Contest of ideas and independent advice
The various individuals and groups involved in the capability development
process provide numerous opportunities for project assumptions and proposals to
be reviewed and tested. Firstly, the authors of the White Paper draw on a range
of skills and experience to identify the capabilities needed to protect the
national interest. The group responsible for initiating capability proposals,
generally the capability managers, are able to consider risk as part of their
proposal at conception stage and, as the end-users, throughout the capability
development cycle. There are many others in ideal positions to question and
test the analysis and assumptions underpinning proposals. They include the CDG,
the Stakeholders Group, the DSTO, DMO, the Capability Investment and Resources
Division, the Central Agencies, the Options Review Committee (now the Project
Initiation and Review Board), the Capability Gate Reviews, the Defence
Capability Committee, the Defence Capability and Investment Committee, the
Service Chiefs and Group Heads and finally the CDF and Secretary, who clear
submissions in preparation for the government's consideration. Defence industry
also has a critically important role in capability development and is discussed
in chapters 13 and 14.
Only recently, however, the minister expressed concern about what he
believed was a 'lack of contestability of view'.
In this chapter, the committee continues its consideration of how Defence
manages contestability so that any submission to government on capability
development reflects a robust and thorough consideration of recommended
Defence's quality assurance framework
In 2008, Mortimer was of the view that DMO needed 'an internal project
review mechanism to identify and fix problems earlier than presently occurs'.
In response, Defence noted that DMO had a number of mechanisms in place
designed to provide an independent review function and to assist project teams
where necessary. For example, the organisation's Assurance Boards formed a key
element of the DMO's corporate governance framework. They were intended to provide
independent assurance and advice on the adequacy of governance frameworks for
each equipment acquisition and through-life support activity; and on issues and
risks involving schedule, cost, capability and sustainability. According to
Defence, the composition of the board 'ensured that they were in a position to
cast a 'fresh set of eyes' across a project or sustainment activity'. DMO staff
were encouraged to use the Assurance Boards as 'sounding boards' and to seek
guidance and feedback from them on any aspect of concern involving a project or
The Assurance Boards have since undergone change. In evidence, Defence
referred to its new rigorous series of internal quality processes and committees,
working groups, stakeholder groups and gate reviews. They examined each
project's capability, cost, schedule and risks in detail to ensure that each
project was positioned to deliver as required. Defence explained its procurement
quality assurance processes:
To confirm options for Government consideration at First or Second
pass, Defence projects must pass through a number of internal quality assurance
processes. These processes, which include internal committees, assess and test
advice from Capability Managers and Defence Groups. The quality assurance
processes ensure that a robust and compelling case can be developed for
capability proposals before they are put to Government for consideration at First
and Second pass. In doing so, Defence stakeholder views are drawn together to
ensure critical interdependencies are acknowledged and addressed.
In its preliminary report, the committee described the process whereby
stakeholders and committees review documents including those dealing with risk.
The committee also noted that the Secretary and CDF approve the submission that
goes to the minister or Cabinet for approval to move the project through to the
next phase. An important aspect of this review process involves gate reviews,
now under the purview of the Independent Project Performance Office (IPPO).
Independent Project Performance
In 2008, Mortimer recommended the establishment of an Independent
Project Performance Office (IPPO). Defence agreed to the recommendation and established
such an office, which commenced operation on 1 July 2011. Located within the DMO,
its functions are to:
implement a ‘lessons learned’ process as recommended by the
Mortimer Review to improve the way projects are delivered by learning from past
mistakes and successes; and
- assist project teams to develop more robust cost and schedule
information to improve the accuracy of this information when it is provided to
The IPPO is also responsible for the conduct of the annual gate reviews
of all major defence capital acquisition projects. In preparation for a gate review
board meeting, the office conducts an evaluation of the project to ensure that
issues have been identified and would be brought to the board's attention for
The committee is not certain that the Independent Project Performance Office
should be located in the DMO.
The use of gate reviews is not new and the benefits to project delivery are
Gateway reviews are an important project assurance tool designed to improve the
on-time and on-budget delivery of major projects. The Department of Finance and
Administration's, Guidance on the Gateway Review Process—A Project Assurance
Methodology for the Australian Government, suggests that gate reviews
support 'project teams by providing them with an independent information
resource that can add value to their project (for example, by the early
identification of issues that may need to be addressed)'. They do so by
'providing an arm's length assessment of a project at critical stages of a
The guide stipulates that members of a review team should not have worked on
the project under review, except in the capacity as a gate reviewer at previous
As experienced peer reviewers not associated with the project, they are
intended to assess the project against its specified objectives at a particular
stage in the project's lifecycle. They provide early identification of areas
that may require corrective action and validation that a project is ready to
progress successfully to the next stage.
