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Applying the Advocacy Coalition Framework to Australia’s Military Environmentalism

Info: 10654 words (43 pages) Dissertation
Published: 18th May 2020

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Tagged: Military

This paper applies the advocacy collation framework coupled with the theory of policy diffusion to the creation of environmental policy in Australia’s Department of Defense. I argue that the Australian military acted as the policy entrepreneur to move toward environmental stewardship. A diffusion of policy learning from Australia’s military allies and a lack of support from its parliament forced the Australian Department of Defense to form a coalition among politically neutral groups to achieve its objectives. Overall this paper illustrates the application of the advocacy coalition framework to a new case and advances the idea that international factors play a crucial role in forming an advocacy coalition.

Since the environmental movements in the 1960’s-1970’s, defense organizations were compelled to mitigate the impacts of noticeable environmental degradation (Woodward 2001,2004; Coates et al. 2011).  By cleaning up their physical defense areas defense organizations such as the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) have shown the public that the military can be a steward of the environment.  This type of environmental policy from defense organizations can be called military environmentalism (Tucker and Russell 2004; Woodward 2001, 2004; Coates et al. 2011; Pearson 2012).

The development of military environmentalism has proceeded incrementally but steadily over the past forty years with some help from industrialized nations embracing the concept more recently. The Australian Department of Defense (ADOD), as an example, did not start worrying about the environmental impacts of its activities until the late 1990s, and a lack of governmental policy has driven the ADOD to pursue its internal policy to mitigate the effects of changing nature of politics. 

This paper examines the ADOD’s environmental policy over the course of the last decade.  Ecological degradation is regarded as a national security issue by various defense policies, for its potential impact on societal and political issues and exacerbate conflict (Brown 1977; Matthews 1989; Ullman 1983; Foster 2001).  Modern militaries such as those of the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have increasingly implemented environmental security objectives and sustainability measures into their national security and strategic documents.  The key question answered in this paper is why do militaries elect to adopt environmentalism?

I argue that defense policy on the environment in Australia from 1990-2016 depends on two factors, first, international influences such as developments from key allies and second, who controls government policy making.  The paper utilizes the advocacy coalition framework (ACF) to show how policy changes can occur from international influences and to show that the ACF can be extended to account for international factors.  This research builds on other work that uses the ACF to explain environmental policy changes (Liftin 2001; Hsu 2005).  I add to this argument by demonstrating through the case of Australian defense environmental policy is finfluenced by outside factors as well as domestic politics. 

Achieving Policy Change

The ACF provides a model of the policymaking process that emphasizes the role of ideas, beliefs, and complex information that contribute to policy change (Sabatier 1998; Carter 2010; Hsu 2005; Sabatier and Weible 2007; Weible et al. 2009; Ingold et al. 2017).  The ACF is particularly relevant for understanding issues that are technically complex and exhibit open political conflict where deeply held beliefs are challenged.  One insight provided by the ACF is that policy changes may result from events external to the policy subsystem at the international level (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993, 1994).

External factors play a catalytic role in changing power relations among elites, shaping policy, and policy learning.  Systemic shocks such as a natural disasters, military exercises, economic slowdowns, and international agreements place further constraints on the advocacy coalitions and may shift dominant interests away from those in power to those that advocate for new policy solutions (Maloney and Rochardson 1994; Carter 2010).  These external shocks allow competing coalitions to influence how the government responds to these events. 

The ACF posits the role of technical information in achieving policy changes.  Defense organizations have drawn upon technical information to advocate for policy change.  The key technical information are the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports in 1990, 1995, 2001, 2007, 2013/2014, and (expected) 2019-2021 (IPCC 2007, 2014).  Most military strategic plans have incorporated the IPCC warnings into their future planning and have acknowledged the threat of ecological degradation (Australian Defence 2001; United States Government 2014; HM Government 2011, 2013, 2015a, 2015b; Schwartz 2003). 

