Chapter Two > Outcome Two: Navy Capabilities > Mitigation of key risks

Outcome Two: Navy Capabilities

Mitigation of key risks


During 2003-04, the Navy's full-time workforce grew from 13,164 in the previous year to 13,459 as a result of strategies to improve Navy's recruitment and retention2. The Navy recruited 1,514 members this year, which is consistent with the 2002-03 result. Some critical employment categories, such as marine technicians and seaman officers, are growing in strength, but both categories will still take some time to recover fully to their required strength due to a shortage of sea training positions, which limits the number of new recruits able to enter into training, and higher than desirable separation rates. Other categories, including engineering officers, aircrew, medical doctors, electronic technical and some seaman sailor categories are still suffering the effects of continuing high separation rates and poor recruiting results in previous years. Overall discharge rates decreased to around 10.1 per cent, well below the five-year average of 12.8 per cent. In 2003-04, the sailor separation rate was 10.8 per cent and the officer separation rate was 7.69 per cent, which is below the five-year average of 12.9 per cent for sailors and 8.8 per cent for officers.

In 2003-04, the training force grew from 2,044 to 2,229, which reflected the increased number of recruits, with many training schools at or near capacity. The recruiting drive for the next four years will target all critical categories. To remain within average funded strengths, steady recruiting levels will be maintained until 2007-08 when new ships will be introduced into service, which will require an increase in personnel numbers.

The Navy has reduced training time frames and introduced targeted retention initiatives to improve recruiting and retention. Some categories will continue to require greater emphasis because they are competing with the commercial sector for a limited workforce. New approaches to recruiting technical categories associated with the Government apprenticeship initiatives have been introduced and early results are encouraging.

The critical category management program, which places particular emphasis on recruitment, training and retention of sailors and officers, has resulted in a wider awareness of problems and increased activity to rectify them, such as:

  • closer control of training and increased recruiting closely matched to training capacity for seaman and aircrew officers;
  • an integrated management plan involving retention incentives, increased recruiting and changed employment arrangements and training for electronic technicians;
  • occupational analysis, reviews of training content and options for the provision of communications information services; and
  • an examination of the workforce requirements and training for submariner categories.

The Navy has implemented a number of initiatives in 2003-04 to improve its retention rates, including seaman officer mentoring program development, an aviation employment environmental scan, and sea familiarisation and skills development centres in Cairns, Queensland and Darwin, Northern Territory.

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The Navy's ability to support the current force structure and meet preparedness requirements improved in 2003-04. An injection of $72.4m was applied to critical unfunded logistic requirements, leading to an overall improvement in preparedness.


The Navy continues to meet all operational commitments within the high tempo of concurrent operations, while remaining aware of the requirement to reconstitute and maintain the full range of Navy capabilities. Reconstitution was largely completed for force elements returning from operations, while capability and preparedness for more complex warfighting skills will be further enhanced with the conduct of planned major exercises in 2004-05. Navy units maintain a high degree of interoperability with allied forces through participation in Operation Catalyst and multinational exercises.

Air warfare capability

The upgrade program designed to improve area air warfare and anti-ship missile defence capabilities within the Adelaide-class guided missile frigates has commenced with HMAS Sydney. The upgrade program for the Anzac-class frigates is expected to be approved in 2004-05. Three international ship designers were selected to develop concept ship designs to enable the selection of Australia's new air warfare destroyers. The destroyers will provide a maritime-based area air warfare capability, which is a critical component of an ADF air warfare system. The first ship is due to enter service in 2013.

Undersea warfare capability

The introduction into service of HMAS Rankin, which occurred in March 2003, increased the overall availability of submarines throughout 2003-04 to contribute to the training of surface and aviation forces. In September 2004, HMAS Farncomb completed the first full-cycle docking, which includes a major overhaul and refurbishment of the vessel. Although the overall availability of the submarine force was increased, it was affected by delays for those submarines undertaking the extended maintenance program.

  1. The Navy's workforce data represents actual total paid strength, including Reservists undertaking continuous full-time service. This is a different measure to that used in Chapter Five (People).


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