The guide notes that a gate review may take place at the needs phase of
a project before its start up stage, which takes the form of a broad strategic
review to inform decision-making to confirm the alignment with the intended
Gate reviews in Defence's
Gate reviews now form part of Defence's risk control framework designed
to enable the early identification of potential problems. In 2008, Defence
started to implement gate reviews to supplement the 'red team' and 'deep dive'
reviews that had been operating previously.
The key function of the gate reviews is to test, review and clear capability
proposals and supporting documentation.
They are intended to ensure that the advice provided to Defence and government on
the health and outlook of major projects is of high quality and reliable. Gate
reviews may also be used as a diagnostic tool to assess potential projects of concern
and projects that have triggered early warning signals.
One witness noted that during 2011 much was made of 'new' management
controls such as gate reviews and projects of concern. In his view these
measures were 'all good' but not new: some were repackaging and improvement of
previous work that did the same thing. He explained:
Gate Reviews are a new name for what had been called
'Deep-Dives'...The process is used at major firms to get to the truth of why a
program is failing in some way.
Mr King informed the committee that a team, within the IPPO, which is 'independent
of the line management', would provide a brief to the gate review board. He
cited contributions from teams from the land system division, the maritime
system division and the aerospace division that collect 'a lot of background
information'. They undertake field work but might talk to industry if it is
involved in a problem.
In the 2009-10 Major Projects Review, DMO indicated that:
The GRAB [Gate Review Assurance Board] process is a proactive
activity that has led to early identification, intervention and resolution of
risks and issues across numerous projects in DMO. Given the success of this
methodology, the GRAB process will be extended to all major projects.
A year later, the Major Projects Review (MPR) recorded that the gate
reviews were mandatory for major projects at six specified milestones—DCP entry;
Options Review Committee consideration; first pass approval; second pass
approval, contract solicitation and contract negotiation.
The number of gate reviews undertaken currently indicates that these mandated
reviews are still a work in progress.
Previously known as Capability Development Boards, the gate review boards
normally comprise five people with a range of skills and experience to make
sure that resourcing, budgeting and operational capability matters are covered.
According to the ANAO, the chair, who is a general manager not in the line
control of that project, may be assisted by the general manager who is in the
line control. Board membership is tailored according to the specific issues
confronting a project (business case, project management, commercial,
engineering, stakeholder etc). Members include senior DMO 'line management, relevant
people with key skill sets from other parts of the DMO, and at least two
external independent members with extensive Defence or commercial experience'.
The capability manager or representative is invited to each of the gate
The inclusion of two external members was intended to strengthen the board. DMO
Board meetings provide a forum for robust, pluralistic
discussion that injects a strategic perspective, filters optimism, analyses
issues, recommends actions and assists the project to resolve those issues.
In October 2011, Mr King informed the committee that there were somewhere
between 18 and 24 independent members. He had been encouraged by 'the almost
volunteer status' of the people coming forward who had been involved in big difficult
The gate review enables DMO 'senior executives to consider the readiness
of a project to proceed to the next stage before they commit any further
resources or enter into any new formal undertakings'.
According to DMO, if the board is not convinced of a project's maturity or
readiness to progress to the next stage of its lifecycle, the project must
address those risks and issues before proceeding and a further board review may
be required before progression to the next stage.
Air Marshal Harvey informed the committee that Defence call it a 'gate review'
because unless all required documents are in place the project does not
progress to the next stage.
An independent member of the gate reviews informed the committee that
the boards report to the CEO DMO, but that the independent members have access
to the CEO. He gave the example of where they may disagree with the chair of
the board, in which case 'we have a right to put down our separate view'. To
his mind, being able to do so underpinned their independence.
In May 2011, the minister directed that the gate review program be
expanded to include all major projects at least annually.
The 2009–10 Major Projects Review recorded that 20 projects had been subjected
to a gate review. A year later, approximately 50 projects had undergone gate
reviews. According to Mr King:
Given the sheer volume of work involved in review of where
the project is and where its risk register is and what risks it is mitigating,
it would be impossible to do it more often than once a year.
He was satisfied with how the gate review program was progressing and
gave the example of the reviews that happen prior to contract negotiation where
'we actually go through the negotiation strategy and the trade-offs and so on'.
Reviews, which often take three to four days, may also take place at other
times, depending on the results of the project risk assessment.
He did not want the quality of the gate reviews to deteriorate, explaining:
What is critical is that they get to the heart of issues,
whether they are technical, commercial or resource. We have to be able to see
what the real issues are and address them. We must not allow it to fall into
just a process.
The ANAO noted that it was expected to take a number of years for the
results of gate reviews to flow through.
Dr Thomson commented on the gate reviews, noting that having people from
the previous generation of project managers on the boards would undoubtedly add
value to the process.
The committee was also told during its site visit to South Australia and
Western Australia that gate reviews were a positive activity: that they allowed
for contestability and provided an opportunity to bring a wider corporate view.