Examples of the ACF applied to various policy changes include; water policy in the U.S., U.K., and Korea (Leach and Sabatier 2005; Jordan and Greenaway 1998; and Kim 2003).  In the area of climate change, ACF analysis has examined policy change in Canada, U.S., Japan, and the Netherlands (Liftin 2000 and Sewell 2005).  The ACF has also been used to investigate marine protected areas in the U.S. (Sabatier 2005), air pollution in the U.S. (Zafonte and Sabatier 2004), nuclear security in the U.S. (Herman and Jenkins-Smith 2002) nuclear power in Taiwan (Hsu 2005), and fracking policy between the U.K. and Switzerland (Ingold et al. 2017).

Since coalitions must advocate their position and subscribe to policy learning the concept of policy diffusion incorporated with the ACF provides a stronger analytical lens to view policy changes.  The catalyst of diffusion is the policy entrepreneur, a political actor that promotes new policy innovations by identifying problems, networking with other actors, and attempting to initiate policy change (Kingdom 1984; Baumgartner and Jones 1992; Mintrom 1997).  Policy entrepreneurs work with members of a professional community; scientists, academics, and other non-political actors who enable the entrepreneurs to formulate ideas that will persuade others (King 1988).  These professionals provide the entrepreneur with evidence to advocate for a policy change.  A policy entrepreneur will attempt to build a coalition at different levels of government to support their particular policy innovation and initiate change.

Militaries treat environmental problems on their defense lands as a policy failure, that can only be solved through applied research following the discourse of administrative rationalism (NatureServe 1997, 2008; Australian Defence 2001; Woodward 2004; Coates et al. 2011).  Military environmentalism adopts an administrative rationalist discourse because it emphasizes the role of experts using technical information within a bureaucracy to solve policy failures.  This situates the military within the institutions that create the policy (Glover 1999; Woodward 2001, 2004; Dryzek 2013; Bartlett 1986; Sabel et al. 2009).  One key to the success of military environmental policy might be the additional administrative capacities in the forms of agencies or bureaus (Janicke and Weidner 1996). Even though the ADOD, shares a similar storyline and particular ways of thinking about environmental issues with that of the DOD and the MOD, national difference exists, and the actors in all three countries in the policy subsystem meet to help each other influence policy.  Administrative rationalism thus provides the theoretical foundation for why militaries will pursue pro-conservation policies to achieve their goals of protecting the state and its natural environment.

Environmental policy change within the Australian military is highly suitable for analysis by the ACF.  Actors exist at multiple levels within the environmental policy context to influence change, there is a substantial amount of politicized technical information related to ecological degradation and the changing role of military operations, and an external shock of the realization of insecurity caused by ecological degradation forces a policy change (Liftin 2000; Weible et al. 2009).  To capture how elite preferences change the ideas of the Australian Prime Ministers from 1990 until 2016 and the reactions of the ADOD on environmental issues and policy are examined.  Within the policy subsystem, I observe all the actors, politicians, bureaucrats, interest’s groups, academics, journalists, professionals, that are actively concerned with an environmental policy issue, and seek to influence public policy change.  I argue that the military acts as a policy entrepreneur. By taking on environmental responsibilities and placing these within the context of national security, they were able to build a coalition of conservation supporters to influence public policy.   I can use the ACF framework to account for the Australian military’s strategic embrace of military environmentalism

Australia’s Key Allies

Significant policy changes in Australia may be the result of external shocks to the policy system.  Both the United Kingdom and the United States are critical allies for Australia.  Australia’s defense white papers and defense annual reports regularly describe the contributions made by the allied militaries in the formation of Australian defense policy.  It is possible that military policies that were instituted in the U.S. and U.K. will diffuse into Australia’s military policy as well.

United Kingdom

In 1973, the United Kingdom’s MOD was responsible for implementing the recommendations in the 1971-1973 Nugent Report.  The Nugent Report and the MOD recognized that environmental stewardshipp was an integral part of military readiness (Woodward 2001, 2004; Coates et al. 2011; Morrison 2015).  Therefore, the MOD appointed the first Conservation Officer in 1973 to form links between the military and civilian land managers.  The conservation officer established multiple groups that included academics, scientists, ecologists, naturalists, archeologists, and anthropologists.  In 1975 the MOD conservation groups created the Sanctuary Magazine which sought to provide an overview of various conservation activities throughout the MOD, while addressing the recommendations of the Nugent Report.  Sanctuary was eventually distributed to members of parliament, conservation organization, the public, and outside actors (Morrison 2015). 

