• Credit: Defence
    Credit: Defence

At the end of 2017 I reflected that “There were 74 approvals in financial year 2016-17 and 61 as of Dec 8 in financial year 2017-18. These numbers include First Pass, Second Pass, Other Pass, early access to IIP provisions, and updates to Government/non-project capability related proposals. The numbers also include both Cabinet and Ministerial decisions. This far outstrips the previous record of 46 achieved in 2011-2012 under the old Defence Capability Plan framework that did not include ICT or Defence infrastructure programs.”

2020 is looking a bit slimmer when it comes to approvals working their way through the system, judging by the table below. In fact, 2020 is nowhere near the highs of only a few years ago.

Credit: Defence
Credit: Defence

From 74 down to 15, the number of projects passing through Defence through to government for the next phase of development, the sausage factory has slowed considerably. This 79 per cent drop in less than three years will not address the forward program of projects that Defence has on the horizon. Once again, Defence’s biggest trouble is spending the money fast enough and industry’s ability to deliver.

Both Defence Ministers in Reynolds and Price have refocused their efforts on reform in the latter half of 2020. From the CDIC and AIC reviews to Minister Price’s Five Pillars approach announced last month, reform is very much back on the agenda for Defence as an organisation. CASG’s First Assistant Secretary Australian Industry Capability Martin Halloran gave an excellent explanation last week at the first virtual D+I as to how he and his team are approaching AIC. Footage from this will be available from the Defence website soon.

The upcoming review into the ASDEFCON contracting suite review is also underway within CASG, aiming to reduce the red tape. A welcome announcement indeed given the visible shudders in industry when the term is mentioned. Or perhaps it is more to do with the choice of template in any given context. ASDEFCON is not in itself a bad thing but its application has been found wanting in many situations.

If the Government is firm on its commitment to delivering the outcomes announced in July’s Force Structure Review and Defence Strategic Update, they themselves must set the pace seen by former Defence Minister Christopher Pyne in getting approvals through at the highest levels; an achievable aim across the Budget’s Forward Estimates but not without its challenges.

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