.

 

 

The third thing, is that American leadership under President Obama, was deeply confused. It was confused about the support that it should give to its armed forces. It was deeply confused and conflicted about how to conduct the military operations that it was responsible with, and how to manage the Syrian situation, the red line, the withdrawal from Iraq. The errors that were made there, were appalling. They're ideological errors, and they are appalling and we are paying for it at this very moment against the IS.

 

 

I make the statement, and I'd love someone to challenge me on it. I make the statement that had the Americans, after they pulled out in 2011 from Iraq, left the residual force that they left in Korea, in Germany, and in Afghanistan. If there was one single American battalion in Mosul in 2014, when the Isis thugs came screaming across the edges of the city and frightened 30,000 Iraqi troops, we wouldn't have the Isis problem that we have today, because the Americans wouldn't have run. The Americans would've stayed there and fought, and we wouldn't be fighting through Isis, through Mosul, with great casualties at the moment.

 

Phil Tarrant:

If we look back into military history. Considering this picture you've just painted about the America today. If we look back through history and, say we consider Germany, during the run up to the Second World War. Strong, powerful nation. Went through a period of massive change and development, to be a super power within Europe. Germany lost the war, and one of the reason was, it was fighting on way too many fronts and it didn't have the resources and capabilities to achieve its military aims.

 

 

When you consider America today, and you look at Germany during World War Two, will America end up fighting on more than one front? Because you've said, "South China sea," that could be an area where it needs to deploy its assets. But all these other things happening, is this the same contextually military security situation, can you draw a parallel with that at all?

 

Jim Molan:

I guess you can, but it can be very risky to go back and draw specific parallels. What I say though, is that weakness is provocation and deterrence is strength. Strength is deterrence and is powerful. The most dangerous thing that anyone can do, particularly a government, is to take excessive risk in defence. We pay governments to take risks in defence and yeah, we're never gonna get every dollar we want for defence. But I cannot see anywhere in what the West is doing, or what we are doing in Australia, a fair assessment of the risk that you're taking by not fully funding the defence force.

 

 

It's always dangerous to go back, and the real difference I believe, between say, '38, '39, '40, '41 nowadays, is the technology that you need, in order to prosecute war fighting. By the end of the Second World War in Australia, Australia was making mosquitoes and bow fighter, and tanks, and ships, and the whole works and jerks, because fundamentally, it was bashing steel.

 

 

Nowadays, there's no point doing that. You're just providing the opportunity for the enemy to kill more of you. The extraordinary level of technology nowadays, that is involved in war fighting means that you have got to establish them. The government is trying to do this, I've got no worries. I thank the government for doing it. You've got to establish the capability to produce what you need in war time, now. I think wars will be different in the future.

 

 

If the South China sea goes off, none of it knows how it's gonna go, it's gonna surprise us, where it goes off. Will Iran do something in the Gulf? Will Russia do something in the Balkans? Will North Korea do something monumentally stupid? None of us know how that's gonna go, but I ... My suspicion is that given the way the world is at the moment, there will be, if there is a clash anywhere, there won't be a five year war. The wars will be shorter, and sharper, and more vicious than they have been in the past, but there will be very large attempts to control where the war goes.

 

 

You might find yourself in a situation where just about everything you have to begin with, the war has lost in the first exchange. That might go for eight months, or twelve months, or something like that, but I don't see it going for five years without that break. But what I would say, is that the enemy that the West has, and the enemy that Australia has, is uncertainty. Now, I'm not gonna say China is our enemy, by any stretch of the imagination. We should welcome the rise of China and what it's doing for the Chinese people. But we should welcome the rise of China from a position of strength.

 

 

Australia is an extraordinary country, and most of us don't realise our own power. What with the fifth largest per capita GDP, with the twelfth, or thirteenth largest GDP, and I think Russia is one after us. With the 54th largest population of the 200 countries in the world, we are pretty well a very powerful country. The only thing that we lack is resolve and time. The more resolve the government shows, the less time when the balloon goes up.