While the MOD and parliament dealt with domestic defense lands, numerous international influences were pushing the UK to adopt more sustainable and environmentally conscious policies.  In 1987, Our Common Future was published by the Brundtland Commission that provided a working definition of sustainable development.  In 1992, the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro establishing the guidelines of sustainable development in its Agenda 21 plan.  The U.K. signed agenda 21 at the conference and was committed to developing a national strategy for sustainable development.  In 1994 the U.K. published its first national sustainable development strategy.  In 1995, the Royal Navy created the Environmental Protection and Safety Environmental Management System to implement environmental policies.  In 2000, the MOD published its environmental strategy titled In Trust and On Trust (HM Government 2001).  In 2002, the UK took part in the Johannesburg 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.  Before the Johannesburg 2002 conference the MOD published its appraisal handbook for sustainability and the environment.  After Johannesburg, MOD created its first sustainable development strategy. 

Following the creation of the handbook on sustainable development numerous environmental policy changes took place within the MOD.  Publications on energy, waste, estate management, procurement, toxic chemical, recycling, and green building were created.  These documents went through various revisions to keep pace with changing legislation.  Since 2006 the MOD publicly published its sustainable development strategy, incorporated environmental considerations into its national strategic planning, and began to prepare for the impacts of climate change on military installations (Climate Council 2015; Morrison 2015).  The MOD also participated with other militaries of developed countries at conferences in acknowledging the impact of climate change (Climate Council 2015).  In 2009, the MOD created the senior military position of a climate change planning officer.  From 2010-2012, the MOD implemented various policies for climate change on their installations including green building codes, a climate change strategy, reports that examined the impacts of climate change in military installations, and the risk ecological degradation imposes on military readiness, and relief efforts (HM Government 2012, 2013, 2015a, 2015b, 2018, 2019; UK MoD 2010). 

In 2012, in response to the Sustainable Development Goals, the MOD elected to use 100% renewable electricity for its infrastructure.  The MOD also plans to lower its carbon emissions by 18% in 2020.  The MOD created multiple environmental plans for 2015-2025, created sustainability champions, people who share similar beliefs, values, and ideas about environmental stewardship in the MOD.  These champions work with the MOD to implement and recommend various ecological policies; they also work with both internal and external stakeholders to create and maintain the MOD’s environmental policy (HM Government 2015a, 2015b, 2019, 2019).

United States

The United States DOD does not have a long history of military environmentalism.  Instead the DOD’s environmental policy was influenced by President Clinton’s acceptance of environmental security, President George W. Bush’s increased military spending, and President Obama’s concern toward climate change.  In 1994 President Clinton’s National Security Strategy listed the natural environment as a threat to military readiness and prompted the military to begin to prepare for ecological degradation (United States 1994).  In 1996, the DOD published its Biodiversity Handbook for military lands.  It was the first department-wide handbook on environmental management practices. The handbook focused on a variety of issues including linking biodiversity to the military’s mission, conservation science environmental law, multiple use strategy, invasive species management, partnerships with research groups and key stakeholders (NatureServe 2008).  President Clinton along with Vice President Gore and Secretary of State Albright further raised the importance of environmental threats faced by the United States (U.S. Department of State 1997; United States 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998).

The early Bush administration did not make the natural environment a security issue.  However, in 2003, the Pentagon released a report that specifically addressed the security implications of climate change (Schwartz et al. 2003; Climate Council 2015a).  The study concluded that climate change will impact national security.  In 2005 hurricane Katrina prompted the DOD to deploy its national guard forces to assist with clean up, restoration, and search and rescue.  Immediately after hurricane Katrina the DOD investigated the security impacts posed by climate change.  After hurricane Katrina, President Bush’s 2006 National Security Strategy recognized the natural environment as a potential security threat (United States 2006).  Two events in 2007 led to a DOD environmental policy change, first the IPCC released its summary for policy makers that listed all the impacts associated with climate change, the DOD quickly made the decision that climate change would impact U.S. military readiness (United States 2007).  Second, the Center for Naval Analysis reported that ecological degradation will pose a threat to military readiness in all theaters of war (CNA Corporation 2007; Climate Council 2015a).  From 2007 until the end of the Bush presidency, the DOD engaged in carbon reduction efforts and President Bush actively campaigned on diversifying U.S. energy resources.