On 13 June 2012, six independent members of the gate reviews appeared
before the committee and were unanimous in their views that the boards were
'not a tick and flick' exercise. Based on their experience, the reviews do a
lot more than form part of Defence's assurance framework. They also help to improve
performance through the guidance and advice provided informally and formally
and through 'the dissemination of better practice with the line management as
well as within projects'.
Mr Irving also referred to their mentoring role whereby project team members
gain not only the skills but experience to help them better understand the
business they are in.
The independent members warned, however, against unrealistic expectations—'gate
reviews can help improve the prospects of success and help in formulating a
workable project, but they cannot prevent things going wrong with projects'.
One witness closely involved in defence procurement argued that in order
to ensure gate reviews are effective tools, three basic rules should be
- Engage very experienced specialists who are independent of the
project—those who have been there made mistakes and learned from their
experience. These external members are rarely under the age of fifty and not part
of the normal corporate population of company directors and the like, but 'hardened
project people who have taken their knocks and successes on complex
- End-to-end thoroughness so that no rock is left unturned whether
that be technological, contractual, people, supply chain, later support,
documentation, intellectual property, occupational health and safety, budgets,
approvals, schedules, etc.
- Confer 'amnesty', on program managers, purchasers, engineers, or
logisticians so they can speak their mind without adverse personal input. Such
a measure would go a long way toward bringing 'sunlight to problems, based on
the maxim that an underlying problem can only be fixed if it is first
identified, and that unidentified problems only get worse with age'.
According to the witness, the limitation on gate reviews as a system
across all defence capital projects is 'finding and engaging enough expert
greybeards'—'hardened project people'—who have developed from 'a culture of
accumulating domain knowledge and ongoing practice of tradecraft'.
While he supported the new arrangements relating to gate reviews, he did not
agree with insisting that they 'be performed regularly on every project (rather
than just troublesome ones)'. The witness also cautioned against attempting to
do too many new gate reviews which would likely 'take things backwards because
there are insufficient deeply experienced people in Australia with the necessary
time (and security clearances) to review 200 projects each year.' He took the
view, that regular mandated gate reviews would go too far, add to bureaucracy
and divert scarce resources from better use. It would increase DMO staff
numbers to more than needed and without necessarily raising quality.
He explained that it would:
...be better to use those scarce resources on the in-difficulty
projects only, after an initial 'cut' or 'scan' of all projects likely to be
facing difficulty. If resources are smeared too broadly, it will affect depth
and quality which would make Gate Reviews of every project a 'make work,
tick-the-box' exercise under the control of an army of generalists.
The Australian Association for Maritime Affairs suggested having a 'Team
B' approach to 'reduce the risk of project planning going off on politicians',
senior officers' or even project team members individual "frolics"'. By
a 'Team B', it meant having 'a small team of suitably qualified personnel
administratively outside the main project structure and tasked with shadowing
and checking the assumptions and decisions of the primary project team at key
stages in the project's development'.
The committee believes that gate reviews, if properly constituted and
resourced, would be similar in function to a 'Team B'.
It should be noted that the ANAO recently published an audit report on
the gate reviews which found overall that they were making a positive
contribution to improving Defence's performance in acquiring major defence
capital equipment. The ANAO examined in
detail three gate reviews, which revealed some weaknesses in this quality
For example, the August 2011 gate review of the M113 Upgrade exposed
limitations to this quality assurance mechanism. The ANAO noted that the
project office sought to narrow the scope of the review. It explained:
IPPO informed the project office that [that] was not
appropriate but, in the event, the available documentation suggests that the
Gate Review focused on the schedule-related aspects of a Contract Change
This restriction on the focus of the gate review through documents
prepared for it raises critical questions about the degree of influence that
the project office is able to exert over the review board and the potential to weaken
Also, the committee notes that the Department of Finance and
Administration's Guidance on the Gateway Review Process stipulates that
members of a review team should not have worked on the project under review,
except in the capacity as a gate reviewer at previous gates.
In this context, the ANAO found that the M113 gate review was chaired by the
Division Head responsible for the project, and comprised one external member
and three other DMO officers internal to the division in which the project
resided, two of whom delegated their attendance to more junior staff.
Unfortunately this departure from accepted procedure was not an isolated
incident. The ANAO referred to a significant number of gate reviews being
chaired by individuals with line management responsibility for the project
Indeed, a very worrying trend noted in the ANAO's audit of gate review
boards was the growing tendency for gate reviews to be chaired by a manager
with a strong connection to the project. According to the ANAO this trend had
increased in recent times:
During the first year DMO conducted Gate Reviews (July 2009–June
2010), 33 per cent of Gate Reviews of ACAT I and II projects were chaired by a
manager with some responsibility or accountability for the project under
review. During the second year (July 2010–June 2011) this increased to 42 per
cent. During the first six months of IPPO's management of all Gate Reviews this
increased further to 50 per cent.