 

 

Now generals are paid to worry about these things, but so are governments. Defence is not a responsibility of the military, or defence industry. Defence of this country is a responsibility for the government. If I may make the point that, what drove me for an interest in politics, was the fact that no political party in this country possesses a defence philosophy. They've all got a defence policy, and the defence policy consists, in essence, of a list of inputs into defence.

 

 

Everyway you look at it, even the Greens, bizarre though they might be, they've got a list of things. But it's ex-submarines, Y-AEW&C aircraft et cetera, et cetera, They're inputs to defence, not one single party has a defence philosophy, which involves an output. I used to do ... When the submarine decision was being made, I'd do a lot of interviews, and the interviewer would say to me, "Do you think 12 is the right number?" Well, the answer to that question is, "Depends what you want to do." It's the government's job to tell us, to tell defence industry, to tell defence, to tell the Australian population who are paying 30 to 40 billion dollars a year for this, what they consider that they need to achieve as an output.

 

Phil Tarrant:

Do you think we've got the right people in government today, who are able to make those decisions for the future? Because we're talking about a gap already of five, at worst 15 years, in terms of defence capabilities, versus where we need to be.

 

Jim Molan:

Listen, I do. I think we have ... Having just, not just, but having gone through six years of, and let me be partisan here, six years of labour neglected defence, where we're on our way down at 1.4% of GDP spend, then I think now we're in the green field beyond. But we're not ... I just don't think that our political leadership ... Our political leadership is good. They've given us the 2016 Defence White Paper. Our officials, military, and civilian, are competent. There's no two ways about it, but they can't move without government. I'd been, when I was serving through staff jobs, I'd been through so many iterations where we, within defence, prepared plans for what we thought we needed, what we have, the difference between the two, and the time and the cost of moving from one to the other, and the risk involved in not moving from one to the other. But government wasn't interested. Never interested in it.

 

 

That's what I really think government should be ... We pay government to take risk. I've got no worries about the fact that I as a general, might have a different view of the number of dollars we need to put in the capability we need, for defence to be safe. But governments are elected to take risk, because they are the best interpreters of the people's will, of what the people are prepared to pay. The biggest problem that we face is that no one ever states the risk.

 

 

How do I know, as a voter, that government is being competent in relation to defence? As Joe Average voter, I look back and I say, "Well we got 12 submarines. Everything is hunky-dory. I don't have the ability as an average voter, to make that incredible decision." Governments ... We talk about honesty in budgeting, well I reckon there should be honesty in defence. We need to be more open in defence, and governments in my view, have an obligation to state the risk that they are taking with the defence of my country.

 

Phil Tarrant:

It's a fair point. The chapter that you've written in the book, "Making Australia Right," you opened it up with some ... I found it quite refreshing, it's just, I read the first paragraph and went, "Okay, I get this. I get this straight away." We talk all about deterrence, and how that is a key part of the framework of our defence policy. We talk about deterrence, and we talk about the changing nature of war fighting. It's not always boots on the grounds, or ships in the sea. There's a lot of cyber threats happening today. Do you feel as a nation, in terms of the Defence White Paper, and what it set out for growth in the future, combined with the, I guess, the outline you've painted in terms of America's position, [inaudible 00:17:17] some of the global threats that's happening. Do you think in terms of us as a nation, who can achieve national security objectives through a policy of having enough strength to deter any threat. Do you think the White Paper is going to give us that, if we realise it? We're talking about submarines, we're talking about ships et cetera?

 

Jim Molan:

I think that when you look at the White Paper, in relation to the force that it will produce at a certain time, that is the right force for about now. You might remember, I'm trying to think back, was it 2009 White Paper, produced a force that they call "Force 2030". It was produced by a very competent individual within the department of defence, Mike Pezzullo. It was modified by the government, and it was good, strong defence. Now, at that stage, 2009 we said, "That's what we need." We called it, "Force 2030" because these four countries and ideology, and the failure of American leadership confusion both from Obama and from President Trump, was not as manifested as it is now.