Under President Obama, climate change and the natural environment was viewed as a security threat.  However, President Obama let the military create a climate change strategy documents and the 2010 quadrennial defense review and national security strategy listed the impacts of climate change as threating to national security (United States 2010a, 2010b).  During his second term, President Obama took a more active role in preparing the DOD for the impact of climate change.  The DOD created a the “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap”, which acknowledged the increased role for the military as a result of ecological degradation (Department of Defense 2014).  Also, the DOD updated its biodiversity handbook, created new environmental policies for its military installations, and implemented a environmentally sound life-cycle approach to its procurement practices. Finally, the 2015 National Security Strategy listed climate change as a rapidly growing threat (United States 2015).

In short, international events and a military administrative approach drove the MOD policy to adopt sustainable practices on the defense estate.  In the US the president acted as the policy entrepreneur along with the DOD to get environmental polices passed for the military. Both the U.S. and U.K. defense organizations have deeply held beliefs that biodiversity at the defense estate is critical to the overall success of its military mission.  Both militaries have embraced a form of administrative natural resource and ecosystem management.  I expect that these developments will diffuse from Australia’s two key allies and influence the development of military environmentalism in Australia. 



With operations in the Pacific and the Middle East, the ADOD exposes itself to climate variations and impacts from ecological degredation (Australia Government 2016). For the ADOD to maintain its military installations and readiness, the Australian government must pass environmental legislation that holds the military accountable for its impacts on the environment. However, the ADOD claims that the government has not prepared its military for the effects of climate change compared to other Western industrialized countries, particularly in terms of the impacts on its military readiness (Climate Council 2015b).

 Therefore, the Australian military held its first summit on climate change and security in 2015 with defense representatives from the U.S., U.K., scientists, academics, and other government departments. The summit represented the initial meeting of all the various actors that ADOD has used to influence Australian environmental policy. The findings from the summit were published in the ADOD 2016 Defense White Paper which recognized that environmental stewardship is a vital part of ensuring the long-term success of ADOD to meets its strategic objectives (Australia Defense 2016).

 The following analysis of the development of Australian military environmentalism makes three key assumptions. First, the government and public entrust defense to manage its resources effectively on military installations. Second, as Dryzek (2013) claims, administrative rationalism solves environmental problems in isolation. Thus, the ADOD will, first, recognize a problem exists and, second, create a range of individual policy innovations to ensure the impacts from the issues do not materialize. Third, the policies produced by the national government are viewed as inadequate and explicitly treated as policy failures. This assumption falls in line with others who have discussed Australia’s environmental policy development as a policy failure Weidner and Jänicke 2002; Walker 1992; Walker and Crowley 1999; Dovers and Wild River 2003; Lindenmayer 2007; Crowley and Walker 2012). I argue that government inaction, coupled to the realization of environmental problems at the domestic level, and scientific findings on climate change from the IPCC, will prompt policy innovation in ADOD. The ADOD will act as a policy entrepreneur that creates a coalition of various actors through the lens of administrative rationalism, thereby leaving out the traditional actors of environmentalism such as conservation and environmental groups but incorporating nontraditional groups including academics, scientists, and the DOD and MOD. The ADOD environmental policies are an attempt to signal the national government to take a more proactive approach. Moreover, I treat the creation of new national environmental policies in Australia as a failure to create the capacity to adapt to changing ecological concerns.


Australia’s government followed a form of statism that heavily subsidized economic activity to promote energy development in response to domestic political forces and an extractive resource development ideology. Any attempt to limit or remove subsidies and incentives for development were meet with opposition from the pastoral, industrial, and financial sectors (Cochrane 1989; Cornnell 1977; Butlin, Barnard and Pincus 1982). This form of statism has continued throughout Australia’s history and shapes the current government approach to economic development. In addition to this statist model of development, Australia is a crucial ally of the U.S. and U.K., during World War I, World War II, the U.S. Korean War, the Vietnam War, the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and a series of deployment to Iraq with the US-led coalition forces. Thus, the ADOD has been deeply embedded in a liberal capitalist system of economic development and a follower of its allies into international engagements. According to Dryzek (2013), a liberal capitalist system fosters administrative rationalism, by using a hierarchical bureaucratic system to solve problems without challenging the status quo. From this background, I develop two well-defined coalitions that allow for the use of the ACF model. Table-1 provides an overview.

