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First Principles Review— Creating One Defence


The focus of the First Principles Review was to ensure that Defence is fit for purpose, able to respond to future challenges and deliver against its outputs with the minimum resources necessary.

The review findings showed that Defence must move from its inefficient, federated approach to a single, integrated organisation that can shape and respond quickly to our changing strategic circumstances, and deliver enhanced joint capability. This is known as the One Defence approach. One Defence is a notion of a unified and integrated organisation that is consistently linked to its strategy and clearly led by its centre.

Unique to the implementation of the First Principles Review’s recommendations was the establishment of a Government-appointed external Oversight Board to monitor the progress of implementation. The board assists the Government in ensuring the recommendations are implemented according to the One Defence approach and meet the intent of the review.

Key to the One Defence approach is working as one effective and skilled team focused on delivering overall Defence and Australian Defence Force capability outcomes. This holistic approach is critical to developing capabilities, generating joint forces and creating links with defence industry, and focuses on the importance of building capability through partnerships.

Examples of key reform initiatives implemented during 2016–17 that illustrate how Defence is becoming a significantly more agile and efficient organisation that builds capability through partnerships include:

  • introducing a new end-to-end capability development and management life cycle, which simplifies and reduces the time taken for capability decision-making. For example, the average length of a Defence submission to Government has reduced from 70 pages to 20 pages, and the average period of time for a submission to be approved by Government has reduced from 16 weeks to eight weeks. Partnerships with central agencies have been a key part of this process, with the Department of Finance and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet now represented on Defence’s Investment Committee
  • simplifying commercial policies and practices, making it easier for industry to engage with Defence. For example, the Defence Procurement Policy Manual has reduced from 483 pages to 62 pages; and the number of mandatory Defence procurement requirements has dropped by more than 80 per cent, from 290 to 53
  • engaging industry earlier in the capability life cycle, and recognising industry as a key partner in the delivery of Defence capability. This has been supported through implementing initiatives in the 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement, including the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, the Defence Innovation Hub, and the Defence Innovation Portal.

Significant progress has been made on delivering the reforms. However, as with all reform programs, the completion of the review’s recommendations is not the end, with critical work still ahead to ensure the full intent of the reform is realised, enabling the organisation to continually improve towards the One Defence approach.

Reform initiatives started as part of the implementation of the First Principles Review will continue into the future. Ongoing reform initiatives for 2017–18 include a focus on improving accountability through change in behaviours. As part of Defence creating a strong performance culture across the organisation, there is an increased focus on people management and on supervisory and leadership requirements.

The Government agrees with this approach and, while satisfied with Defence’s progress, has extended the Oversight Board to ensure the necessary guidance and expertise so the One Defence approach is embedded for the future.