In his interview with ADM Senior Correspondent Julian Kerr in the From the Source section of this issue, Deputy Secretary of CASG Chris Deeble sets out the challenges he faces in reforming the organisation.
Turning around what has become a process-bound juggernaut that moves at glacial speed will be no easy task.
Pointing to the rapidly evolving threats facing our region, Deeble calls for a more agile procurement organisation which can deliver ‘speed to capability’ – the ability to bring the right capability into service and deliver it into the hands of the ADF without undue delay.
Dubbing the post-reform organisation ‘CASG 2.0’, Deeble says he wants to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in the time it takes to go to market for capability.
Coupled with this, he argues that acquisition programs should deliver ‘minimum viable capability’ – by this he means capability that is immediately fit for purpose and able to be introduced into service quickly. The days of pursuing gold standard specifications are, it seems, now over.
The CASG reforms follow on from the recent Defence Strategic Review (DSR) which, as I’ve written before, calls for many of the same changes to capability acquisition. In the section dealing with acquisition, the DSR states that where a capability is readily available the emphasis should be on getting it into service without delay whilst achieving value for money.
“Defence must, where possible, acquire more platforms and capabilities via sole source or off-the-shelf procurement, and limit or eliminate design changes and modifications. When subsequent design changes or enhancements to capabilities are proposed, we recommend these be independently tested by sceptical and trusted advisers,” it continues.
Statements such as these have led to many arguing it is in effect a green light to acquire as much as possible through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process.
A CASG reform program that wants to cut the time taken to acquire capability in half would seem to support these fears. Staff within the organisation can conceivably achieve their established goals simply by reaching for the FMS catalogue.
The question local defence industry is asking is, quite rightly, where it leaves them in the process and how businesses can be persuaded to spend their own money to develop home-grown technology. In the past the Defence Innovation Hub process, while well-intentioned, often provided small and medium enterprises with what was effectively a bus ticket down a dead-end street. Businesses were awarded funding to develop technologies that didn’t translate to capability.
Now the question might be, will the government’s much-vaunted Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA) program be any different, given the pressure on the acquisition process to deliver reductions?
Australian defence SMEs have earned an enviable reputation for innovation, and I hope this can be better fostered under CASG 2.0. It would be a tragedy if our local industry were to be swept overboard as the Titanic turns.
Finally, after saying farewell to members of a small team here at ADM over the last couple of issues, I’m happy to be able to introduce some new faces to you this month.
Firstly, Mark McConkey has joined us as the Guide Coordinator for our Defence Industry Guide, the 59th edition of which is being finalised as I write these words.
Secondly, Keira Joyce is our new Assistant Editor – Digital, responsible for all of ADM’s online content. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming them both aboard.