Joint by Design

The Evolution of Australian Defence Strategy

Non-Fiction - Military
360 Pages
Reviewed on 05/04/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tom Gauthier for Readers' Favorite

In Joint by Design, Robbin Laird provides a cogent explanation for the urgent need for Australian and global rethinking of the evolving threats of totalitarian regimes and the need for modern, forward-thinking defense strategies. While the book is an academic treatise on one level, it is readable by any individual interested in the subject. With the Williams Foundation at the center, Laird delivers enlightened views from experts. Beginning with the Australian Prime Minister’s report on the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2020 Force Structure Plan at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Laird lays out the Australian government’s new defense strategy. The book brings clarity and focuses on the Plan’s three core objectives: to shape Australia’s strategic environment, deter actions against Australia’s interests, and respond with credible military force when required.

Understanding Robbin Laird’s involvement with the Williams Foundation underscores his credibility in bringing this book together. Laird notes that the world is moving back to major power confrontations after years of asymmetrical adjustments to terror threats and rogue regimes. From the perspectives of Air Marshal (Retired) Geoff Brown down to the perspectives of an Australian F-22 pilot, Robbin Laird’s book focuses on Australia’s updating of defense and security strategy. From his introduction to the path of change, and clear explanations of the context and the nature of the changes, Robbin Laird leads the discussion of Australia’s strategy that generates a broader response to the challenges posed by today’s superpowers. Specifically, the Chinese in the Indo-Pacific region.

Joint by Design broadens the study to a global level focused on Australia’s national and international joint efforts to face the re-emerging military threats of China and Russia. With broad-based and tangential experience and knowledge of Dr. Laird’s subject, my opinion of this work is positive and I admire his ability to provide depth, context, and the projection of many viewpoints, political and military, in a readable work for anyone interested in world security. The ability to defend and prevail over totalitarian regimes in the 21st century impacts us all and Robbin Laird has given us a powerful tool to expand our knowledge and awareness of the dangers.

Rabia Tanveer

Joint by Design: The Evolution of Australian Defense Strategy by Robbin Laird is a commentary on the evolution of Australia's defense strategy from 2014 until 2019. The narrative offers a closer look at the current shift in the defense strategy devised by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to put Australia one step ahead of its competition. The new changes offer a very severe change of policies regarding countries like China while offering a more lenient approach to Australia's allies. While the narrative pulls more towards the future, it also goes in-depth about the past defense strategies of the country and how they shaped the future of Australia. The author takes a closer look at Australia's crisis management from every perspective and how it can affect the country and its allies.

Liberal democracy are words you will read a lot in this book. The face of democracy has changed with time and the needs of the people, so why not the defense strategies that countries implement to protect those people? Robbin Laird goes in-depth into Australia's defense strategies from the years 2014 until 2019 when Australia had to change everything drastically to meet the needs of current times. Robbin Laird keeps the technical jargon to a minimum and uses simple language for readers to understand the narrative better. The threat from certain countries such as China and Russia seems to be growing, so this book is excellent in understanding why most of the western world has to make some immediate changes if they want to remain safe from any possible threat. Well-researched and explained!

Vincent Dublado

Joint by Design: The Evolution of Australian Defence Strategy by Robbin Laird focuses on Australia’s new defense and security strategy and force structure plan as launched by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. This strategy is expected to put Australia on the path of enhanced defense capabilities. The Defense Strategic Update has three core objectives: to shape Australia’s strategic environment; deter actions against Australia’s interests; and respond with credible military force when required. Pursuant to these objectives, Laird gives us an inside look at how Australia has updated its defense and security strategy since 2014 as seen through his involvement with the Williams Foundation that focuses on the rebuilding of the Australian Defense Force. This new strategy is designed to focus Australia’s attention on the Indo-Pacific region. It is a strategic shift that has been several years in the making, and one that will have a significant impact on Australia’s allies.

From a critical standpoint, Donald Trump’s election in the United States and the souring US-China relations have made Australia’s neighborhood more challenging. Joint by Design offers insight into how recent developments have changed Australia’s defense requirements. Laird provides perspectives from people in the know as well as scrutinizing defense white papers. It is interesting to note that the 2016 Defense White Paper has accelerated the strategic trends that were already underway, and that the pandemic has further accelerated and accentuated many of those trends. In a nutshell, this book is an indispensable resource when it comes to tracing the evolution of Australia’s defense policies and how its strategic trajectories impact the present and the future.

Kimberlee J Benart

Joint by Design is a compilation and presentation by Dr. Robbin F. Laird, a global defense analyst and research fellow with the Williams Foundation, on the topic of the evolution of the Australian defense strategy. The Williams Foundation has conducted seminars every year since 2015 on the transformation of the Australian Defence Force. Dr. Laird wrote the reports on these seminars. Along with extensive quotes from these reports and the perspectives of individuals and organizations addressing how Australia has updated its defense and security strategy, Dr. Laird discusses the “strategic rethink” launched by the Prime Minister in 2020. This new strategy shifts the focus to broader collaborative capabilities and full-spectrum crisis management in the Indo-Pacific region. Past defense “white papers” are included along with photographs of several speakers.

In Joint by Design: The Evolution of Australian Defence Strategy, Dr. Robbin F. Laird provides an informative, well-organized, and engaging year-by-year overview of developments in Australia’s national defense strategy. Australia’s focus has changed over the years from Middle Eastern land wars to the potential for conflicts in the wider Indo-Pacific region, which demands that its forces are prepared to protect its national security with agile, flexible, and resilient capabilities. Beginning with the announcement of the “reset” which focuses on the Indo-Pacific region as “the dominant global contest of our age,” Dr. Laird outlines the issues of force integration, modernization, and transformation with views towards “coalitionability,” deterrence, sustainability, and logistics. Whether you’re interested in global security in general or the Pacific region in particular, Joint by Design is a valuable reference and resource.

Romuald Dzemo

Joint by Design: The Evolution of Australian Defence Strategy by Robbin F. Laird discusses the new Australian military strategy, especially with the return of the Great Power competition in 2014. The book explores how Australia has been rethinking the way of dealing with the twenty-first-century authoritarian powers, especially with threats posed by China. The book features input from key military thinkers, discussions, and strong references from symposiums and seminars, exploring the key moments in the strategizing process and offering insights for a seamless transition to the desired changes. The author articulates a variety of topics and introduces readers to the launch of Plan Jericho, the propositions for deterrent options for Australia, the nuclear perspective and the modernization of weapons, the role of the army, and a lot more.

Joint by Design is well-researched and intelligently presented reference material for military personnel and key decision-makers. It is a work that creates a vision of what the Australian Military strategy should be by 2025. References and contributions from key players in the military like Air Marshal (Retired) Geoff Brown, Dr. Alan Stephen, Dr. Carr, and others, add substance to the strategies outlined in this work. This book is about Australia and, faced with the threat that China poses, it follows the Prime Minister’s call for a new defense strategy to propose a path forward when it comes to Australian defense and security. The writing is very accessible to ordinary readers, even if containing military jargon. It is highly informative and gives readers an overview of what the future of Australian military strategy looks like.