 

 

If we had produced that force to be mature now, we would be exactly where we should be. I'm not saying, "We need a thousand of this, and a million of that." What I'm saying is that we need a force now, which requires 2% of gross domestic product, to produce that force. But you don't produce the force by hitting 2%. You stay at 2% for a decade, and that produces the force. Now, in 2009 we produced that force and did nothing about it. That was a political decision. We're now trying to produce exactly that force again in 2016, so seven years later, but we're not producing it until 2032.

 

 

The first sub hits the water, take submarines as an example. The first sub hits the water in 2032, I think roughly, that's the date. Well, here's a bet. I will bet you between now and 2032, that the Australian Army is deployed on at least two combat operation in the intervening period of time! Now of course, army's funding is being lessened in order to produce ... We've got an amazing air force at the moment. Absolutely first class air force, and it's gaining some combat experience, and it's just getting better, and better, and better. How sustainable it is for high levels of conflict, I don't know? I don't know what our resources are, our war stocks, or anything like that. But it's a first rate air force.

 

 

Given five to 10 years, we will have a first rate navy. It's pretty good now, it's got the basic skills now, but once it gets the subs, and the amphibs, the air warfare destroyers, the new offshore patrol boats, et cetera in the water, it's gonna be world class. Army is being cut back, in relation to Land 400 [crosstalk 00:20:05] four I think it is. Not cut back, but not being going ahead as fast as it should go. In relation to manpower, and particularly in relation to rotary wing support.

 

 

For various reasons, we've got ourselves into a bunch of trouble in order to supply the money to the others. I've got no worries about that. But what I do have a worry about, is to say, "What's the world like now?" We should be at 2% GDP now, we still [won't 00:20:34] get there for a year or so, because 2% gives us a medium level hedging strategy. What ASPI calls a "Medium level hedging strategy". As I've said before, you don't hit that 2% once and achieve perfection. You hit it once,-

 

Phil Tarrant:

You need to maintain it.

 

Jim Molan:

-and you stay there for a decade, and then you produce the force. The ASPI studies on this have said that 2% doesn't give you the ability to defend this country against the combative Asia. If Asia becomes combative, then you may need to go higher. But going from a 2% base to a three, or 4% base, is feasible. Going from a 1.4% base, which is what Labour was heading us towards, most of which was material cuts, then you're not gonna make two, or 3% within any reasonable period of time.

 

 

I think that the ideas are all out there. My mates in defence tell me that various studies in defence are going on and doing things, but the government's gotta own this. Not us, not military. The government's gotta own this. We can ... It's like mental masturbation. It's great fun, just doesn't achieve anything!

 

 

We have got to get the government involved in this. The government has got to understand what it is, understand the risks that they're taking with the future of this country, and then be prepared to express those risks, and we the voters will assess how they're going.

 

Phil Tarrant:

It's good. Let's have a chat about defence industry-

 

Jim Molan:

Sure.

 

Phil Tarrant:

-and how it fits within this big picture that we've painted. I'm not gonna try and summarise it, but we know where we are with it. Defence industry and as manoeuvre and manage my way through the defence industry, I'm always impressed by the drive, the energy, the passion of the people that work within it. I think that's a real asset for Australia. The fact that we have a defence industry, which yes, these are businesses, and yes, they are commercial operations, but they know why they're doing what they do, and that is the capability side of it, and that's actually brilliant.

 

 

When I talk to people, I hear often about some of the pioneering work that we're doing, within our universities. Some of the pioneering work happening within startup businesses, but also within our major prime defence contractors. We're in a position right now where the government has allocated an immense amount of money to securing, well, delivering our defence needs through enhancing capability of our war fighters. That comes down to defence industry to provide that.

 

 

Whether or not we get that from offshore and we bring it in, or we create, maintain and manage it ourselves. Victoria, you chat with defence primes and SMEs all the time, do you think ... This sort of dialogue we've had about Jim's concerns that we're too far away from where we need to be today, where we're setting our sights out to tomorrow. Do you think defence industry really understand that proposition, or do you think they're just grinding away every single day, trying just to win a contract and take it to market?