This practice of the chair of a gate review having some responsibility
or accountability for a project contravenes the very principle underpinning
such reviews. It is also in breach of DMO policy. The ANAO's findings
underscore the importance of Defence ensuring that policies and guidance
provided in manuals are implemented properly. In its audit report, the ANAO
noted that the latest policy amendment, approved on 3 May 2012, strengthened
the requirement for the independence of the chair.
In light of the committee's findings on non-compliance, this new policy
amendment is clearly not enough (see chapter 6).
Dr Neumann cited the ASLAV enhancement project as an example of a gate
review that missed a critical aspect of the project. He informed the committee
that the technical risk advice provided to the board did not refer to the
solution they were reviewing. The engineering and scientific advice before them
said the solution was not a high-risk when in fact the one they were reviewing
He explained that the ASLAV project evolved from quite a simple pragmatic
solution 'to a further stretch, and neither management nor documentation
actually caught up to get the cross-correlation'.
The ANAO found that the 2010 gate review of the ASLAV placed a heavy focus on
one particular aspect—schedule—which may have inhibited attention being given
to other potential risks—technical risk.
It is notable that the gate reviews for both the M113 and ASLAV focused
on schedule and not technical risk. The two case studies not only highlight the
limitations of gate reviews but underline the critical importance of having
technical and subject matter experts involved and, importantly, listened to
throughout an acquisition project. With regard to gate reviews, the ANAO also drew attention to:
...the absence of a mechanism to follow up action items, the
risk of developing an over-optimistic perception that the Gate Review program
will identify and address all problems, and the resource impact on project
staff and senior management.
The committee has referred to comments about the resource intensive
aspect of gate reviews, especially securing the services of independent members
with the necessary project background and experience. It has also noted the
danger of relying too heavily on gate reviews to fix problems and of devaluing
the whole concept of gate reviews. With regard to ensuring that the
recommendations of the review boards are implemented, the committee endorses
the ANAO's recommendation that 'defence ensures that a control mechanism is
deployed to monitor the status and completion of actions recommended by Gate
Review Assurance Boards and agreed by the relevant executive'.
In the committee's view, gate review boards have the potential to
provide the robust review and contestability necessary to reveal deficiencies
in the procurement process and to identify potential problems. To be effective,
the boards must, however, have the time, resources, authority and skills to be
able to reassess and re-evaluate the soundness of the analysis and the
assumptions underpinning the project and its progress to date.
The committee supports the addition of two external independent members
to each gate review board but would stress that they must have the authority to
ensure that their findings and recommendations carry weight. It also
recognises, as noted by a witness, that a major difficulty would be securing
the services of hardened project people to be part of a gate review team. Even
so, the committee believes that the benefits would more than compensate for the
effort required to locate and entice these experienced experts to join the
Conscious of overdoing gate reviews to the extent that they lose their
potency, the committee urges Defence to ensure that gate reviews become and
remain powerful quality assurance measures. Compliance with policy such as
maintaining the independence of the chair is also critical to the credibility
and ultimate success of the reviews. The committee is also aware of unrealistic
expectations and of the potential for Defence to rely too heavily on gate
reviews to identify problems and their solutions. In this regard the committee
stresses that gate reviews are intended to be part of a quality assurance
framework and should not be relied on to compensate for shortcomings in project
management. Defence must ensure that project management teams take full
responsibility for the performance of their project.
In this report, the committee has referred to numerous instances of non-compliance
with policy or guidelines. The gate review examples cited by the ANAO throw
into sharp relief, how genuine, sound initiatives can be rendered useless by a
management structure that cannot or will not exert authority. Surely, this
latest clear disregard of policy whereby the independence of gate review chairs
was compromised justifies the committee's scepticism about the effectiveness of
other recent initiatives such as project charters, MAAs, and the Project
Initiation and Review Board.
The committee is aware, however, of the great value of gate reviews when
used properly and, although disappointed in the shortcomings exposed in the
ANAO report, believes that located within the appropriate management structure
they have potential to become an effective quality assurance mechanism.
Independent advice and contestability
On 7 October 2011, Mr King stated that the acquisition process was now
'far more structured'. He explained that a capability manager's focus (or the
organisation's) was on capability, schedule and costs in that order. In his
view, capability managers were 'not always as well informed as they might be about
the various risks of the projects' they want undertaken. According to Mr King,
these potential blind spots are offset by the advice of the CEO DMO on cost,
schedule and risks associated with that project and the contribution of the
DSTO on technical risk.
Mr King stated that the DMO in a programmatic way, and the DSTO in a technical
sense, 'play the role of devil's advocate'.
Similarly, the scrutiny by the Capability Investment and Resources Division
group is supposed to provide contestability by weighing up the risks to
determine whether the project is the right one on which to spend that amount of
Mr King concluded:
In many ways, my experience is that the level of
contestability, debate, analysis that goes on in project progression at the
moment is greater than any time I know.
