The 2023 Defence Strategic Review placed deterrence and the ability to deploy Australian military forces forward of the continent as key elements of Australia’s defence strategy. In their report published by the Army Research Centre, Dr Andrew Carr and Professor Stephan Frühling examine the role of land forces for signalling deterrence commitments and draw lessons from historical experience for Australia and the Australian Army.

While the Australian Army has always had a key role in fighting wars, Australia’s current strategy casts them in a relatively new role – to prevent war by providing a credible deterrent to potential adversaries.The paper, published by the Australian Army Research Centre, looks specifically at the issues of deterrence, self-reliance and forward presence. They provide a framework for thinking about these issues in terms of the political and operational considerations and look at two hypothetical scenarios involving an Australian Army presence in the Cocos and Keeling Islands and the Philippines. They argue that achieving all three – deterrence, self-reliance and forward presence – will be very difficult and that the relationship with the US is likely to remain of central importance going forward.

Report Authors

Dr Andrew Carr.png

Dr Andrew Carr is a Senior Lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at The Australian National University. His research focuses on Strategy, Middle Powers and Australian Defence Policy. He was a Fulbright Professional Fellow in Australia-US Alliance Studies and has published with Melbourne University Press, Oxford University Press and Georgetown University Press.

There are many ways to signal deterrence, including through the use of the humble soldier, deployed far forward of the country, and honour-binding a response, should they come to harm.

Professor Stephan Frühling is a Professor in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre and has widely published on Australian defence policy, defence planning, nuclear weapons and NATO.  He was a member of the External Panel of Experts on the development of the 2016 Defence White Paper, Fulbright Professional Fellow in Australia-US Alliance Studies, and research fellow in the NATO Defense College

If Australia wants to actively contribute to regional and local deterrence in the short to medium term... sending parts of the ADF forward as a tripwire may be an idea whose time has come.

Professor Stephan Fruehling

The Report

Forward presence for deterrence: Implications for the Australian Army

Forward presence for deterrence: Implications for the Australian Army

In the paper, the authors develop three distinct ways in which forward presence of land forces can be used for deterrence; entitled ‘thin tripwire’, ‘thick tripwire’, and ‘forward defence’. They draw on historical
examples including the pre- and post-war UK presence on the Falklands, the Cold War Berlin Brigades, and the fate of the 1941 Wake Island garrison, to highlight practical challenges of achieving coherence between strategic intent and actual force structure and posture decisions about forward deployments.

The paper concludes with a discussion how these conceptual approaches and historical cautions would apply in two notional case studies of relevance for Australia today: A deployment to the Christmas/Cocos Islands, and a deployment to Palawan in support of a partner country.

The hope is that the ideas in the paper will stimulate useful and informed debate within Army and the wider Defence community on the role of land power in deterrence.

The Launch

Launch event recording

On Thurs 17 August 2023 the Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Simon Stuart AO, DSC, launched the report, and participated in a Q&A discussion, together with the two authors of the paper, Dr Andrew Carr and Professor Stephan Frühling from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific.

The discussion was moderated by Professor Air Vice Marshal (ret)Tracy Smart AO, a Professor of Military and Aerospace Medicine at ANU.

The report was commissioned by the Australian Army Research Centre.

Stephan Fruehling, Tracy Smart, LtGen Simon Stuart, Andrew Carr. Photo: ANU Media
Stephan Fruehling, Tracy Smart, LtGen Simon Stuart, Andrew Carr. Photo: ANU Media
LtGen Simon Stuart AO, Chief of Army Photo: ANU Media
LtGen Simon Stuart AO, Chief of Army Photo: ANU Media
Professor Stephan Fruehling. Photo: ANU Media
Professor Stephan Fruehling. Photo: ANU Media

Australia's plan for long range missiles would not deter aggressors without support from US

Fri 18 August
The Guardian

By Daniel Hurst, Foreign affairs and defence correspondent

ASPI The Strategist

Australian tripwire forces an idea whose time has come

Fri 18 August
The Strategist - Australian Strategic Policy Institute

By Prof Stephan Frühling and Dr Andrew Carr

Australian Army Research Centre logo

An army in forward motion - presence and deterrence

21 August 2023
Australian Army Research Centre blog

By Prof Stephan Frühling and Dr Andrew Carr