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Chapter 1 - Reviews by the Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force

Acting Secretary’s review

Brendan Sargeant, Associate Secretary of the Department of Defence and Acting Secretary from 13 May to 4 September 2017.
Brendan Sargeant, Associate Secretary of the Department of Defence and Acting Secretary from 13 May to 4 September 2017.

This past year has seen our talented and hardworking Australian Public Service (APS) workforce deliver excellent results against the three purposes set out in the 2016–17 Defence Corporate Plan. These results were achieved through a One Defence approach—working with our Australian Defence Force (ADF) colleagues to deliver Defence and ADF capability.

We developed and provided policy advice to support ADF operations and Defence’s international activities. We worked with other government organisations and our international partners to develop Defence’s international relationships and implement the Defence Cooperation Program. The Defence intelligence agencies continued to produce innovative and integrated products to support military operations and advice to Government.

We delivered an agreed two-year integrated Defence White Paper implementation strategy that ensures the alignment between strategy and capability with appropriate resources.

We achieved alignment of a renewed Strategy Framework with the Government’s White Paper strategic direction, including release of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan, the classified Defence Planning Guidance, the Chief of the Defence Force Preparedness Directive and the Defence International Engagement Policy.

The Centre for Defence Industry Capability and the Defence Innovation Hub were launched in December 2016 to ensure Defence has the necessary relationships with national, regional and global allies and partners to deliver and sustain the required capability for the current force and the future force, as described in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

Implementation commenced on the $730 million Next Generation Technologies Fund outlined in the 2016 Defence White Paper, with an initial $16.3 million disbursed on various programs. The first of these was the Grand Challenges program, which called for solutions to counter improvised threats. A very strong response from industry and academia resulted in 215 proposals, now under consideration.

We completed the second year of the First Principles Review implementation, which saw Defence transform its organisational structures, business model and major business processes. The establishment of Defence’s new strategic centre has strengthened Defence’s ability to provide high-quality and timely policy advice to Government on Defence strategy, capability and resourcing.

The First Principles Review continues to drive major reform across Defence. We will continue to develop and pursue the reform agenda started by the First Principles Review to embed the reform as business as usual, but also embed the culture change necessary to sustain the reform.

Notable achievements flowing from the implementation of the First Principles Review include the following:

  • The Smart Buyer process was successfully embedded into business-as-usual processes for Defence procurement projects that need second pass approval to proceed.
  • Substantial progress was made in delivering the Integrated Investment Program and a total of 74 capability- related submissions were agreed by Government.
  • The Contestability Division was established to strengthen policy development and risk management associated with major capability and investment decisions.
  • The Defence Estate Strategy 2016–2036 was developed and released in May 2017 to provide the framework to achieve a strategically aligned, affordable, safe and sustainable estate that enables Defence capability and operations.
  • The Defence Service Delivery Framework was launched in February 2017 and provides a roadmap to simplify customer access channels, integrate service delivery and improve the customer experience.
  • The preparation of the Defence ICT Strategic Direction 2016–2020 reflected the need to manage the increased demands on ICT across Defence, the growing focus on information as a resource, the evolving technology landscape and changes in the way ICT services are delivered.
  • The Defence Strategic Workforce Plan 2016–2026 was completed. The year also saw the following:
  • Mr John Coles’ report, Study into the Business of Sustaining Australia’s Strategic Collins Class Submarine Capability: Beyond Benchmark, noted a remarkable improvement in the sustainment of the Collins class submarine, which might now be considered an ‘exemplar project’.
  • In September 2016, the Commonwealth and Naval Group signed the design and mobilisation contract marking the start of the Future Submarine program.
  • The SEA 5000 Phase 1 Future Frigate program request for tender was issued on schedule on 31 March 2017. This is Defence’s second largest ever acquisition project.
  • Australia’s first two F-35A Joint Strike Fighters made their first public appearance in Australia at the 2017 Australian International Airshow.
  • The final aircraft of 24 Seahawk Romeo helicopters was accepted. This project was delivered ahead of schedule and under budget.

Defence’s commitment to cultural reform was a major priority. All the recommendations from Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture 2012–2017 are now complete. Our next phase of cultural reform is under development and has been informed by Defence-wide conversations conducted during 2016.

Workforce diversity increased over the reporting period. The representation of women in the APS workforce is now 41.8 per cent, representation of Indigenous APS staff increased from 1.8 per cent to 2 per cent, and the representation of APS staff who identify as culturally and linguistically diverse has remained steady at 32.4 per cent. Representation of APS employees who identify as a person with disability increased from 3.5 per cent to 3.7 per cent.

Defence is taking practical steps to reduce barriers that people with disability face in the workplace.

The Dandelion@Defence Program, a joint Defence initiative with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Danish company Specialisterne, harnesses the talents and develops the skills of a highly capable and diverse, yet previously overlooked, segment of the Australian workforce—people on the autism spectrum. Through the program, nine people commenced as cyber security analysts with Defence in September 2016 and have quickly made some very impressive progress with their allocated work.

The Defence Administrative Assistance Program, in partnership with local Australian Disability Enterprises, is delivering employment opportunities for people with intellectual disability. These partnerships, established in eight Defence locations across Australia, are employing almost 100 people who provide a range of valuable administrative and customer service support functions. The program provides participants with the chance to be part of an inclusive organisation and also enables them to develop the skills and confidence to pursue further opportunities in the wider community.

