Katherine Ziesing | Canberra
According to a report from the Australian National Audit office, the Army “established a framework for the strategic management of its workforce, but has not been effective in addressing persistent personnel shortfalls in some key specialist employment categories or aligning its establishment with government funding”.
The report takes a look at Army recruitment, workforce planning and organisational structure over the last decade in light of government funding levels and operational tempo. While Army has done well in many areas (the latest analysis indicates that 61 out of 99 Army employment categories are healthy, 15 are marginally unhealthy, 21 are unhealthy, and two are extremely unhealthy), there is room for improvement.
“Army has 10 categories that have either serious or critical workforce issues and require direct management attention.
“The ANAO’s review of two critical and two serious categories indicates that they exhibit a number of common features, including longstanding personnel shortfalls and ineffective review processes.
“Remediation plans for two of the selected categories were put in place following interventions by the Chief of Army and the affected Regiment. Army should also consider interventions for the other serious and critical categories, and review the application of standard career and posting processes to its specialist personnel.”
Perhaps the most telling part of the report is that Army has consistently failed since 2009 to get their organisation structure more efficient with less people, as funded by government.
“In the last 15 years, Army has created some 500 to 1,500 establishment positions over and above the agreed resourcing from Government. Army attributes the fluctuation in numbers, in most cases, to the growth in demand created by major new initiatives such as Enhanced Land Force (2003) and the Hardened and Networked Army (2004).
“Army has made repeated attempts since 2009 to align its establishment with its Average Funded Strength, but these attempts have stalled or failed. Where establishment reductions have been made, these are overshadowed by actual establishment growth associated with force structure changes such as Plan Beersheba (which established 1,040 positions)11 and other force structure changes (which established 435 positions). These initiatives did not include offsets.”
Army also reported to the ANAO that initial analysis of the implications of the Force Structure Review and the First Principles Review is that by 2020 the Army’s establishment could be as much as 1,800–2,000 positions over entitlement.
In essence, Army is only funded because they are hollow in some areas, allowing Defence to meet budgeting. Should Army fulfil all recruitment and establishment positions, the current organisational structure would be unaffordable.
Chief of Army advised the ANAO in December 2016 that he has directed Army to align its establishment to government guidance by January 2019. During the implementation of this plan, the Army will rebalance its current workforce to meet directed capability within allocated resources, as directed by the Government, [the 2016 Defence White Paper] and associated guidance. It must also be noted here that since 2009, of the 457 positions to be civilianised, only 270 have been.
Army is taking steps to update their people planning by developing a second Army Strategic Workforce Plan in the first half of 2017.
ADM Comment: Does this mean that Plan Beersheba is dead in the water? Army has already pulled back a significant number of uniformed people from non-Service Groups. The ANAO report also cites a number of categories that can be handled by centralised services or civilianised moving forward.
In conclusion, the ANAO made two recommendations that Army has agreed with:
1. Develop targeted action plans and progress reviews which are conducted in a timely manner, with appropriate deadlines and monitoring, for serious and critical employment categories; and
2. Review the application of standard career and posting processes to its specialist personnel.
Once can only hope that the new Army Strategic Workforce Plan due out later this year will address the structural issues affecting Army.