In the following section, the committee considers DMO, DSTO and Capability
Investment and Resources Division's provision of independent advice and the
contribution they make to minimising the risk of 'things going wrong'.
Defence Material Organisation
DMO is responsible and accountable for developing military equipment
cost and schedule estimates (including the associated risk assessments), and
for developing and implementing the Acquisition and Support Implementation
Strategy. It is also responsible for:
- analysing industry’s ability to deliver the required capability,
- directly supporting CDG in developing the required project
documentation (as appropriate).
According to Defence's procurement handbook, the CEO DMO provides
independent advice to government on the cost, schedule, risk and commercial
aspects of Major System acquisitions.
Mr King explained:
Throughout the CDG management phase...DMO is inputting on cost,
schedule, not technical risk but capability risk and programmatic risk. When we
go to second pass, for example, I am still required by secretary, CDF and
government to provide an independent assurance on cost, schedule and risk
associated with the program.
It should be noted that the White Paper suggested that the DMO 'must
strengthen its capacity to provide independent advice on the cost, risk,
schedule and acquisition strategies for major capital equipment'.
This observation is particularly significant as Mortimer made a similar
recommendation. In its response to Mortimer, Defence agreed that CEO DMO must
be in a position to provide advice to government on the cost, schedule, risk
and commercial aspects of all major capital equipment acquisitions. It stated,
however, that 'it would not be appropriate for DMO to make coordination
comments on Defence cabinet submissions because, for procurement matters, DMO
is intimately involved in preparing these submissions'.
Defence's attitude contradicts the Mortimer principle and effectively
negates the element of contestability which depends on independence for its
effectiveness. The committee is uncertain about the meaning of DMO's
independence in this context and how it can register any concerns it may have
about an acquisition project.
Defence Science and Technology
One of DSTO's major responsibilities is to provide advice throughout the
planning and development phases of defence acquisition programs including
advice on all aspects of technical risk and risk mitigation strategies.
DSTO's Risk Assessment Handbook makes clear that the Chief Defence Scientist is
responsible for providing independent advice to government on technical risk
for all acquisition decisions.
As discussed in chapter 12, the Chief Defence Scientist is required to provide 'an
independent assessment of the level of technical risk presented by a project at
each Government consideration'. This assessment occurs primarily at first and
second pass approval, but also when a submission is made to government seeking
an amended project approval, such as a Real Cost Increase for a change in
Air Marshal Harvey stressed the importance of the independence of the
Chief Defence Scientist's assessment. He informed the committee that DSTO's technical
risk analysis and technical risk certification signed off by the Chief Defence
Scientist is the independent advice to government.
In this regard, the committee recalls Pappas' observation about DSTO's
advice not receiving the respect it deserves (see paragraphs 8.49–8.50). The committee
also notes that many of the schedule delays in projects have not been due to
underlying technology problems but integration and certification issues. In the
light of DSTO evidence that its personnel have limited experience in these
areas, the committee is concerned that CCDG does not appear to recognise this
flaw in the process it has approved.
Capability Investment and Resources Division
The Capability Development Handbook states clearly that the Capability
Investment and Resources Division (CIR Division) provides 'independent analysis
and review of capability proposals and related costs, including the overall
balance of investment in current and future capability, major investment
proposals and priorities'. For example, the Cost Analysis Branch looks at the
project's costings. Headed by the First Assistant Secretary Capability
Investment and Resources, the division develops the draft ministerial and
cabinet submission and presents it for DCC consideration. 
On a number of occasions, Air Marshal Harvey referred to the
independence of the CIR Division. He informed the committee that the division provides
independent scrutiny—'a complete, independent look at what is required'.
It considers submissions from the perspective of what government requires in
terms of level of evidence to progress the submission and considers whether
there are any gaps in the argument. According to Air Marshal Harvey, those in
...are independent of the sponsor and of the capability
manager, but their view is to make sure it is a sound case put forward to
government and we have addressed all the issues that are required.
General Hurley reinforced this view. He stated that the CIR Division
'subjects capability proposals to rigorous independent scrutiny, covering
capability, scope, schedule, risk and cost.
Furthermore, its advice 'comes as a separate submission' to the DCIC:
So you have the CDG's submission and then we have a separate
view that asks the hard questions about issues that are in that document.
It should be noted that Defence's supplementary submission stated that
the Division 'does not contest for its own sake'. It is responsible for
drafting initial, first and second pass cabinet submissions 'to support
Government's consideration of a project'.
In the previous chapter, the committee referred to the FDA as a
mechanism for injecting contestability in the capability development process and
providing independent advice on proposed major defence acquisitions. According
to Air Marshal Harvey, who previously worked in the FDA, the CIR Division, which
resides in the CDG, performs broadly the same tasks as the FDA. He noted in
particular that the division provides that independent scrutiny. He recognised
that contestability 'is good' and said:
We try to do that in a non-confrontational way.