Belief Systems of Coalitions

 Military Environmentalism Coalition

Industry Coalition


ADOD, US Military, UK Military, Scientists, Academics, Intergovernmental groups

Fossil fuel industry, Business council and controlled media/newspaper

Primary Beliefs

Environment as a source of insecurity (IPCC), unsustainable of current economic problems, climate change requires scientific/bureaucratic solution

Primacy of prosperity and competition, do not impact business and growth

International Impacts

Conflict, treaties, natural disasters

Competition, trade/export oriented

Table 1

Government Policy

Australia’s public policy from the 1980’s through 1990’s was an attempt to liberalize trade, abandoning any attempt to insulate the country from the global economy.  The “New Right” policies advocated for a tightening role of government and moved toward socially conservative policies.  Under the “New Right” contract, government holdings in industries were sold off to force competition among firms.  Moreover, the government reduced its holding of lands and buildings including those in the ADOD.  In the 1990 election, a national poll rated the environment as the second most important issue  (Lohrey 2002, 33).  Labor won the election campaigning on an environmental platform, but immediately after the election Keating informed his cabinet that the environment would not be the focus on his term (Staples 2012). Instead, the government would improve the balance of payments, but the increased exports of natural resources led to negative environmental impacts.  The Hawke-Keating Government held the economic belief that natural resources are free goods, and ecological degradation is reversible at any point in time.  Therefore, the government decided to base both its energy policy and balance of payments on the export of its fossil fuel reserves. 

This economic and energy policy had three unintended consequences.  First, increasing coal production and use led to higher greenhouse gas emissions; second, coal extraction resulted in environmental degradation; third, the reliance on coal diverted attention away from alternative technologies (Bartlett 2006; Buckman and Diesendorf 2010; Diesendorf 2012).  The policy of the Hawke-Keating Government facilitated the dominance of the coal industry in public policy to maintain the status quo.  Moreover, Keating refused to attend the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development which led to doubts of his ability to manage the environment and implement adequate environmental policies.

The dominance of the fossil fuel industry in the economic policy of Australia continued under the John Howard government that promoted the concept of “Quarry Australia.” The policy would develop and export oil, gas, and timber to provide the economic incentives needed to grow (Pearse 2007).  The Howard government formed a coalition with the extractive, fuel, and business industries. Alternative energy research was curtailed, and investment in carbon sequestration was promoted. The Howard Coalition government met global warming science with hostility and skepticism, along with a disdain for environmentalism and green politics (Pearse 2007).

Between 1998 and 1999, the Howard government struck a deal with the democrats. He would introduce legislation for environmental protection if the democrats passed his national sales tax. In 1999, the government passed the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBCA). The act functions as a legal framework to protect nine areas that are of national ecological importance including heritage properties, threatened flora, threatened fauna, marine areas, and mining activities (Australia Government 2013a; Australia Government 2013b). The EPBCA affects any entity whose actions significantly impact the natural environment including the ADOD. The EPBCA was the federal government’s effort to force ADOD to limit its activities and to reduce the military’s impact on future areas that could be a source of economic development. 

Overall, the EPBCA requires an environmental impact assessment on future development, which is reviewed by an environmental minster.  The minister will intervene if the project has an impact on one of the nine areas listed in the EPBCA.  However, the minister may consider the social or economic prospects of the project more vital than the protection of the environment.  The environmental minister only has power at the national level and cannot intervene in the environmental decisions at the state and local levels (Australia Government 2013a; Australia Government 2013b).  However, this act although it seems like a policy success, it only plays into the larger narative of the “New Right” and “Quarry Australia” politics on limiting the involvement of the national government and for the industry to maintain the economic status quo. 

