The past year has been dominated by:
Air Chief Marshal Binskin’s review highlights the continuing demands on the Australian Defence Force (ADF), including at short notice in response to MH17 and disasters such as Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. Defence civilians work with the ADF in such situations through the professional provision of critical enablers such as intelligence, facilities, logistics, communications, and financial and people services.
An integrated team of Defence civilians and ADF personnel, led by the Deputy Secretary Strategy, Peter Baxter, has been working on a White Paper, a Defence Industry Statement, and a Force Structure Review since 2014.
With the essential challenge of better aligning money and capability, the Government has sought independent cost assurance for all significant capability requirements. The Force Structure Review, the first since 2008–09,
will provide the platform for a fully costed 10-year integrated investment plan and a program of work stretching out to the 2030s and 2040s.
The First Principles Review, led by the former managing director of Rio Tinto Australia, David Peever,
was presented to the Government and released publicly in April 2015. It was highly critical of the way the department operates and recommended far-reaching changes to organisational structures and processes under the theme of One Defence. Seventy-five of the 76 recommendations were accepted in whole or in principle.
Consistent with the review’s recommendations, the department developed a two-year implementation plan beginning on 1 July 2015. Implementation is being overseen by a board, chaired by David Peever, which reports directly to the Minister for Defence and the Government.
Among the major changes so far implemented are:
The new capability development process is still being developed and will not become operational until
the contestability function is finalised. This process is central to the First Principles Review and involves
a fundamental shift in the way business is done within Defence.
At the same time as implementing the First Principles Review, the department continues to downsize.
The department’s public service full-time equivalent staff has now reduced from around 22,300 in mid-2012
to just over 18,300 in September 2015. On top of that, a voluntary redundancy programme has been initiated for senior executive and executive level staff. It is likely that the department’s APS workforce will be stabilised in absolute numbers by around mid-2016. Beyond that, however, there will remain challenges in establishing the right mix of skills, especially in the new Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group and in the Strategic Policy
and Intelligence Group.
We hope to be able to finalise over the next little while an agency bargaining offer to Defence public servants, especially given the lapse in time from the last salary increase and the wide-ranging reforms being implemented across the department.
In February 2015 the Government established a competitive evaluation process to determine a design partner
for the future submarines. French, German and Japanese entities were invited to submit proposals. These will be received towards the end of 2015, with the evaluation completed in the first half of 2016. The Government has also announced that it is bringing forward the construction of the future frigates and offshore patrol vessels, with a continuous build program in Adelaide for the frigates.
As part of the cultural change embedded in Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture, and consistent with
the First Principles Review, the department has revised its performance management process for SES officers,
with an emphasis on behaviours. A 360-degree feedback scheme is also being introduced for the SES.
It is hoped that these changes will work to reinforce the business changes flowing from the introduction
of formalised contestability.
During the course of the year, good progress continued to be made in the recruitment of Indigenous Australians and people with disability. We made little progress in changing the gender balance of the workforce, although we continue to pursue initiatives.
Finally, the department continued to provide a range of policy advice to the Government on matters relating to Iraq, Afghanistan, the South Pacific, South-East and North-East Asia and in respect of other areas in which we have important Defence interests.
I thank all Defence public servants for their continued professional approach to their work and to the far-reaching changes being implemented across the department. I also acknowledge the contribution of contractors and service providers whose work often goes unacknowledged.
The end of the 2014–15 financial year coincides with the end of my first year as Chief of the Defence Force and the culmination of one of the most unpredictable periods in our recent history. Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and assets were still engaged in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean off Perth, when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, including 38 Australian residents. The ADF worked closely with Australian Federal Police colleagues as part of Operation Bring Them Home to complete the sombre task of returning victims to their families in Australia. The following month we began humanitarian aid drops to Iraqi civilians trapped in the country’s north and, by mid-September, our Air Task Group was in the Middle East, awaiting government approval to commence air strikes against Daesh in Iraq.