Air Marshal Harvey explained further that the CIR Division was 'actually
larger now than when FDA finished', with about 73 people and has 'a very strong
General Hurley also noted that the division is 'considerably larger, more
comprehensive and more penetrating in its advice' and has a cost-analysis and
He emphasised that the CIR Division reports directly to the positions of CDF
Likewise, the Acting Secretary of Defence, Mr Simon Lewis informed the
CIR Division is larger than the old FDA with a higher work
rate and output. It analyses the projects from their inception and provides
objective critique at each capability development milestone. This advice is
provided independently of the Chief of the Capability Development Group. What is
clear is that the work of CIR in producing agendum for these milestones has
repeatedly tested assumptions and materially improved the quality of
submissions going forward for Government consideration.
Mr Lewis held that the CIR Division also performs a role in 'stewarding
the proposal through Government consideration' which ensures that the
'contestability is grounded in the realities of obtaining central agency and
Government approval'. He asserted that the level of central agency scrutiny of
projects is 'far greater' than during the FDA days.
Dr Brabin-Smith acknowledged that the CIR Division did some of the
former FDA's work but that it did not have the broad remit of the old FDA. A
number of witnesses were especially concerned that the old FDA's role of
bringing rigour, which comes with scientific method, to the evaluation of
Defence proposals was missing.
It should also be noted that on 9 August 2011, the minister announced
that the CIR Division's capacity to provide internal contestability would be
strengthened by separating it from the CDG and having it report directly to the
newly created position of Associate Secretary (Capability).
According to Air Marshal Harvey, the CIR Division would then sit parallel to CDG
but underneath the Associate Secretary (Capability). He explained that the division's
work 'would be in the same mode but to the associate secretary' rather than
direct to the CCDG.
Clearly, the minister saw the need to strengthen internal contestability
by splitting the division from the CCDG and having it report to the Associate
Secretary (Capability). As noted earlier, however, this appointment is no
In this regard, it should be noted that Mr Simon Lewis informed the committee
that refinements were underway to strengthen the CIR Division through processes
including the Capability Development Improvement Program to further
professionalise division staff.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of
Finance and Deregulation and Treasury are known collectively as the central agencies.
They have an important part in the consideration and approval of the capability
proposal and provide an additional level of scrutiny and advice on capability development
proposals from a whole-of-government perspective.
For example, the Department of Finance and Deregulation must
agree on the detailed acquisition and operating costs and financial risk
assessment for each first and second pass submission.
The department noted, however, that, to form an opinion on the veracity of cost
and risk estimates, its staff rely heavily on the technical risk assessment
provided by DSTO; the evidence made available to support the Defence cost
model; and other Defence capability development documentation.
In August 2011, the minister announced that Defence would work with the
three central agencies:
...to ensure they play a greater role at earlier stages of
significant projects and that their specialist advice on cost, risk and
alignment with Government policy is an integral component of the
recommendations made to Government.
Air Marshal Harvey also referred to the role of the central agencies
which, in his view, compared with the days of FDA, 'have a much stronger role
as well in terms of contestability, in terms of looking at our proposals as
they go through'.
According to Air Marshal Harvey, the organisations were brought together 'to
achieve contestability' but also to avoid the barriers between them as
proposals are developed.
The current CCDG told the committee that CDG 'probably need to engage central
agencies better then we have up to this point';—in terms of when they
scrutinise our cost models and so on—'that we can actually understand the risk
and have factored in the risks'.
Dr Brabin-Smith argued that objective analysis and contestability are
central to the processes of public sector decision-making and an integral part
of the machinery of government. He noted that the Department of Finance and
Deregulation provides such impartial analysis 'when it runs its
not-always-friendly ruler over new policy proposals from other departments'. In
his opinion, however, Finance's capacity to examine defence spending proposals
was limited. He noted that 'the sheer volume of analysis would require a
significant and specialised workforce', and besides 'the more important
arguments for defence spending are strategic in nature, and cannot readily be
reduced to an economic (or surrogate economic) basis or comparison'.
Accepting these limitations, the committee supports the independent scrutiny
that Department of Finance and Deregulation provides.
Effectiveness of internal
The committee notes the use of the word 'independent advice' or
'independent scrutiny' in respect of the DMO, DSTO, CIR Division and the
central agencies. The committee, however, questions the extent to which they
are able to play the role of 'devil's advocate'. The committee raised these
concerns at its hearing in June 2012 with Defence officials and conducted a
roundtable discussion with defence analysts to consider how to strengthen
contestability within the procurement decision-making process. Apart from
Defence's assurances that these organisations and agencies provide independent
review and advice, there was no concrete evidence that they do in practice
expose proposals to rigorous scrutiny and questioning.
For example, Dr Brabin-Smith stated that the mechanisms for internal
debate and resolution of issues were inadequate—that there needed to be a
better mechanism for contestability which has 'to be seen to be working'.