 

Victoria:

Look, I think they understand it more now, than I've ever seen it, and I've been in defence now for 11 years. I feel they understand it right now, more than they ever have done. I think people understand the Defence White Paper more than they ever have done. I think people ... Sovereign capability, I believe people are really getting it. But, unfortunately I think, when I look at piece that you wrote Jim, in your chapter. You said that, "There was a tendency for the Australian Government to value defence, more for its innovation, technology, and job creation capability, rather than as a means to defend Australia across the full spectrum of threats."

 

 

That I just ... I read that and I just agreed with, and I think a lot people that listen to this today would agree with. We spoke about the word "innovation" didn't we? It gets bantered around. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone mentions the word "innovation" to me in a meeting. I don't really know what they want me to do with the word "innovation".

 

Jim Molan:

Yes.

 

Victoria:

Maybe you could help me?

 

Jim Molan:

I don't think ... We used to have this idea, when I was a younger officer and we were doing tactics. We'd do tactics by standing on the side of a hill, and with mythical forces, we would throw those forces around. Our instructors always said to us, "Be inventive. Be innovative." Well you can't be ... What gives you the ability in the military to be innovative is your detailed knowledge of your own organisations. Of the power and capability, the level of training, all of these things, the reality of it, which is how you take the risks.

 

 

You know you can take this risk, and you've got a fair chance of getting away with it. I reckon innovation is almost exactly the same. What we've gotta have, and I think we're not doing too badly, better than I've seen it before, as Victoria said. DSTG and CASG. I haven't seen the attitude in DSTG better, than I've seen it at the moment. I think that when you go to the big fairs, and the big shows, and the big defence activities, the attitude is fantastic. But what we still lack, is political guidance.

 

 

If government said to us, "The force that we need must be able to do X, Y, and Z. It's gotta be able to deploy a certain level of force at a certain time, over a certain distance, to do a certain thing." There's a PhD in every one of those "certains", but that's what governments should be doing, because that is the output. The output is not 12 submarines, the output is the ability to win a war.

 

 

Now, if that came out ... People say, "Oh, I couldn't say that, because you know, you'd giving away your secrets." What rubbish! The people who study us as an enemy, know more about our defence force, than Joe Average the voter, will ever know!

 

Phil Tarrant:

Absolutely.

 

Jim Molan:

The Brits used to do it, they may still do it. In that they say, we've got to be able to fight one war. We got a big war in the Middle East, and a little war in Northern Ireland, et cetera, et cetera. The Americans do it, at one stage they had a defence force, which was supposed to fight two and a half wars, now they can just manage one.

 

 

That's all I'm asking for. I'm asking for an output by government, owned by government, supported by government, which defence industry then come back and analyse, along with the soldiers, sailors, and the airmen, and the Australian population. They say, "We can innovate in that area. We can do something about this."

 

 

What we do need, we need two things. We need a credible force in being, which is what we are trying to achieve with the 2% and the Force 2030. I don't think it's called "Force 2030" now, but that's what I was calling it from 2009. Plus, we need the concept of competitive mobilisation. We need to have a force in being at the moment, which can handle the small things, like training in Iraq, fighting in Orozgân. Various small, East Timor, various small things like that.

 

 

We need that force in being to be able to handle one bigger thing, with maybe a third of the entire force used. Then, we need that force in being to be able to sustain expansion. Because, there is not enough American cavalry to come to all our rescue. The American cavalry will be too busy somewhere else.

 

Phil Tarrant:

They're getting stretched.

 

Jim Molan:

We have an extraordinary history in this country from the 1940's, of being a lower priority by our allies, the UK, the US, than other areas. The emphasis was winning the war in Europe, and we were nearly invaded. We don't want to get ourselves in that situation again. We would be a better partner in any alliance, if we were stronger.

 

Phil Tarrant:

It's a good point. Prior to your retirement from army, you spent some time advocating defence industry. Both at home and abroad. I'm really quite keen on your observations about defence industry, and the way in which defence industry and the services connect and engage. Could you just sort of give your views on how that worked, you thought favourably, or where there was rub, or where it could be improved, because this is always the perpetual question that our listeners in defence industry want to know and ask. How can we better engage the guys who make the decisions in the services?