We worked with APS employees and their representatives on a new Defence Enterprise Agreement, which was endorsed by a majority of employees in June 2017.

Other notable achievements for 2016–17 include:

  • Defence scientists provided urgent modelling of smoke dispersal in response to a fire at the Al-Shura plant near Mosul in Iraq. Provided on a daily basis, the modelling was critical in the development of essential force protection measures for Australian and allied forces around the vicinity of the fire.
  • The Chief Finance Officer Group achieved a major milestone in providing the organisation with one source of financial truth by incorporating all key financial budget and actual data into the SAP corporate financial systems.
  • Defence established an innovative partnership with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy to protect the flora and fauna of Yampi Sound Training Area in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. The Defence – Australian Wildlife Conservancy partnership will ensure the continued protection of threatened flora and fauna on this Defence property.

I would like to thank Dennis Richardson, who retired as Secretary of Defence on 12 May 2017 after five decades of committed public service. He was a champion of and for the Australian Public Service, both in and beyond Defence. He helped steer Defence through a time of major change. His work has positioned Defence well to take on the challenges of 2017–18 and beyond.

My thanks to all Defence people for the professionalism, commitment and dedication they bring to the work of Defence.

Brendan Sargeant
Acting Secretary

Chief of the Defence Force’s review

Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC, Chief of the Defence Force.
Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC, Chief of the Defence Force.

Over the past 12 months, the men and women of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) have again demonstrated their skill, professionalism and agility across a variety of operations. Successive rotations to Operation Okra have made an outstanding contribution to the fight against Daesh. The combined Australian-New Zealand Task Group Taji trained around 17,500 Iraqi personnel, while our advise and assist mission and the Air Task Group enabled Iraqi ground forces to destroy Daesh’s combat capability and recapture the cities of Fallujah and Mosul.

In Afghanistan, Australia remains one of the largest non-NATO contributors. Our focus is on developing high-quality leaders with the skills necessary to command well. The Afghan National Army Officer Academy outside Kabul is an integral part of the future Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Around 2,000 Afghan Army officers have completed military training at the academy since it was established in 2013. The ADF trainers and advisers who work with the Afghans are held in the highest regard by their students and their peers alike. That rapport and the ongoing success of our training mission was the foundation for our decision to increase our contribution in Afghanistan with an additional 30 personnel. As part of the international community, we recognise the importance of our continued assistance and remain committed to supporting long-term security and stability for the people of Afghanistan.

We have sustained this significant contribution to concurrent operations in the Middle East alongside deployments in South Sudan, the Sinai, the Golan Heights, and in support of border protection and regional surveillance operations. We have maintained these commitments while growing our contribution to regional counterterrorism efforts. In June 2017, an AP-3C Orion detachment deployed to the Philippines to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their fight against terrorism following attacks by Daesh-inspired groups in Marawi City, north-west Mindanao.

One of the ADF’s most significant operations over the past year was in response to a crisis here at home. In March 2017, severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie caused widespread damage to the Whitsunday Islands, Bowen, Proserpine and Mackay regions. The resultant rainfall caused major flooding across an area from Rockhampton through to Lismore. In the days prior, the ADF pre-positioned key assets that enabled us to provide immediate assistance to local communities within the storm zone.

Joint Task Force 661 quickly deployed air, maritime and land forces along with 1,600 ADF personnel under Operation Queensland Assist 2017. The ADF’s rapid deployment was an essential feature of the overall emergency response, particularly to remote and isolated communities. In cooperation with federal, state and local authorities and volunteers, the ADF quickly completed damage assessments; provided essential food, water and supplies; transported medical personnel; and assisted in the extensive clean-up and remediation of critical infrastructure.

Our ability to work with other agencies was evident throughout the year. While continuing to secure our borders to the north, the ADF also assisted the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force to bring a number of joint counter-narcotic operations off the Australian coast to successful conclusions. Using the same skills as our Boarding parties in the Middle East, ADF personnel in Royal Australian Navy ships Newcastle, Adelaide and Bathurst intercepted shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine with a combined street value of $426 million, including the largest ever cocaine haul that prevented 1.4 tonnes of cocaine hitting our streets.

Sadly, we were also reminded of the risks we face on a daily basis as members of the ADF, and the need to look out for each other. That duty of care extends to include our ongoing efforts to confront and eliminate abusive behaviour. The courage shown by the survivors of abuse and their families has been one of the most powerful catalysts for change and our cooperation with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse further demonstrates our commitment to provide a respectful and inclusive workplace.

As the Centenary of Anzac continues, we remembered the 100th anniversary of some of our bloodiest battles on the Western Front, leading the French National Day Parade along the Champs-Elysées. We marked 75 years since World War II encroached into the Pacific; and commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.

Regardless of the activity or mission, our people have done an excellent job, doing exactly what Government has asked us to do. I remain proud of our people; whether in combat or supporting Australian communities in need of assistance, the Australian Defence Force continues to demonstrate the highest levels of dedication, expertise, and compassion.

Mark Binskin AC
Chief of the Defence Force

Figure 1.1: ADF operations during 2016-17

Figure 1.1: ADF operations during 2016-17