Figuring out what a military agenda means underneath all of the jargon and bullshit is always challenging, compounded in this case by filtering out the Australian military beat journalist's focus and perspective.
The most notable element of French Army reform here seems to be a focus on fighting asymmetric counterinsurgency conflicts efficiently.
On 6 June 2020, without fanfare, the chief of the French army, General Thierry Burkhard, released his 10-year strategic vision for the Armée de Terre. . . .
There is broad acknowledgement that the Armée de Terre is undergoing its most consequential change since its 1996 ‘professionalisation’. Triggered in part by the strategic shock of France’s 2015 terrorist attacks, this transformation encompasses force structure and design, force generation, funded modernisation and human resources. . . .
Prescience is a key feature of the Burkhard manifesto. . . . He acknowledges mounting pressure on the European project and the international status quo, increasing employment of emerging technologies for coercive and disruptive means, the acceleration of ‘grey zone’ activities, and escalating internal tensions. . . . Burkhard infers the end of three prevailing premises: Western military superiority, the trend of limited wars, and efficiency as the cornerstone of political–military thinking. In this context, ‘efficiency’ means deploying the best-tailored forces, drawn from compact techno-professional armies, to achieve a disproportionate political, operational and reputational impact—with the bare minimum of boots on the ground. Finally, Burkhard portends high-intensity, multidomain, state-on-state conflict, testing France’s resilience in a manner unseen since World War II, triggered well within traditional warning times. . . .
His goal is for a reinforced land force whose legions are characterised by superior warfighting mass and technology that can rapidly deploy, readily integrate, adapt and persist across all domains.
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Burkhard articulates four actionable and uncomplicated principles to strengthen the Armée de Terre’s preparedness. Recognising that the French soldier is at the heart of its capability, the first principle is to optimise the potential and professionalism of the army’s people. Second, the army will master the new capabilities and technologies offered by its unprecedented modernisation . . . A transformation in the level, frequency and intensity of multidomain warfighting and partnership-oriented training is probably the most avant-garde aspect of Burkhard’s vision. It’s the key he will use to unlock his ambition for a land force characterised by superior mass and technology. The French chief identifies this endeavour as his most important to ensure the army’s future readiness. Finally, he seeks to reduce the Armée de Terre’s ‘bureaucratic tempo’, thereby gaining time and improving internal agility, flexibility and responsiveness.
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It may surprise some that in most aspects, and certainly the ones that matter most, Burkhard’s vision for the Armée de Terre is nearly indistinguishable from his Australian counterpart’s intent statements. There’s also an affinity between the French chief’s prescience, purpose and plan and that conveyed by Australia’s recent defence strategic update and force structure plan—particularly the elements referring to strategic context and land power response.