Nevertheless, it seems as if environmental policy was used as an incentive piece to get the liberal and green parties to sign onto other legislation they otherwise would not have agreed to.  After the passage of the EPBCA there was backlash from the coalition of pro-industry supporters.  Initially, Howard was swayed to protect the environment by showing deference to scientists and environmental experts who argued in favor of protecting the environment without discussing the issue of climate change.  By showing deference to the environmental authority, Howard could sustain an image that environmental protection would not inhibit economic growth during his government. 

However, this example of a greenwashed policy reveals the power of the industry coalition.  One key piece of evidence are the multiple failed environmental policy attempts.  The Howard government failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol, instead opting to create an emissions trading scheme.  The government did not promote renewable energy and it did not fund the climate programs. From 2004-2008 the government withdrew funds away from existing climate change strategy programs and neglected to fund the a myriad of environmental heritage sites such as the Great Barrier Reef invasive species and water quality management and inventory (Crowley and Walker 2012).  Instead, funding was given to fisherman and industries impacted by biodiversity protection measures surrounding the Great Barrier Reef.  In addition, funding was not awarded to protecting biodiversity in Queensland and South Australia (Australia 2004).  Moreover, the Howard government did not pass a budget between 2004 and 2008 that gave the ADOD increases for implementing new environmental programs.  Instead the majority of funding went to programs that benefited the pro-industry coalition, for example water policy that relates to mining, emissions, and soil erosion (Australia 2004).

 Nevertheless, in 2007 the Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd won wherein he became the new Prime minister and campaigned on signing the Kyoto Protocol and implementing numerous environmental policies that were based on the scientific evidence available.  He claimed that ratifying the greenhouse blueprint would give Australia a greater say in climate change talks and help persuade China to commit on emissions cuts. Stating, “I want to be an international voice for Australia which is carving out the future arrangements.” (AAP 2007, 1; Sydney Morning Herald 2007, 1).  However, within the first year the financial crisis of 2008 struck, forcing governments to implement austerity measures.  Rudd had planned to design a new emissions trading scheme, but the business industry claimed it would have to pass the tax onto the consumers.  Thus, climate change became a national debate topic. Coupled with a harsh business environment, new taxes did not sit well with the public.  In 2010 the Labor government lost its majority which forced it to form an alliance with the green party and independents.  This alliance only served to put carbon pricing mechanisms on the government agenda, which spelled disaster for Rudd (Rootes 2011).  In 2014 the liberal party under Tony Abbott took back control


Military Response

The liberalization of Australia’ international trade also impacted the ADOD policy. Before the Hawke-Keating Government, the ADOD rarely issued a white paper. In its earliest defense white paper, the term environment was only defined regarding its role played in defense and not as a source of insecurity. These included “geography, population size and distribution, infrastructure, industrial capacity, and resource distribution” (Australian Defence 1976, 13). In 1987 the ADOD recognized that it is the largest owner of and user of land in Australia, and it must consider urban and economic externalities on the surrounding military installations. Therefore, the Australian government and ADOD decided to relinquish control of certain areas not deemed vital to defense, move bases, and acquire new facilities away from the population and economic development zones. In the 1987 white paper, environmental considerations were considered as mentions of an environmental impact study to examine the impacts of moving a fleet base from Sydney to Jervis Bay (Australian Defence 1987, 53) and the construction of an airfield on Cape York Peninsula (Australian Defence 1987, 67). However, these considerations were only taken into account for their impact on future economic development. The ADOD only wanted to understand how the climate would impact defense performance in various military theaters. Other than environmental concerns, the 1987 white paper that Australia would not depend upon a stronger power for security. The U.S., U.K., and Australia would be seen as equal partners. Moreover, the “New Right” economic policy created a notion of self-reliance for the military, whereby ADOD had to protect itself from being undermined from government policy or international threats (Higgott and Nossal 1994; Evans 1994; Papadakis and Grant 2003). These changes should lead to various policy learning innovations among the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Furthermore, during this period from 1983-1997 Australia participated in the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro and numerous scientific findings on the development of climate change.

The ADOD’s creation of environmental policy signaled the inaction of the Howard government.  They were successful in doing this because John Howard was the acting minister for environment and heritage.  Although it seems as if he proposed numerous policy innovations for the protection of the environment, they were partially sustainable because he was heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry’s policy guidelines established by the “New Right” governing ideology.  The military’s policy innovations were in response to the the Howard government promoting the industry coalition beliefs. 

