Defence personnel

Budget Review 2014–15 Index

Dr Nathan Church

Although the total workforce strength of the Defence organisation is set to grow in 2014–15 by 2.8 per cent from 77,274 to 79,424, this is the result of a projected significant increase in Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel offsetting a reduction of Australian Public Service (APS) Defence employees. Furthermore, the growth in ADF numbers is indicated to slow across the forward estimates, while pronounced cuts to the number of APS Defence staff are expected to continue during the same period.[1] 

ADF workforce levels

According to the Defence Portfolio Budget Statements 2014–15, the level of permanent ADF personnel is projected to grow by more than 3,000 in the next four years (see Table 1).[2] Of the three Defence services, the Army will see the biggest growth—increasing by 8.6 per cent and accounting for 2,447 of the proposed additional personnel. The Navy and Air Force will likely see far more modest growth in permanent members over the same period, estimated at 4.2 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively.[3] The ADF Active Reserve Force will add over 1,000 new Army and Navy personnel over the next four years, while 120 Air Force positions are planned to transfer from the Active Reserves to the ADF High Readiness Reserve.[4]   

Table 1: ADF workforce data 2007–08 to 2017–18[5]

 
2007
08
(actual)
2008
–09
(actual)
2009
–10
(actual)
2010
–11
(actual)
2011
–12
(actual)
2012
–13
(actual)
2013
–14
(est. act.)
2014
–15
(bgt est.)
2015
–16
(fwd est.)
2016
–17
(fwd est.)
2017
–18
(fwd est.)
Navy
12,935
13,182
13,828
14,207
14,054
13,760
13,839
14,318
14,385
14,374
14,422
Army
26,611
27,833
29,339
30,253
29,697
28,928
28,580
30,383
30,464
30,768
31,027
Air Force
13,621
14,066
14,530
14,624
14,243
13,919
13,976
14,138
14,216
14,235
14,125
Total
53,167
55,081
57,697
59,084
57,994
56,607
56,395
58,839
59,065
59,377
59,574
Change (year on year)
+1,914
+2,616
+1,387
-1,090
-1,387
-212
+2,444
+226
+312
+197

ADF Gap Year program

According to the Defence Portfolio Budget Statements, a ‘major growth factor [of the ADF permanent strength] is the progressive re-introduction of the ADF Gap Year’.[6] The renewed ADF Gap Year program was raised by the Coalition as part of the 2013 election campaign, with $113 million to be invested.[7] Following the announcement on 28 April by the Assistant Minister for Defence, Stuart Robert, re-instating the program, the Defence Portfolio Budget Statements indicate that $191.8 million will be available in proposed funding, across the forward estimates.[8] This funding will grow steadily from an initial allocation of $18.3 million and increase by approximately $20 million per year, reaching $78.5 million in 2017–18.[9]      

In terms of new enlistments, the Government anticipates that the ADF Gap Year program will ‘ultimately employ up to 1,000 participants’.[10] Although many of the specifics regarding this program remain unclear, it appears that most of the participants will be employed in the Army, as this service will see the largest projected growth out to 2017–18.[11] The Department of Defence has also noted that only the Army and Air Force will be accepting participants in the initial Gap Year program.[12]     

APS workforce levels

The recently published National Commission of Audit report recommended ‘reducing the staffing size of Defence headquarters in Canberra, including senior staff, to 1998 levels’.[13] The Defence Portfolio Budget Statements suggest that the Government has accepted this recommendation and the entire Department of Defence APS workforce will be reduced in size by over 2,000 positions within three years (as shown in Table 2).[14] Marginally offsetting this will be a 34 per cent increase in the number of contractors employed by Defence, increasing from 368 in 2013–14 to 493 in 2014–15 after previous periods of ‘low contractor engagement’.[15]    

Table 2: APS Workforce data 1997–98, 2012–13 to 2017–18[16]

 
1997–98
(headcount)
2012–13
(actual)
2013–14
(est. act.)
2014–15
(bgt est.)
2015–16
(fwd est.)
2016–17
(fwd est.)
2017–18
(fwd est.)
APS–Defence
18,492
15,786
15,268
14,883
13,962
13,314
13,007
APS–DMO (inc. ADF backfill)
n/a
5,748
5,243
5,209
5,106
5,141
5,098
Total
18,492
21,534
20,511
20,092
19,068
18,455
18,105
Change (year on year)
+3,042
-1,023
-419
-1,024
-613
-350

Senior position levels

Defence commentators and, most recently, the National Commission of Audit report have noted a significant increase in the number of senior managers within the Defence organisation.[17] The National Commission of Audit report specifically highlighted that ‘since 2000 the number of public service senior executives in Defence has grown by 63 per cent (from 103 to 168) … while the number of deputy secretaries in Defence has increased from four to 14’.[18]

The projections outlined in the 2014–15 Defence Portfolio Budget Statements appear to do little in arresting this trend. For example, the Defence Senior Executive Service is proposed to increase by three personnel over the next financial year, accounting for 171 total staff within this grouping. Conversely, Defence senior officer (APS Executive levels 1 and 2) numbers are forecast to be reduced during the same period from 6,524 to 6,489. However, the more junior APS staff are likely to be the most affected by job losses, with a projected reduction of 387 positions. This would equate to a reduction of 12 junior APS positions for every senior position cut within the next financial year.[19]



[1].           Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2014–15: Budget related paper no. 1.4A: Defence Portfolio, 2014, p. 24, accessed 14 May 2014.

[2].           Ibid.

[3].           Portfolio budget statements 2014–15, op. cit., p. 24.

[4].           Ibid.

[5].           Data derived from Department of Defence, Annual reports, accessed 14 May 2014; Portfolio budget statements 2014–15, op. cit., p. 24.

[6].           Portfolio budget statements 2014–15, op. cit., p. 21.

[7].           Liberal Party of Australia and the Nationals, The Coalition’s policy for stronger defence, Coalition policy document, Election 2013, p. 9, accessed 14 May 2014.

[8].           S Robert (Assistant Minister for Defence), ADF Gap Year program for 2015, media release, 28 April 2014, accessed 14 May 2014;  Portfolio budget statements 2014–15, op. cit., p. 17.

[9].           Portfolio budget statements 2014–15, op. cit., p. 17.

[10].         Portfolio budget statements 2014–15, op. cit., p. 21.

[11].         Ibid., p. 24.

[12].         Department of Defence, ‘ADF education: Gap Year’, Department of Defence website, accessed 14 May 2014.

[13].         National Commission of Audit, Towards responsible government: phase one, February 2014, p. 134, accessed 14 May 2014.

[14].         Portfolio budget statements 2014–15, op. cit., p. 24.

[15].         Ibid., pp. 22, 24.

[16].         Australian Public Service Commission (APSC), ‘Print on demand documents: statistical bulletins’, APSC website, accessed 15 May 2014; Department of Defence, Annual reports, op. cit., accessed 15 May 2014; Portfolio budget statements 2014–15, op. cit., p. 24.

[17].         A Davies and M Thomson, ‘Welcome aboard, Minister’, The Strategist weblog: Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 28 June 2013, accessed 14 May 2014; Towards responsible government: phase one, op. cit., p. 131.

[18].         Towards responsible government: phase one, op. cit., p. 131.

[19].         Portfolio budget statements 2014–15, op. cit., p. 25.

 

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