 

Jim Molan:

The one thing I'd say is that you cannot ask industry to take risk, if government refuses to take risk. Government must take risk, and in some areas they are at the moment, they're taking risk in relation to the submarines. We took risk in relation to helicopters and we lost, and we're paying the price at the moment. If government won't take risk, then you can't ask defence industry to take risk and to innovate. You match it up on those areas, government has got to lead. The government is the customer, and government has got to lead in taking risk.

 

 

Secondly I'd say that, when I was the defence force advocate, travelling around the world doing advocating for Australian products, the biggest selling point we ever had, was that we were using it. I'd go as someone who had been in operation service, just back from Iraq and I'd say, "This is a great product. We used it. The Americans used it in Iraq," or, "We used it," or, "Bushmaster," or whatever. "Why don't you buy it from us?"

 

 

Because so many people see our exhaustive analysis of products, as being something they don't have to do. "If the Aussies are buying it, must be good. We'll buy it." At that stage, there was a real paranoia about service officers interacting with industry. It was based on ethical issues, I think that's gone now. I think there is a much more ... Certainly looking in army and air force. I don't know about navy, I haven't had the interaction with them. But I think there is a much more honest and logical connexion now, and that really inspires me I must admit.

 

 

I hope defence industry is seeing that. The ones I talk to are. Universities are. I have a bit to do with the universities in research and development, and they certainly are. Government defence is much more prepared to go out there and use the latent resources that are in this society, to achieve what we need to achieve. The part that is still missing I think, is government. Government has got to be prepared to state the requirements, state the risk for the big picture, not for the little picture. Government said, "The big picture." Then stand back and let industry innovate their way into it.

 

Phil Tarrant:

Do you think there's anything though that the defence industry can do to be better at what they're doing, in terms of delivering what has been outlined in the White Paper, delivering the needs of our war fighters?

 

Jim Molan:

I'm a bit reluctant to say that there is something that they can do, because I've seen them in the past commit money, resources, personnel to things that did never happen. I feel for those defence industry, when government has in the past come out and said, "Oh, we're gonna do JSF," or something like that, "Be prepared to mill turbine blades," and to do this, do that. You spend a billion dollars creating a capability to do something technological, and nothing happens.

 

 

I still think that with real dollars, in a real world, with real workers, and real worker's lives, there's only so much risk that you're gonna ask defence industry to take, without government leading the risk. In the areas where it's working, I think it's working very, very well. The best things we ever do is FMS, and that's really sad. It means that we're buying equipment, which is up to date, but its certainly not advanced.

 

 

But whatever we can do in this country, particularly in relation to sustaining, we must be able to do. The one thing that struck me when I was defence force advocate, I was the first defence force advocate. The one thing that struck me was that the brains are there. The smarts are there. The ability is there. I took a group of people with Aiden, I took a group of aerospace manufacturers to British defence industry. We went across from London to Bristol, and all of the big defence aerospace manufacturers in that particular area.

 

 

It was an absolute education. But those guys came back, defence put some money into material coatings and we formed that magnificent organisation down in Victoria. Defence ... I've forgotten the name of it ... Defence Materials Organisation, and we've created that capability in Australia. That's what we've gotta be able to do. But I go down to the universities, and I look around at the universities, and there's nothing they can't do. There's nothing they can't do.

 

Phil Tarrant:

That's a good positions to be in. It's just, how do you extract that capabilities?

 

Jim Molan:

Absolutely, absolutely. At the moment they're doing it as a self-licking ice-cream. They're doing it for their students, and they're dong it for their own education. We've got to pull that out of the universities, and apply it to real world problems and government's got to pay for it.

 

Phil Tarrant:

There's definitely a theme coming through this conversation. It's about government responsibility and-

 

Jim Molan:

Oh, absolutely, and the biggest problem I have is that every defence review stops one level below government. If government won't take risk, then it's not our fault. As I say, it used to drive me up the wall, that everyone would find all the faults in the first principle review. We've totally reviewed everything from just below government, down. I'm a partisan player in this. I've got political interests in the current government, and I think they're doing a good job, but there is an enormous step they've got to make, and they've got to own the defence and security problem, going out into the future.