Before the creation of the EPBCA, the ADOD created an “Environmental Statement for Defense,” which was finalized in May 1998, outlining 12 key environmental goals and principles for Defense. This policy was part of a long-term commitment by the department to develop a three-tiered system of environmental policy and management on defense lands. Future developments will include environmental policies, strategic plans, ecological management plans, direction on compliance with parliamentary requirements, training, and education (Australian Defence 1998).  After the implementation of the EPBCA the ADOD had to confirm with the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage, and the Arts that plans would not affect the surrounding environment or potential economic development, and would proceed only with the approval of the environmental minister (Australia Government 2013a, 2013b). However, with minimal funding and a government focused on development, the EPBCA constrained the ADOD. The ADOD had to select a group to work with that would increase their legitimacy and provide input points throughout various levels of government. First, the ADOD created its version of environmental policy that would attempt to increase environmental capacity while meeting strategic objectives. The ADOD implemented a “whole-of-defense” approach to make sustainability part of the defense life-cycles (Australian Defence 2002).  Also, the ADOD developed an education program to train environmental managers similar to the handbooks in the DOD. Finally, the ADOD created strategic environmental policies that covered vital military installations (Australian Defence 1999, 2000, 2001).

 To facilitate the creation of environmental management techniques, the ADOD formally declared its partnerships and cooperative efforts with the defense organizations of Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. to share information on environmental management in defense context (Australia Defense 2002). Moreover, the ADOD received advisors from the U.S. and U.K. to assist in cooperation on emissions reduction, environmental management system, contamination management, and population pressures (Australian Defence 2000, 2001, 2002). Finally, the ADOD initiated an international environmental management program for overseas military bases in Afghanistan with U.S. and U.K. With the advice of its allies, the ADOD became a founding board member of the green building council of Australia, created its first three year environmental strategic plan from 2002-2005 which was endorsed by the parliamentary secretary to defense, and it created soil contamination and brush fire management plans (Australian Defence 2001, 2002). 

 The ADOD soon allied with the scientific community and academics to support its environmental research endeavors and proposed that researchers could study the wildlife on the installations in return for policy proposals on ecological management. This coalition resulted in research for threatened species management. One example of the effectiveness of this research was that it led the ADOD to realize that kangaroos were an invasive species on the Puckapunyal Training Areas that led to a cull (Australian Defence 2002, 2003, 2004). Scientific surveys were taken to determine the number of animals needed to be removed to minimize environmental impacts from overgrazing and maintain the area for training purposes. However, this angered many environmentalists, animal rights groups, and the green party. Therefore, the ADOD invested in co-op programs with university researchers to investigate reproductive psychology as a way to manage the population. The co-op programs also included environmental education as a way of increasing knowledge about animal population control. Finally, in 2003, with the failures of the Howard government emissions trading scheme, the ADOD created its own emissions reduction strategy (Australian Defence 2003, 2004). 

 With the knowledge gained from working with the U.S. and U.K.; the ADOD started to use environmental law. It contracted with a team with legal scholars to establish the defense legal panel on environmental legislation that would work with authorities to determine who had authority in conservation matters (Australian Defence 2005). In 2004, the ADOD created the Directorate of Sustainability Strategies to comply with its new environmental policies (Australian Defence 2004). Without funding from government on heritage issues, the ADOD established a new environmental and heritage panel to engage with industries that specialize in heritage management, thereby receiving expert recommendations on how to preserve historical sites.  Furthermore, the ADOD increased environmental education, including specialist training and professional development programs.  Without the government to establish certification schemes, the ADOD’s ecological managers issued certificates for environmental accreditation, green building codes and construction, and fire management. Between 2004-2005, the ADOD signed several treaties with the U.S. and U.K. to incorporate an environmental protection requirement incorporated into defense planning and conduct of joint military exercises (Defense 2004).

 From 2005 through 2008, the ADOD established a new panel of specialized environmental and heritage consultants that formed the ecological management committee which provided expert environmental management advice on military installations including the Shoalwater Bay Training Area  and the Bradshaw Field Training Area, among others (Australia Defense 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009). The committee consists of representatives from the ADOD, key stakeholders, business, and industry. This committee led to the formation of strategic partnerships to share information about environmental management techniques. These partnerships allowed the ADOD to place environmental policies on the government’s agenda for the 2007 election.