Dr Davies similarly argued that Defence needs greater levels of internal contestability
to help ensure higher levels of confidence in decision-making. Air Commodore
(retired) Bushell supported the view that there is 'a real need for an
independent review of capability development and acquisition decisions'.
The committee also notes the role of external defence analysts as
another means of strengthening contestability, yet the engagement of the various
think tanks and industry tends to follow a decision not inform it.
One Defence view
A number of various internal groups or committees also consider the
progress of a project at key stages in its development—Capability Development
Stakeholder Group, Options Review Committee (replaced by the Project Initiation
and Review Board) and the Defence Capability Committee (DCC). The procurement handbook
states that this system of higher level Defence committees 'is designed to
provide a corporate view (i.e. ‘One Defence’) on capability proposals before
they are submitted to government for approval'. The outcome of these committees
is a ‘One Defence’ proposal for government approval.
It should be noted that the Defence Capability Development Handbook makes clear
that the DCC reviews the draft ministerial or cabinet submission to provide
assurance that the proposal recommends capability options that are consistent
with strategic guidance and government direction, and are viable, cost
effective, and within scope and budget. It also makes sure that the submission
presents a ‘One Defence’ view.
While, government is entitled to, and indeed should receive, advice from the
Secretary and CDF that is well considered, coherent and authoritative, it is
important that their advice on procurement is complete and has been informed by
all groups involved in developing the proposals, especially those with reservations.
One witness, however, questioned the management theme, 'One Defence',
which was introduced in 2009. According to the witness, this approach:
...reduced diversity of views from senior leaders into just one
view and advice to government...In such an environment, it is likely that risks
may not always be identified or discussed and information can be inadequate. It
certainly can affect the morale and commitment of many leaders. 
In his assessment, the 'One Defence' voice reduces accountability
because senior executives and Star ranked line managers are able to blur the
lines of responsibility as they defer to the 'One Defence' party line view
imposed upon them.
'One Defence' is arguably the problem. A diversity of views
would be of more value.
Dr Brabin-Smith was of the view that it was appropriate for Defence to
speak with one voice, 'provided that what that one voice says has been arrived
at via a process of thorough contestability and lots of frank and fearless
advice, carefully listened to within Defence'.
Dr Davies agreed that a Defence one voice was 'fine' if that voice
'communicates the degree of uncertainty, the credible dissenting positions
within the department that were put forward during the discussion and the
degree of risk that has been assessed'.
For him, the communication of the rigour of the process and the areas of
uncertainty was the really important matter.
As noted previously, Dr Black found that there were too many internal
committees while contestability of advice within Defence had been diluted.
The committee understands that achieving the right balance between the
integration and the contestability of views would make for a sound
decision-making process. Evidence before the committee, however, suggests that
the so-called independent role of DMO, DSTO and CIR Division does not provide
the contestability required to ensure that the 'One Defence' view presented to
government represents robust and thoroughly debated proposals.
There is no doubt that Defence needs greater levels of contestability to
ensure that assumptions are thoroughly tested and decisions well informed. The
committee acknowledges that Defence has a quality assurance framework that is
designed to provide internal contestability and external scrutiny. Yet problems
such as mistaking a developmental project for a genuine off-the-shelf product
indicate that this internal filter and the gate reviews have not worked as well
as they should. Surely a robust risk process would at some stage before second
pass approval have corrected false assumptions. The check and review management
process, if implemented properly, should test the veracity of assumptions
underpinning assessments on costs, schedule, technology, capability, and
workforce requirements. Clearly to date, there have been significant breakdowns
in this area.
A number of witnesses strongly supported Defence's revamped gate reviews,
which are an improvement on their predecessors, especially the inclusion of two
independent experts. The committee, however, does not want to see the
contribution of gate reviews rendered ineffective because of a fundamentally
flawed management structure. The committee underlines the importance of Defence
ensuring that the members of the gate review boards have the relevant skills,
knowledge and competencies to scrutinise the proposals before them effectively.
The committee would like to see the independence of the external members
guaranteed and their ability to provide genuine contestability assured. It
would also like to see concrete measures taken to ensure that the
implementation of recommendations made by the review boards is monitored,
recorded and reported to the relevant capability manager, CCDG and CEO DMO.
While the committee understands that, if used properly, gate reviews are
an important project assurance tool, it recognises that they have their
limitations and should not be regarded or relied on by Defence to compensate
for failings in its management structure. Gate reviews should be retained as
part of a tighter, more streamlined acquisition process and an important
quality assurance tool but they must adhere to the principles of objectivity
and impartiality and bring the required specialist knowledge and experience to
In this regard, gate reviews should be overseen by an authority that can
exert its independence and authority to ensure that the reviews remain at arm's
length from the influence of those with a vested interest in the project under
consideration. The contraventions identified by ANAO require Defence to look
carefully at ways to safeguard the integrity of these reviews. A new policy
amendment designed to strengthen the independence of the chair is not enough. The
committee has demonstrated repeatedly that changes to policy and to manuals
(process) do not always work.
