Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite has warned technology companies the days of cost overruns and going to cabinet for additional funding for Defence IT projects are past.
The Minister said the government had much to do and it was deeply committed to getting Defence ICT and cyber back on track.
He told the annual MilCIS conference in Canberra the government relied on industry expertise, ingenuity and innovation as well as software, hardware and project management skills to help deliver capability to the ADF.
“I have got to say we accept those partnerships to deliver outcomes that Defence contract you to deliver and are value for money to taxpayers,” he said.
“We have had some problems in the partnerships with industry in delivering some of that program.
“We are taking a new approach. We are aiming to ensure that such partnerships are delivered more efficiently and effectively. The days of cost overruns and going back to cabinet for more money for programs are over. It won’t happen anymore.”
“We know that in return you expect more from Defence. We know that,” he said.
He said industry indicated at roundtables In Melbourne last week that it expected greater clarity from Defence about upcoming projects and the pipeline of opportunities, more realistic timeframes and goals and better Defence planning and oversight.
Defence Chief Information Officer for Defence Digital Group Chris Crozier outlined the broad ranging reforms planned under Defence Digital which replaced the Chief Information Officer Group from November 1.
“I am working to change the entire paradigm in which the Defence Digital Group operates,” he said.
“We are changing substantially and rapidly. We need a completely different organisation for the context in which we live today.”
With a background in industry including BHP, Crozier said he thought he’d be coming into an organisation with leading edge technology but sadly that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“We need to start bringing that (technology) aboard,” he said.
“To fight and win in the digital age, Defence Digital Group will need to find the best-in-class global platforms with the best in class sovereign capabilities at the speed and scale to meet the threats posed by our adversaries.”
Crozier said the emphasis was on support to warfighters, with two new divisions in the Digital Group focusing on warfighting on ICT capability and warfighting ICT delivery.
As well, procurement needed to be much faster.
“Having a process which takes three years from commencement to completion is two Moore’s (Law) cycles and you are already working on technology that is rusted before you have even installed it,” he said.
Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles about every two years. This is most commonly used to indicate the speed of computer development.
Matt Yannopolous, Defence Department Associate Secretary, said the government had specifically directed Defence to take more risks in procurement and contracting.
The only place where risk appetite remained unchanged was safety of personnel, he said.
“We have no risk appetite when it comes to risk of harm to our people.”
Yannopolous said challenges remained,
“Why do things have to take so long. Why do we spend a year, two years writing paperwork before we have delivered even a prototype,” he said.
“Government has been clear with us. If you know who the winner is, do not run a process for years to get to that answer. Force a senior person in the department to make a decision.”
Yannopolous said there were those who believed they were mitigating risk by introducing more process.
“The risk is a need to mitigate national security for the nation and more capability for the ADF,” he said.