Media Room | Reports and Publications | Careers and Recruiting | Industry and Contracts | Other Defence Links

About Us

On this page:

Who we are and what we do


The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is constituted under the Defence Act 1903, its mission is to defend Australia and its national interests. In fulfilling this mission, Defence serves the Government of the day and is accountable to the Commonwealth Parliament—which represents the Australian people—to efficiently and effectively carry out the Government’s defence policy.


Defence’s primary focus is to protect and advance Australia’s strategic interests by providing military forces and supporting those forces in the defence of Australia and its strategic interests. To achieve this, Defence prepares for and conducts military operations and other tasks as directed by the Government.

Strategic Direction

In May 2012, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence announced that the Government has commissioned a new Defence White Paper to be delivered in the first half of 2013. This new White Paper will take account of Australia’s emerging strategic and fiscal environment. The White Paper will also adjust as appropriate the reform programs underway. The department has commenced early scoping work on this new White Paper.

Top of page

Defence functions and powers

Where applicable, ministers or authorised Defence employees may exercise decision-making powers under the legislation that is administered by the Minister aided by the department. The list of matters dealt with by the Department and Legislation administered by the Minister is prescribed in the Administrative Arrangements Order (AAO).

Matters dealt with by the Department

Defence, including:

Legislation administered by the Minister

Details of current Department of Defence administered policies, programs or projects can also be found in the Department’s Annual Report.

Top of page

Defence portfolio structure

The Defence portfolio consists of a number of component organisations that together are responsible for supporting the defence of Australia and its national interests. The three most significant bodies are:

In practice, these bodies work together closely and are broadly regarded as one organisation known simply as Defence (or the Australian Defence Organisation).

The portfolio also contains a number of smaller entities, including:

The Minister for Defence's portfolio also contains the Department of Veterans' Affairs and its associated bodies, as it is designated as part of the Defence portfolio in the Administrative Arrangements Order. The Department of Veterans' Affairs is administered separately from Defence.

Top of page

Defence Ministers

Defence Organisation

Governance and Accountability

This section details Defence boards and committees and our corporate governance and management structure which streamline our decision making.

Defence Business Model

The Defence Governance framework is designed to ensure that the Department has clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, as well as mechanisms, to manage and monitor progress and performance, and that Defence is accountable to the Government and legislation, with defined assurance and audit processes.

Top of page

Defence Committees

Senior Management Committee System Structure

Defence has seven senior Defence Committees, each of which plays an important role in the effective governance of Defence. All senior Defence committees have an advisory role with the chair exercising executive authority.

Secretary and Chief of the Defence Force Advisory Committee (SCAC)

The SCAC is the pre-eminent Defence Committee for the week-to-week management of the Department of Defence. The SCAC is the default Committee for business that requires the attention of the Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF). The SCAC supersedes the weekly Defence Committee meeting and has superseded and subsumed the roles of the Workforce and Financial Management Committee and the Defence Information and Communications Technology Committee. The SCAC is chaired jointly by the Secretary and CDF.

Secretary and Chief of the Defence Force Advisory Committee (SCAC) / Defence Committee (DC)

The SCAC/DC is the pre-eminent Defence Committee that will continue to meet on a monthly basis. It considers the most significant Defence enterprise policy and management issues and drives the whole-of-Defence performance through the enterprise management framework, including the corporate planning process. The SCAC/DC is chaired jointly by the Secretary and CDF.

Defence Capability and Investment Committee (DCIC)

The DCIC reviews major capability and investment issues by seeking to ensure resourcing, including capital investment and operating costs, is consistent with Defence's strategic priorities and resourcing strategy. The DCIC is chaired by the Secretary.

Top of page

Defence Audit and Risk Committee (DARC)

The DARC was established by the Secretary in accordance with Section 46 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. It provides independent advice to the Secretary and the CDF on all aspects of Defence governance, including audit, assurance, financial management and risk management issues. The DARC is chaired by an independent private sector businessman Mr Paul Rizzo.