The committee notes concern about the gate reviews losing their potency
and simply becoming part of the process if overused. The committee believes an
annual gate review for major projects would add value but recognises that the
format and/or structure may need to be scaled to suit project scope/cost. The
committee recommends that full gate reviews be:
- mandatory for major projects at the following specified milestones—DCP
entry; project initiation and review board consideration; first pass approval;
second pass approval, contract solicitation and contract negotiation; and
- mandatory when a project starts to diverge from original cost
or schedule or when significant changes to scope are proposed.
In light of revelations about breaches of policy such as chairs of
boards having line management responsibility and of misunderstandings stemming
from the documentation provided to the gate review boards, the committee
recommends further that the Independent Project Performance Office (IPPO):
- exert stronger compliance checks to guarantee the independence
and impartiality of the gate review board particularly enforcing the
requirement that the chair of the board must not have line management
responsibility for the project under review; and
- exercise greater scrutiny of the documentation provided to the
review board to ensure that it is relevant and complete including reports on
To ensure that the IPPO has the authority and resources
to discharge it functions, the committee further recommends that Defence
consider carefully whether the functions of the Office should be located in CDG
or another agency.
With regard to ensuring that the recommendations of the review boards
are implemented, the committee endorses the ANAO's recommendation that 'Defence
ensures that a control mechanism be deployed to monitor the status and
completion of actions recommended by Gate Review Assurance Boards and agreed by
the relevant executive'.
The committee also noted the important role of bodies such as the DMO,
DSTO, CIR Division, and central agencies in providing independent advice. It was
concerned, however, about Defence's interpretation of 'independent advice' and
the ability of the various internal groups to probe behind the documentation
presented to them and to test the underpinning analysis and assumptions. In
light of the 'One Defence' view, the committee is concerned that the
independence of their voices may not be heard. Considering that the gate
reviews report to the CEO DMO, it is imperative that DMO's advice is contained
in the submissions that go to cabinet. Otherwise, the benefit of both the gate
reviews and DMO's advice and perspective may be lost.
In this regard, the committee is not convinced that the so-called
independence of the DMO and DSTO is truly independent and would like to see
measures taken to strengthen that independence and their ability to register
concerns in submissions to the DCIC and government. Despite Defence's assurances
that the CIR Division provides greater scrutiny than the FDA, such assurances
were not supported by tangible evidence. Moreover, given the fact that a number
of analysts were of a contrary view and supported the re-instatement of the
FDA-type function, the committee is concerned that the concept of robust contestability
and independent advice promoted by Defence has not been adequately
demonstrated. The history of poor project performance suggests that DMO, DSTO,
the CIR Division and the central agencies have not fulfilled the devil's
advocate role effectively.
The committee recommends that the minister review, update and reinstate
the Ministerial Directive to CEO DMO. The directive is intended to set
boundaries and expectations and establish clear accountability for achievement
of Defence capital acquisition programs. It should include the requirement that
CEO DMO provides independent advice to the minister in DMO's specialist area of
major capital projects.
The committee recommends that the government should again look carefully
at making DMO a statutorily independent agency, as previously recommended by Kinnaird
and Mortimer, but rejected by Defence and government. The CEO’s salary should
be set by the Remuneration Tribunal and, as stipulated in the previous
recommendation, direct access to the minister should be restored pursuant to a
re-instatement of a ministerial directive which has fallen into disuse. The
intention behind this recommendation is to find a better way to: guarantee
DMO's independence and assist it to provide frank advice to government, have
its functions and responsibilities spelt out in legislation, and allow it more
latitude to employ specialist personnel.
The committee recommends that the minister consider how best to ensure
that DSTO's specialist advice on technical risk associated with Defence's major
capability developments are conveyed to government in a clear and accurate way.
The Ministerial Directive to CEO DMO may serve as a model.
The committee recommends that the Technical Risk Assessments and
Technical Risk Certifications (currently presented to the Defence Capability
Committee and the Defence Capability and Investment Committee) should be a
joint activity overseen by the relevant Service T&E agency head and the
Chief Defence Scientist. In light of past underestimation of technical risk,
the intention would be to review past experiences and current documentation to
determine how risk assessments could be better presented to non-technical
experts to minimise the opportunity for risk assessments to be misinterpreted. The
reporting structure also needs to be transparent such that assessments cannot
be ignored without justification to the key decision-makers (e.g. minister).
Another important consideration is whether the capability managers,
members of the gate review boards and the various committees, and the relevant
personnel in DMO, DSTO and CIR Division have the appropriate skills,
experience, resources and corporate knowledge to conduct and interpret analysis
and/or provide advice. The committee considers these matters in the following
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