Appointment of Air Marshal Angus Houston as Chief of the Defence Force

The ADA welcomes the appointment of Air Marshal Angus Houston as Chief of the Defence Force.

The Australia Defence Association welcomes the Prime Minister’s announcement that the government is recommending to the Governor General that Air Marshal Angus Houston be appointed as the new Chief of Defence Force (CDF) on the retirement of General Peter Cosgrove in early July.

Air Marshal Houston is widely respected across the defence force for his professionalism, strategic nous and human touch. Both within the ADF and in the wider Australian community he is also noted for his moral integrity and willingness to tell possibly unpopular truths.

Just as importantly, he will also be the first CDF to come to the job with a long and comprehensive record of genuine joint-Service appointments in more junior ranks. He is already well-known in the Navy and Army and has a good understanding of military and naval operations. This development can only be of benefit to both the modern ADF and the country at large.

Air Marshal Houston’s appointment as CDF is also encouraging as it shows we continue to move on (as we did, for example, with the appointment of General Cosgrove in 2002) from the unfortunate era where the Defence civilian bureaucracy has too often had too much influence, and even improper influence, in the appointment of the CDF and Service Chiefs.

This bureaucratic interference has also often discriminated against the promotion of capable Service Chiefs to CDF on the spurious grounds that they somehow could not avoid favouring their parent Service once in command of all three Services.

As with the appointment of General Cosgrove, Air Marshal Houston is certainly no bureaucratic "Uncle Tom" and his promotion is a sign that the Cabinet is properly exercising its responsibilities and prerogatives rather than the bureaucracy usurping them.

While RAAF officers have served previously as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (Chairman COSC), and as Chief of the Defence Force Staff (CDFS), Air Marshal Houston will be the first Air Force officer to command the defence force as CDF in the modern era of integrated joint command structures.

The choice of the new CDF was a difficult one for the government because for the first time ever there was a wide choice of possibilities among the VCDF and the Service Chiefs. This too is encouraging for the future.

 The January 2005 issue of the ADA’s monthly bulletin, Defence Brief, discussed the options to succeed General Cosgrove. This issue may be downloaded from the ADA website here.