2018 was a busy year in the Joint projects space and particularly so for the recently-formed Joint Capabilities Group.

The Group has recently completed a comprehensive review of Joint projects which have now been aligned under the Divisions within the organisation in order to harness important synergies in their management.

Under the current Chief Joint Capabilities (CJC) Air Vice Marshal Warren McDonald, Joint Capabilities Group was formed in July 2017 as a consequence of the formation of Australian Defence Force Headquarters (ADFHQ), itself a result of the First Principles Review.

The Group is tasked with the provision of Joint Health, Logistics, Education and Training, Information Warfare, Joint Military Police, and Women, Peace and Security, plus the management of other agreed Joint projects and their associated sustainment. Entities within the Group include the Australian Defence College, Information Warfare Division, Joint Military Police Unit, Joint Health Command and Joint Logistics Command.

“It’s been a busy and productive year for projects in the Group, as we have assembled the project requirements of all our branches together,” AVM McDonald said to ADM. “We’ve made some significant changes as we looked at where it made sense to place the management of projects under one division.”

A good example of this is Defence’s Joint Project 2060 Phase 4 (Health Knowledge Management), which has been moved from Joint Health Command into the Information Warfare Division.

“It is an ICT-based program which Joint Health Command, given their professionalism resides in medical and dental care, it wasn’t the logical place to manage such a project,” he explained. “It needed the constructs that underpin major projects, so that was the reason we brought it in under the Information Warfare Division.”

A counterpoint to this is the Defence Fuel Transformation Program, which will remain under the auspices of Joint Logistics Command due to the logical argument that JLC has already done a lot of work on the project and well-understands the requirements.

“JLC is well-placed to run that program and has demonstrated so with how smoothly the project went through to Government for approval,” AVM McDonald added.

Case Studies – JP2060 Phase 4
Defence’s JP2060 /4 Health Knowledge Management system will replace the system currently in place, which has not performed to expectations and was the subject of Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) scrutiny. One major shortcoming is that it cannot be used on naval assets as it cannot operate in a disconnected state. Consequently, Navy has been forced to retain paper-based medical records while at sea which, AVM McDonald said, is wholly unsatisfactory.

“The current system software is becoming redundant. The company supporting it is working with Defence to maintain the software for as long as they can, but it will reach the point where they can no longer do so. Therefore, we have to change to a more modern system that is sustainable into the future,” he explained.

“The desired outcome is for the system that we purchase to leverage off pre-existing or close to existing systems. This way we should achieve better value for money for the Australian taxpayer. There are at least five competitors in the market, so there is good competition. Government will shortly make a decision about taking it to market.”

The project is divided into three stages, with Stage 1 aimed at replacing the current system, and Stage 2 adding the capability for the system to work in disconnected circumstances, such as aboard Navy’s ships. The next increment, Stage 3, has been paused due to a lack of maturity in both the organisation itself and the systems currently available to allow all elements of a health system, such as health monitoring equipment, to be connected together. This final phase will lag the other two by around 12 months and is expected to occur in the 2023 timeframe.

“We have to wait for Stage 3 technology to mature and that’s the reason we are keen for the market to sagely inform us on Stage 3, because we don’t want to be in a space where we’re leading with the technology, we want to be in a space where we’re in close trail, it’s not worth the risk and cost,” AVM McDonald added.

Defence Fuel Transformation Program
Valued at $127 million, Tranche 1 of the Defence Fuel Transformation Program was announced by Defence Minister Christopher Pyne on September 14, who noted that its goal was to deliver a ‘safer, simpler and more assured’ fuel network in partnership with industry.

Overall, the multi-stage program is valued at $1.1 billion over the next 30 years.

Tranche 1 of the Defence Fuel Transformation Program will be delivered over a three-year period and is primarily focussed on Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) risk-reduction activities, but it will also work towards improving the resiliency of the fuel network.

“Our aim was to break it down into tranches, so we can continue to adopt best commercial practice and provide clarity to Government on our evolving needs, because things can change quickly, and we don’t want to import risk where we don’t need to,” AVM McDonald said.

“The initial three-year tranche plan, followed by subsequent tranches of five years, gives us the opportunity to undertake packages of work to meet current needs and reduce network risk.”

Although public perception may be that Defence is a major user of fuel, AVM McDonald said that it is responsible for only three per cent of the total amount of aviation fuel used in Australia each year and about 0.54 per cent of distillate, with total fuel usage around only one per cent of the nation’s total. But he says it is network surety that is the major driver of the transformation program.

“In the past we have been criticised for appearing to pay more than the market rate for our fuel, but what is missed is the fact that we need to pay for surety,” he explained. “If you want to have surety of a product, you generally pay a higher price to secure it.”
Tranche 2 of the program is currently being determined but is intended to slightly overlap the initial package.

ISR integration
JP2096 Phase 1 is Defence’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Integration program, which aims to provide infrastructure, improved search and functionality for ISR data.

“What we currently have is a lot of stovepipe systems with ISR data in them and what we are currently building is an application which will sit over the top and mine those databases,” AVM McDonald said. “This integration of data sources will facilitate analysts to be significantly more productive.”

A proposal is expected to be placed before Government before the end of 2018 and the initial tranche is expected to deliver by 2020. Tranche 2 will oversee a similar capability for deployed networks by 2022 and Tranche 3 will cover other government agencies in the 2023 timeframe.

AVM McDonald said that industry was invited to demonstrate what their solutions could do through a challenging Preview Test and Evaluation activity.

“It sounds like common sense, but it hasn’t necessarily been done in the past and one company responded exceptionally,” he said.

Defensive Cyber Operations in the deployed environment
Joint Project 9131 Phase 1 seeks to deliver mission systems, training systems, support infrastructure and capability to facilitate the exchange of data between Defence’s strategic and tactical elements.

The project received First Pass approval in September and is scheduled for Second Pass in late 2019. It will include a networked cyber range, support infrastructure and a facility to house the new Joint Cyber Unit.

“This project is all about our ability to defend our deployed environment. The thing I’ve learned with regards to cyber and the deployed environment is that it’s a human endeavour. The cost of these projects is actually in the human capital, because you have to employ smart, agile and capable people,” AVM McDonald explained to ADM.

Multi-national Information Systems
The final case study concerns JP2221 – Multinational Information Systems, which will provide networks capable of hosting coalition and partners and allies. Tranche 1 is a ‘Five Eyes’ mission partner environment which was developed and fielded in 11 months to support the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) conference in Port Moresby.

“As we move further forward into software defined systems and applications, Defence may need uniformed personnel with the ability to develop and field, where it makes sense, its own software and applications. Such a capability, coupled with industry players who understand the requirements and are sufficiently agile, may not only improve the speed of delivery but would improve security. Knowing how it was developed and who developed it has advantages,” AVM McDonald said.

“There is the potential for an excellent partnership between Defence and industry here, because we find that some companies are very good at this, they understand it and consequently help us develop solutions quickly. Increasingly, there are discussions about a Defence-led, industry-enabled partnership that develops specific software and applications - in my view, that’s the perfect mix. But to deliver it, you need to understand it and to understand it, you need to invest in your people.”

The next 12 months will see the majority of these projects either progress to the delivery phase, or return to Government for milestone decisions, so 2019 is shaping up to be another busy year for Joint Capabilities Group.

This article first appeared in the December/January 2018-19 edition of ADM. 

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