August | 2015
Defence Magazine cover, August 2015
Cover Story
Meet the people responsible for the daunting task of implementing the First Principles Review. Photo by Lauren Larking

Agents of Change

By Alison McMeekin

Big challenges lie ahead, but the team charged with implementing the First Principles Review has already cleared the first hurdle and is looking forward to moving Defence into a brave new world.

Their backgrounds are different and so are their skillsets, but they are united in their commitment to the biggest reform to Defence in decades.

They are the members of the Implementation Office for the First Principles Review.

Defence dedicated a small group of people to the First Principles Review in early 2014 following the Coalition's election commitment to the initiative.

After the Minister for Defence commissioned the Review in August 2014, that small group became known as the Secretariat.

The Secretariat worked closely with the Review Team, comprised of the former managing director of Rio Tinto Australia, David Peever; the former minister for Defence, Robert Hill; the former Chief of Army, Peter Leahy; the chair of Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Jim McDowell; and the former minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner.

After the release of the First Principles Review on 1 April this year, the Secretariat transitioned into the Implementation Office. It is led by First Assistant Secretary Governance and Reform Roxanne Kelley and Air Vice Marshal Neil Hart, who is also co-lead of the Force Structure Review.

The office supports the Secretary of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force, the Defence Committee and the Oversight Board.

It oversees implementation, including setting the standards and reporting requirements to enable effective governance of implementation. It also manages and delivers implementation tasks agreed by the Defence Committee; provides guidance and tools to help groups deliver their implementation tasks; ensures alignment with the intent of the report; and keeps stakeholders informed of progress.

For Roxanne, working on such a substantial suite of reforms covers the full range of emotions. It is "challenging" and "frustrating" at times, but also "exciting" and "fun".

"Finalising the review and publicly releasing the report was the 'end of the beginning'. Implementation over the next two years will be hard work, but I love a challenge," she says.

Roxanne says the First Principles Review is "about Defence changing the way it does business".

"The biggest challenge is that we will need to think and behave differently to really implement the intent of the review."

During the drafting of the First Principles Review report, Neil co-led the Force Structure Review that will provide options for the Defence Force of the future, a key component of the Defence White Paper planned for release later this year.

He says the Force Structure Review team worked closely with the group drafting the First Principles Review report.

"In terms of strategy, resources and capability, we made sure they knew exactly what the future was. That helped shape and inform their deliberations."