At the Iraqi Government’s request, the Air Task Group has conducted regular air strikes since October. In that time, the F/A-18A Hornet and F/A-18F Super Hornet combination has flown more than 5,000 hours, employing more than 400 precision weapons against Daesh targets. These operations are part of the international coalition’s air campaign supporting Iraqi Security Force operations on the ground. The combination of Australian strike aircraft, tankers and airborne early warning aircraft make this Air Task Group one of the most capable air packages the ADF has ever deployed. It is also the first completely self-contained Air Task Group we have deployed, with the E-7A AEW&C Wedgetail completing more than 100 operational sorties and the KC-30A air-to-air refuelling team delivering 25 million pounds of fuel to Australian and coalition aircraft. In addition to the dozens of sorties into Iraq to deploy and sustain ADF personnel, Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster and C-130J Hercules aircraft conducted six military stores deliveries to support local forces and delivered more than 40 tonnes of much-needed humanitarian supplies to displaced civilians.
In addition to the Air Task Group, around 300 ADF personnel are now deployed in Iraq on the Building Partner Capacity mission. Together with their New Zealand counterparts, Task Group Taji provides regular Iraqi Army soldiers with additional training in a range of military skills as well as in the laws of armed conflict and leadership. In the Iraqi Army’s 76th Brigade Commander’s words, the first 700 soldiers graduated on 28 June ‘ready to reclaim their country and take the fight to Daesh’.
This critical training mission is complemented by our 170-strong Special Operations Task Group, which continues to advise and assist the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service, helping it to prepare and plan operations, joint fires, air support and artillery. Known collectively as Operation Okra, these missions demonstrate the ADF’s ability to prepare and deploy to Iraq at short notice; a testament to the skill and professionalism of our people and the calibre of our training.
These new operations in Iraq have not come at the expense of our ongoing commitment in Afghanistan, where approximately 400 ADF personnel are deployed on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led mission Resolute Support. Following the end of combat operations in December 2014, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) assumed sole responsibility for the nation’s security. The ANDSF has proven to be a capable and resilient force, but it will continue to face challenges. That is why Australia, in cooperation with the international community, continues to train, advise and assist the ANDSF to further develop leadership, mainly through the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul and the 205th Corps Coalition Advisory Team in Kandahar. In addition to Resolute Support, ADF personnel were deployed in force protection, medical and intelligence roles, as well as embedded in headquarters, meaning Australia remains one of the largest non-NATO contributors in Afghanistan.
Australia is also at the forefront of international maritime operations in the Middle East region where, over the past two years, Royal Australian Navy ships have seized more than $2.2 billion in illegal narcotics that would have been used to fund terrorist activities around the world. The Navy also forged new territory when HMAS Success became the first Australian ship to participate in a NATO maritime operation on joining Operation Ocean Shield, extending her counter-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa. Success also provided logistic support and replenished supplies for both the US Fifth Fleet’s Task Force 53 and international ships assigned to the Combined Maritime Force.
ADF operations across the Middle East region are supported from the ADF’s National Command and Support Element—Joint Task Force 633. Around 400 personnel provide vital national command, communications and logistics support to multiple operations across Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf States.
In addition to these major operations, ADF personnel have made an important contribution with the Multinational Force and Observers under Operation Mazurka in the Sinai as well as performing valuable work with the United Nations missions in Israel and Lebanon (Operation Paladin), and in South Sudan (Operation Aslan).
In our own region, the ADF continued to provide people and assets over the past year to conduct maritime border protection operations. In addition to our ongoing commitment to Operation Resolute, the ADF has undertaken regular maritime surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in the South-West Pacific region (Operation Solania) and the South China Sea and northern Indian Ocean (Operation Gateway) to support and maintain regional stability.
As a result of our work at home and abroad (see Figure 1.1), the ADF is acknowledged internationally as one of the most responsive, capable and hard-working defence forces in the world. Those qualities are never more evident than in our work on humanitarian and disaster relief operations. In February 2015, Defence provided approximately $4.95 million in assistance and 130 personnel to the relief and recovery efforts in Queensland following Tropical Cyclone Marcia. At the same time Defence provided assistance to the Northern Territory after Cyclone Lam hit the Gove Peninsula area.
Just four weeks later, Cyclone Pam destroyed large swathes of Vanuatu, and in April a devastating earthquake struck Nepal. On each occasion, the ADF deployed with people and equipment to deliver vital supplies and to help grateful residents clean up and rebuild shattered communities. This work highlights not only our proficiency but also the compassion of our people and their genuine desire to help. The messages of thanks we received for our work on these operations makes me proud to command the ADF.
Figure 1.1: ADF operations during 2014–15