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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.


The primary role of Defence is to defend Australia against armed attack.
Australia's defence policy is founded on the principle of self-reliance in the direct defence of Australia, but with a capacity to do more where there are shared interests with partners and allies.

Strategic direction

The Defence White Paper was released on 25 February 2016 together with an Integrated Investment Program and Defence Industry Policy Statement.

Defence White Papers are the Government's most important guidance about Australia's long-term defence capability. They provide an opportunity for the Government and community to understand the opportunities and challenges for Australia's future defence and security needs.

The White Paper provides a strategy aligned with capability and resources to deliver a future force that is more capable, agile and potent and ready to respond to future challenges.

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 [PDF 5MB] .

Matters dealt with by the Department

Defence, including:

  • international defence relations and defence co-operation
  • defence scientific research and development
  • defence procurement and purchasing
  • defence industry development and co-operation

Legislation administered by the Minister

  • Air Force Act 1923
  • Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1947
  • Cockatoo and Schnapper Islands Act 1949
  • Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement (Service Personnel) Act 1990
  • Control of Naval Waters Act 1918
  • Defence Act 1903, except to the extent administered by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General and paragraph 124(1)(QBA)
  • Defence Trade Controls Act 2012
  • Defence Force Discipline Act 1982
  • Defence Force (Home Loans Assistance) Act 1990
  • Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973
  • Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Acts
  • Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948
  • Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (Pension Increases) Acts
  • Defence Forces Special Retirement Benefits Act 1960
  • Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme Act 2008
  • Defence Housing Australia Act 1987
  • Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001
  • Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Act 1969
  • Defence (Road Transport Legislation Exemption) Act 2006
  • Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952
  • Explosives Act 1961
  • Geneva Conventions Act 1957, Part IV
  • Intelligence Services Act 2001, insofar as it relates to that part of the Department of Defence known as the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation and the Defence Intelligence Organisation, and the Australian Signals Directorate within the Defence portfolio
  • Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004, Chapter 3, in relation to rehabilitation of serving members of the Australian Defence Force; and
    Chapter 6, in relation to treatment for and injuries and diseases of serving members of the Australian Defence Force
  • Military Superannuation and Benefits Act 1991
  • Naval Defence Act 1910
  • Royal Australian Air Force Veterans' Residences Act 1953
  • Services Trust Funds Act 1947
  • War Gratuity Act 1945
  • War Service Estates Act 1942
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995

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

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 two most significant bodies are:

  • the Department of Defence is a department of state, headed by the Secretary of the Department of Defence; and
  • the Australian Defence Force (ADF), commanded by the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF), consists of the three Services - the Royal Australian Navy, the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force (including Reserves). These Services are commanded by Service Chiefs. Each Service Chief also administers their respective Cadet service, although the Cadet service is not a component of the parent Service.

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

  • a number of statutory offices created by the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 which are independent but reside administratively within Defence. These include the Judge Advocate General, the Chief Judge Advocate, the Director of Military Prosecutions, and the Registrar of Military Justice;
  • the Inspector General of the ADF, an independent statutory office created by the Defence Act 1903, which resides administratively within Defence;
  • the Australian Signals Directorate, a statutory agency created by the Intelligence Services Act 2001, which reports directly to the Minister for Defence; and
Government Crest
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 and reports separately from Defence.

Current Defence Ministers

Defence organisation

Senior leaders

Defence organisational structure chart

Organisational structure

Visit the Defence leaders site to view biographies and high resolution images of key Defence leaders and senior managers.

Groups and Services

Statutory appointments

In this table are the details of appointments of designated agency officers that are made under Acts of Parliament.
Name Appointment Commencement Relevant legislation
Mr Greg Moriarty Secretary of Defence 4 Sep 2017 Section 58 of the Public Service Act 1999
GEN Angus J Campbell, AO, DSC Chief of the Defence Force 7 Jul 2018 Defence Act 1903
VADM David L Johnston, AO, RAN Vice Chief of the Defence Force 7 Jul 2018 Defence Act 1903
VADM Mike J Noonan, AO, RAN Chief of Navy 7 Jul 2018 Defence Act 1903
LTGEN Rick M Burr, AO, DSC, MVO Chief of Army 3 Jul 2018
Defence Act 1903
AIRMSHL Mel EG Hupfeld, AO, DSC Chief of Air Force 4 Jul 2019
Defence Act 1903
BRIG Jennifer A Woodward, CSC Director Military Prosecutions 1 Jul 2015 Defence Force Discipline Act 1982
BRIG Mick Cowen, QC Chief Judge Advocate 22 Sep 2017 Defence Force Discipline Act 1982
GPCAPT Ian S Henderson, AM Registrar of Military Justice 22 Sep 2018 Defence Force Discipline Act 1982
RADM the Hon. Justice Michael J Slattery, AM, RFD, QC, RAN Judge Advocate General 14 May 2015 Defence Force Discipline Act 1982
CDRE the Hon. Justice Jack T Rush, RFD, RAN Deputy Judge Advocate General - Navy 14 May 2015 Defence Force Discipline Act 1982
BRIG His Honour Judge Paul E Smith Deputy Judge Advocate General - Army 10 Mar 2019 Defence Force Discipline Act 1982
AIRCDRE His Honour Judge Gordon B Lerve Deputy Judge Advocate General - Air Force 18 May 2017 Defence Force Discipline Act 1982
Mr James Gaynor Inspector General - Australian Defence Force 1 Dec 2016 Section 110G of the Defence Act 1903
Ms Rachel Noble, PSM Director-General Australian Signals Directorate 27 Jan 2020 Section 27(b) of the Intelligence Services Act 2001