 

Phil Tarrant:

It's a good point. We're running out of time and I could probably chat with you all day about a number of different ... I'll have to get back on the show and discuss this. But [as well 00:33:52] as the defensing issue, we have a lot of listeners that are still in uniform. Both enlisted and officers, who are thinking about life after being in the services. Some people make a great transition into civilian life, some people don't make as great a transition in civilian life. But defence industry offers a very good employment base, for a lot of people coming out of uniform. For many businesses, they can gain a lot of advantages by identifying, attracting the right talent coming out of the services. If you were ... Whether enlisted, or mid-level officer, and you're thinking about life after the army, or navy, air force, how would you be preparing yourself to be most attractive to, whether its large contractors, or some of the really smart, talented SMEs emerging in Australia. What would you do?

 

Jim Molan:

I think the greatest capability, personal capability that someone gets from being in the defence force over a period of time, is problem solving. I continually surprised myself in relation to the operational problems that I could solve. Things that I had never thought about, never faced before. Never really considered. Never been trained to solve. Because essentially, what you do in the military, is you just solve problem, after problem, after problem, after problem. Then not only do you solve it with some kind of solution, but you then manage it into reality. I think that's what most military people of any rank are very, very good at.

 

 

The technical knowledge is there, and I've worked with a number of companies in relation to being the defence force advocate, and most of them were rock solid ex-military. Recently, I've done the same, and again what we ex-military people bring to it, is a detailed knowledge of what is required, and a practicality, which is very, very valuable.

 

 

I don't think, apart from at a certain stage getting on LinkedIn, or something like that and advertising your wares, most of us underestimate what we bring to the organisations outside. We bring real problem solving talent. Only a small number of people ... You see, in the Australian Army at least, you don't get on if you're a little Hitler. If you expect ... If you're the captain of a ship, and you tell the ship to go left, most of the people on the ship will go left.

 

 

If you're in the army, and you tell an organisation to go left, some people will say to you, "Well boss, I don't think we should go left, we should go half-left." The other half will just go right without telling you. I've never been in an operational position, where I had unfettered responsibility over anyone. You've got to talk, and convince, and cajole government, NGOs, foreign forces, your own forces. If you're asking people to go out and risk their lives, you've got to convince them. Very few of the very narrow minded military get into defence industry. I think most of them are pretty good at relating to people.

 

Phil Tarrant:

That just comes out of good leadership.

 

Jim Molan:

Absolutely.

 

Phil Tarrant:

Everyone can be a good leader.

 

Jim Molan:

Yeah. Yeah.

 

Phil Tarrant:

It's good. Jim, we've run out of time. I've really enjoyed the chat. Thanks for coming in. Appreciate the copy of the book that you've given me, "Making Australia Right" it's edited by James Allen. This is coming out pretty soon, right? What's the release date?

 

Jim Molan:

It's out on the Connor Court website to buy. It's being launched on the 23rd of February by Tony Abbot, somewhere in Sydney. We'll see if we can get that address to you.

 

Phil Tarrant:

What I'll do, just for our listeners, go to defenseconnect.com.au and I'll put a link up where you can go check it out. But I really enjoyed your chapter and now that I've had a good chat with you, I'm gonna go back and re-read it and just see whether or not I was asking the right questions. Podcasts like this are always quite difficult, because we could just discuss that whole geo-political situation scenario that we live in today, and the role that Australia is going to play moving forward. But I always like to get it down into the practical applications for defence industry and how they fit within it. I think we've done reasonable justice to that today. But absolutely brilliant. Victoria, thanks for joining us. Let's get you back soon.

 

Victoria:

Thank you very much, that was great. Thank you Jim.

 

Phil Tarrant:

Remember for everyone to check out defenseconnect.com.au we're on all the social stuff: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. If you got any questions for us, if you want to come on the show, and share your story, or what you're working on, we'd love to have you This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you've got any questions for Jim as well, send them over, and we'll pass them on. Let's get that dialogue going. Thanks for tuning in, we'll see you again next week. Bye-bye.

 

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