Australian military’s new war room to face any enemy
Australia will have a rapid response military force to pull together in the event of major civilian crises like bushfires, floods and pandemics under a new mandate being created in the wake of the successful troop reaction to COVID-19.
Khaki-clad ADF personnel have long been involved in assisting national disasters but in future they will be integrated into all civilian planning for major operations.
The response is not just post COVID-19 but follows warnings to a federal parliamentary inquiry that climate change would require more resources to combat, specifically from the military.
A national co-ordination war room for such operations is to be created at Randwick Barracks in Sydney, which played a critical role in World War I and II and today is home to regular support and Army Reserve units.
It is here that Joint Task Force 629 are running a 24/7 operation monitoring the ADF's response to coronavirus under the leadership of Lt Col Jim McGann.
"Through this extraordinary year where we have done bushfire assistance and now this very comprehensive assistance nationally, there is going to be more of an expectation on the ADF to lean forward into national events to a greater degree than we have in the past," said Lieutenant General John Frewen, commander of the Defence COVID-19 taskforce.
"So we are looking to how we best posture ourselves and structure ourselves to make sure that through high risk weather periods, through events of significance then the unknown events like this one we are able to swing into action a lot more quickly than we were able to in years past."
The three star general, one of the ADF's most experienced soldiers who was hand-picked to run the COVID-19 Assist taskforce, said civilian forces would have primary carriage but troops, reserve and regular, would provide planning and logistics to help those other agencies get on with the job.
"Any option is on the table but I think we are still fundamentally the nation's war fighting force and we have to be structured and trained to do that. We have got a regular and reserve component that are more interoperable and experienced than we have been for living memory," the veteran officer said.
The closed borders during the pandemic showed that any domestic crisis force would have to be drawn from "regional nodes" in each state and territory.
The ADF currently has 1600 troops assisting on border check posts and quarantine escort, in contact centres and command planning.
"The bushfires and through this (COVID-19) the soldiers, sailors and air men and women really enjoyed being engaged with the population and in the vast majority of cases that was reciprocated," Lt Gen Frewen said.
"The people like seeing the ADF out there and liking engaging with the great young Australians that we have got."
Originally published as Australian military's new war room to face any enemy