Julian Kerr | Canberra
It was standing room only at the 14th ADM Congress in Canberra on 7 February, where almost 500 participants were treated to uniformly upbeat messages from Ministers and a range of Defence and industry luminaries.
Defence Minister Marise Payne was confident that the US-Australia relationship from a Defence-to-Defence perspective would continue to increase in depth and breadth as had been the case over the past 65 years, whatever party was in power on either side of the Pacific.
Newly-appointed US Defence Secretary James Mattis was “a close friend of Australia”, the Minister said. More than 600 permanent Australian Defence personnel, scientists and engineers were spread across 31 US states and the District of Columbia, and senior US military roles held by embedded Australians included those of Deputy Commanding General US Army Pacific; Deputy Director Strategic Plans and Policy at US Pacific Command, and Deputy Director of Operations at Central Command.
Australian forces could be expected to remain in Iraq “for a while longer”, the Minister stated.
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne stressed the importance of directing as much as possible of the $195 billion defence capital investment program to Australian industry.
“It doesn’t mean that every contract will be awarded in Australia but rather than starting from the point where we think Australian industry can’t do what can be done in France, Germany, the US and UK, we’re going to start with finding out what can be done here.
“And if we’re just below the capability that we need, ascertain how we can build up defence industry so we can do in Australia what we’ve previously brought from overseas.”
Pyne said a decision would be reached “sooner than people expect” on the successful contender for the Sea 5000 Future Frigate program and the associated combat system integrator, but gave no other details.
Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin disclosed that standing up a federated model ADF Headquarters (ADFHQ) would begin in mid-year. This would integrate the three Service HQ and command elements from the Vice Chief of the Defence Force Group.
The new ADFHQ would establish a Chief of Joint Capabilities responsible for all military enabling functions. The new command arrangements would also introduce a more consolidated, comprehensive approach to developing, preparing and sustaining capabilities for military intelligence and targeting, cyber and information operations, electronic warfare and space.
Explaining a new Business Development Framework launched within the Capability and Sustainment Group (CASG) late last year, Group head Kim Gillis said CASG’s business would be managed using a balanced matrix similar to the structure used by large companies.
The “what and when” would be by the domains through the SPO (Systems Programs Office) structure, all of which were being reviewed to ensure the right staff, skills and contractual structure.
The “who and how” would be delivered by six Centres of Excellence (CoE). All CASG personnel would belong to a CoE which would manage each individual’s career by providing planning, career progression, and policies and procedures to support them to do their job.
“Over time you will find us easier to deal with, more consistent in our approach and responses, and the cost of doing business with us should be reduced," Gillis said.
Noting that some Defence challenges were sufficiently complex to defy conventional solutions, Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky said such work was characterised as Grand Challenges that could only be addressed by an intensive, cross-disciplinary, multi-party collaborative national effort across organisational boundaries.
Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) would therefore be incorporating a Grand Challenges program into the Next Generation Technologies Fund. This would involve strategic investments in a limited number of R&D projects of national significance to Australia.
The first Grand Challenge would centre on the theme of countering improvised threats, recognising the reality that improvised weapons were no longer limited to explosive devices.
Ben Hudson, CEO of Rheinmetall Defence’s Vehicle Systems Division, pointed out that while Australia was the eighth largest global importer of military equipment, it was not among the top 15 exporters of such equipment.
It was essential that future defence projects aimed not just to ‘build to print’ an offshore design, but that Australia was either developing new technologies and products with global appeal, or was requiring the transfer of technology and intellectual property to ensure the long-term development and sustainment of the domestic defence industry.
Glynn Phillips, Chief Executive of BAE Systems Australia, highlighted the challenge of Disruptive Technology, stating that technological innovation in Defence should continue to be the national priority.
“If we don’t prioritise it, Australia risks becoming a nation that is lagging in capability – behind the nations, groups or individuals that pose a security threat. And we will be exposed to higher costs by having to import technology”.
For Andrew Davies, Director of ASPI’s Defence and Strategy Program, the anticipated $195 billion spend on capital investment over the next 10 years came with its own challenges – the propensity of governments to raid the Defence budget during an economic downturn or even return to surplus earlier in the case of a looming election, and the ability of Defence and Defence Industry to absorb such a large sum over a decade when rushing projects invariably created problems.
ADM Editor Katherine Ziesing also announced that the Essington Lewis Awards will be making a return this year. Formerly known as the ADM/DMO Awards for Excellence, the new streamlined awards will be presented at a gala dinner the night before the Defence and Industry conference in Canberra on June 14. The awards will focus on collaboration and innovation in Defence projects between CASG and Defence Industry.
Details of the awards will be available on the ADM website shortly.
The Navy's Amphibious Heavy Lift ship HMAS Choules has been despatched to Queensland from Sydney yesterday as Tropical Cyclone Debbie bears down on Queensland while reports emerge of problems with the LHD azipod propulsion systems.