Command structure of the Australian Defence Force

Author/s (editor/s):

F.W. Speed

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 41

Transformation of the Higher Defence Organisation from a grouping of a number of separate government departments and related elements into a single Department of Defence was undertaken during the 1970s. Parallel with this reorganisation, instructions were given for the integration of the three armed Services into a single Australian Defence Force.

This latter reformation has progressed to the stage that there is a general need to understand the relationship of the Force of the Higher Defence Organisation, some aspects of operational command by the Chief of the Defence Force, the changes that have been made in Force echelons, and the further steps that would seem desirable to complete the overall command structure.

Though there may at present be no significant threat to Australia's national security, there is always the possibility of a low-level threat arising at surprisingly short notice. In these circumstances, a command structure should be in place in peacetime, capable of meeting an emergency with a minimum of commotion. Even if part of it is in nucleus form only, it should be sufficiently defined so that it can be excercised at reasonable intervals, to ensure efficiency in a situation of rising tension.

This Paper outlines the Higher Defence Organisation, seeks to illuminate the position of the Chief of the Defence Force and his headquarters within the Department, to explicate the aspect of command in operations, and describes several echelons of the Australian Defence Force. In doing so, it offers with diffidence some suggestions for improving the effectiveness of the command structure.

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