For the first time, MilCIS has gone virtual this year. Chief Information Officer Steve Pearson gave his annual update to industry as a keynote, thanking his industry partners for their work this year, in particular during the COVID-19 period which has seen the organisation face many challenges.
Pearson pointed out that the Defence organisation usually had about 2,000 people working from home at any one time throughout the country. This peaked at 18,000 people this year. This was only possible thanks to the introduction of virtual environment for remote access (VERA), a program that was brought forward to in response to the 2020 environment.
“VERA is our protected-level digital collaboration capability, which uses Microsoft Office 365 applications to enable secure interaction across Defence,” he said.
Pearson also said that the unified communications component of the Defence terrestrial communications network (DTCN) will also improve collaboration tools on the fixed network. This program is currently several years behind schedule and was recently evaluated as requiring urgent action to address major risks.
“The Department of Defence is unconvinced its long-running fixed telecommunications network replacement project with Telstra will be a success without urgent action, despite pouring more than $1.8 billion into the overhaul over the last seven years,” according to a report in ITNews in August this year.
Details on the progression on Defence Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) were sparse with Pearson noting the program was progressing well. In response to a question, it was confirmed that “ERP phase 1.A successfully went live in July which provided much improved cost-centre management reporting. Release 1.B is on track for go-live mid 2022. We are planning to return to government for approval of pass 3 in mid-2021.”
He confirmed that SME engagement is at the front of his mind but that the value for money proposition when it comes to spending Australian tax payer dollars has not been forgotten.
Pearson also announced that the Defence Cyber Plan will be released in the first half of next year.
“Defence's cyber plan is very much aligned to the whole-of-government cyber security strategy,” a statement on the Q&A tool confirmed. “Obviously, Defence focus is on cyber security of the Defence ICT environment, in addition to contributing to whole-of-government cyber.”
“Across the year we have learned some valuable lessons about teamwork, collaboration and working from home. We are aiming to situate ourselves for future success,” Pearson concluded.
New Head of ICT Operations Major General Murray Thompson, who only started in the role last month after taking over from Rear Admiral Michael Rothwell who is now deployed at sea in the Middle East, is drinking from the fire hydrant. His attention is with industry and the innovation opportunities they can bring to bear.
“Industry is a broad church and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to traditional industry partners,” he said. “Military CIS isn’t just an enabler anymore; it’s critical part of capability and winning.”
Noting that much of the ICT innovation is now based in the commercial world, he is acutely aware of the expectations and technology drivers that Defence is seeing, not that ‘applying a military lens to these technologies has numerous challenges’.