Gender Equality Advisory Board (GEAB)

The GEAB is a new advisory board that has been established to drive and shape the strategic direction of the Secretary's and the CDF's gender equality priorities within the broader Defence cultural reform agenda. The GEAB considers the most significant gender equality issues applicable to the Defence workforce, and monitors and evaluates whole-of-Defence performance on these matters. The GEAB comprises of seven internal Defence members including the Secretary and CDF, four external members and one Special Advisor. The GEAB is chaired jointly by the Secretary and CDF.

Chiefs of Service Committee (COSC)

The COSC provides military advice to the CDF to assist him in commanding the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and providing military advice to the Government. The COSC is chaired by the CDF.

Strategic Command Group (SCG)

The SCG is the primary advisory forum to support the CDF's role as the commander of the ADF and principal military advisor to Government. The SCG provides the CDF with situational awareness of ADF operations, coordination of the ADF strategic response to critical incidents and allows a secure forum for the CDF to issue direction and guidance.

Top of page

Other Governance Structures

Defence Strategic Advisory Board (DSRAB)

The DSRAB was established by the Minister for Defence to provide external scrutiny of the Strategic Reform Program. The DSRAB enables Defence to draw on the combined insights of senior private-sector leaders with experience in large-scale organisational reform as well as the broader whole-of-government perspectives of secretaries of key government departments. The DSRAB comprises a number of eminent Australians from the private and public sectors and meets quarterly.

The Board's primary function is to provide advice to Government, through the Minister for Defence, on implementation of the SRP, and to assist in ensuring that the reforms are being implemented in the way intended by Government.

Internal auditing

Audit Branch provides assurance to the Secretary, CDF, and to a lesser extent, to the Chief Executive Officer for the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), that financial and operational controls designed to manage Defence's major risks are in place and are operating in an efficient and effective manner. Audit Branch also assists Defence senior managers and the DMO Executive in improving the business performance of their organisations.

Chief of the Defence Force Commissions of Inquiry (CDF COI)

The CDF appoints a COI primarily to inquire into deaths of ADF members that appear to have arisen out of, or in the course of, their service. The CDF may also appoint a COI into any other matter concerning the Defence Force, although this would only occur for the most serious or complex matters. COIs are intended to provide the CDF with accurate information as a basis for internal decision-making.

Top of page

Risk Management

Risk management is an essential element in the framework of good governance in Defence. In early 2012, a new enterprise risk system was implemented to ensure that Defence is systemically anticipating and managing material risks that threaten the whole of the Defence Organisation. This approach is also intended to foster a culture of cross-functional communication across Group and Service boundaries.

Each enterprise risk is assigned to a Defence Committee member who acts as the risk steward for that risk. The risk steward is expected to manage the risk and ensure that critical controls for each risk are identified, actively monitored and that their status is reported to the Defence Committee.

The Defence Committee has now identified seven key enterprise risks and has begun the process of identifying the main risk controls. This process will continue throughout 2012-13.

In addition to material enterprise risks, each Group and Services manages risks specific to the achievement of their assigned objectives. They continue to manage these risks utilising a tailored approach that best reflects the unique context in which each operates.

Top of page

Defence Public Interest Disclosure Scheme

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) commences on 15 January 2014. As the 'Principal Officer' in Defence, the Secretary has delegated all powers and functions under the PID Act to the Inspector General Defence (IGD). The IGD is responsible for managing and operating the Defence Public Interest Disclosure Scheme (the Scheme).

The Scheme will enable 'public officials', including all current and former Defence personnel (military, APS, contractors) and members of the public accepted under the PID Scheme, to disclose information about suspected wrongdoing or maladministration within Defence. Consistent with the PID Act, the purpose of the Scheme is to provide a policy framework:

Top of page

Defence values

Our employees conduct their duties in accordance with the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct and the Australian Public Service Values. These are the foundation for our work and govern the way we relate to our stakeholders and to each other.

Without diminishing the existing single-Service and Australian Public Service (APS) values, or their use, specific Defence values have been established to provide a common and unifying thread for all people working in Defence. These values are:

striving for excellence

commitment to each other and Defence, in serving the Government of the day

doing what is right

moral and physical strength

striving for better ways of doing business

working together with respect, trust and a sense of collective purpose.

The APS Code of Conduct and APS Values are available on the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) website.

Top of page

This page may contain links to legacy documents which may be in formats other than HTML. If you experience any difficulties accessing this information, then please contact us using this form.