After the election of the Rudd government and Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the ADOD maintained its partnerships with various members of its coalition; allied defense organizations, academics, working groups, local communities, interested parties, and stakeholders. With a supportive government, the ADOD created long-term environmental strategy plans (Australia Government 2016).  The ADOD crafted a climate change response and the ADOD used its connections with scientist and the DOD and MOD to create technical manuals on the environment and conservation strategies. The ADOD observed Earth Hour every year until 2014. The ADOD worked with government and its coalition to maintain its policies (Australia Defense 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012). In 2014 the ADOD co-hosted with the U.S., the Pacific Environmental Security Forum to consider the national security implications of climate change such as sea-level rise and the role of the military in natural disaster management (Australia Defense 2013, 2014, 2015).

 Overall, there is a stark contrast between the Australian government on environmental policy and its military.  The evidence presented here illustrates how the ADOD were successfully able to put environmental policy on its agenda and implement it into its doctrine. This follows how the MOD and DOD were also able to create their own environmental policies and have it spread to their ally.  The self-reliant policies forced the ADOD to become a policy entrepreneur, build a coalition, and adapt to new information that indicated that climate change and ecological degradation would constrain the military from carrying out its core functions.


This paper illustrated a successful case of the advocacy coalition framework coupled with the concept of policy diffusion.  Prior research applies the ACF to the realm of normal politics, not to military organizations.  I argued that ADOD environmental policy stemmed from ecological concerns expressed by its allies and the party in control of parliament.  The data and findings illustrate that the ADOD recognized its allies were adapting to new challenges, realized its government would not support similar policies, and decided to advocate for the new policies by forming a politically neutral coalition that could objectively promote the new ideas.  While environmental politics is a heated issue in Australia, the military operates through an administrative rationalist discourse to gain support from its coalition members, the citizens they protect, and politicians.  The Australian case represents one instance of a larger shift toward defense organization adopting environmentalism.

What are the implications of the ADOD creating its own coalition to advocate for environmental policies?  The primary concern is that Australian government will not develop its own policy to address environmental issues within the ADOD, instead the various actors must continue to create different policy innovations.   In the long term this will not improve the environmental capacity of the state and instead, will result in continued environmental policy failures because the government did not learn how to adapt to changing circumstances.

The practical implications of the Australian case illustrate that militaries will innovate policies when the government refuses to acknowledge the existence of impending threats.  It is clear that defense organizations have crafted their own sets of environmental policies that bypass the traditional policy making process.  The U.S. DOD, U.K. MOD, and ADOD all believe that their policies will enhance its ability to carry out its primary functions. The annual reports and white papers specifically list the natural environment as a source of domestic and international insecurity.  The military has taken up the objective of adapting its domestic holdings to future ecological challenges.

Furthermore, this paper provides a new starting point for understanding the relationship between the military and environmentalism. Policymakers should note that military involvement in environmental politics operates though a distinctive rationalist lens.  The DOD, MOD, and ADOD created environmental policies to adapt to changing security concerns brought forth from scientific findings.  These policy changes did not stem from a particular political viewpoint and it is not a way for the military to “greenwash” its destructive tendencies.  Rather, these policies are created to facilitate the continuation of the military mission, to defeat enemies and protect the homeland.  Nevertheless, a bit of skepticism must remain about these findings as the case only applied to Western industrialized countries.  For scholars and policymakers to generalize these findings a more robust sample of countries is required.

Nevertheless, other questions remain that future studies should address.  First, what is the impact on civil-military relations as a result of the military’s involvement in environmental politics?  Should Western industrialized democracies fear military involvement in other policy areas that are handled within the domain of normal politics?  Second, to what extent do international and systemic factors influence the creation of advocacy coalitions?  Scholars must recognize the global linkages that enable coalitions to learn from each other.  Third, who asks the military to become stewards of the environment?  The case in this paper provides evidence that the military willingly took on an environmental stewardship role, but do other cases exist where militaries must adapt to changing preferences and norms? 


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