Executive remuneration

On 16 May 2017, the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet contacted all Portfolio Secretaries confirming their recent agreement to provide greater transparency of remuneration for Australian Public Service senior executives and other highly paid officials.

As such, all Commonwealth Entities and Commonwealth Companies have been requested to publish information detailing the scope and value of remuneration for these staff on our respective websites on an annual basis. The following tables reflect remuneration information, from FY17/18, for the Department of Defence.

Updates are in progress to the following reports. FY17/18 reports to be updated on completion.

Corporate governance

The department's corporate governance arrangements are designed to ensure that strategy​, capability and resources are aligned with Government direction to achieve intended results and outcomes. Major elements include:

  • Enterprise Committee Governance;
  • Performance management;
  • Risk management; and
  • Internal auditing.

Enterprise Committee Governance Structure

In response to First Principles Review recommendations, Defence has undertaken a significant body of work to review and restructure the organisation’s senior committees, implementing the Defence Committee approved the Enterprise Committee Governance Structure in December 2018. The new structure and supporting framework has been designed to better recognise the significance of Defence’s deliberations and decisions on strategic policy, intelligence and military operations and the Department’s commitment to Work Health and Safety. It introduces a tiered approach to enterprise committees, with the three-tiered model aiming to take decisions to the lowest level, increase accountability and streamline decision-making.

The operation of the Enterprise Committee Governance Structure is described on the Defence Decisions page.

Performance management

In line with the Enhanced Commonwealth Performance Framework, the Defence enterprise performance management aims to provide a clear line of sight between:

  • Corporate Plan (purpose, activities and intended results);
  • Portfolio Budget Statements (allocation of resources to Programs to achieve Government outcomes and a forecast of expected performance); and
  • Annual Report, which includes:
    • Annual Performance Statements (actual performance results for the financial year against the Corporate Plan and the Portfolio Budget Statements); and
    • Financial Statements (actual financial position for end of financial year against the Portfolio Budget Statements and Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements).

To enable this clear line of sight, the Defence Corporate Plan informs the development of the Portfolio Budget Statements. Further alignment is pursued through internal Defence planning and performance management with Defence groups and ADF Services under enterprise governance mechanisms, which support the operation of the One Defence Business Model.

Internal monitoring and reporting occurs at multiple levels to ensure appropriate management and alignment of resources to achieve intended results. This culminates in enterprise level reporting twice a year for Corporate Plan performance and risk monitoring and an end of financial year performance evaluation, which is reported both internally and externally via the Annual Performance Statements.

Risk management

Risk management is an essential element in Defence’s framework of good governance. Defence maintains a system of risk oversight and management to support its capability to achieve strategic objectives.

Defence’s approach to risk management aims to enable effective communication of risk information, build a positive risk culture and ensure Defence is able to meet its obligations for risk management as required by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy.

Internal auditing

Audit Branch provides independent and objective assurance to the Secretary and CDF, that financial and operational controls designed to manage the organisation's key risks and achieve Defence objectives are operating in an efficient, effective, economical and ethical manner. The Branch also assists Defence senior managers in accomplishing outcomes through the evaluation and improvement of Defence the business performance.

Defence Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Scheme

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) provides all current and former public officials with a protected way to speak up about wrongdoing or maladministration in the Commonwealth public sector. In accordance with this requirement, Defence has implemented the Defence PID Scheme which replaces the former Defence Whistleblower Scheme (DWS).

Our Values


The selflessness of character to place the security and interests of our nation and its people ahead of my own.


The strength of character to say and do the right thing, always, especially in the face of adversity.


The humanity of character to value others and treat them with dignity.


The consistency of character to align my thoughts, words and actions to do what is right.


The willingness of character to strive each day to be the best I can be, both professionally and personally.

Our Behaviours

To live Our Values I will:

Act with purpose for Defence and the nation.

Be adaptable, innovative and agile.

Collaborate and be team-focused.

Be accountable and trustworthy.

Reflect, learn and improve.

Be inclusive and value others.

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