As detailed in Chapters 1 and 3, the Department of Defence (Department) has reorganised allocating the responsibility for end-to-end capability management of select capability to a single appointment. The capability streams and stream leads under command of the Vice Chief of the Defence Force are:
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Space and Cyber (Chief of Joint Capabilities);
Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface Warfare (Chief of Navy);
Land Combat and Amphibious Warfare (Chief of Army);
Air and Sea Lift (Chief of Air Force);
Strike and Air Combat (Chief of Air Force); and
Key Enablers (Chief Joint Capability and Associate Secretary).
The Committee’s consideration of each Capability Streams is detailed later in this Chapter.
As the Joint Force Authority, the Vice Chief of the Defence Force (VCDF), currently Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO, CSC, is responsible for ensuring ‘the analysis of our Integrated Force needs is centred on assessments of our future operating environment; promoting pragmatic and useable concepts that include both long term perspectives and more specific challenges we are likely to encounter within the next decade’. The VCDF in a recent speech at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, stated:
What it means to have a dedicated Force Design workforce within VCDF Group cannot be overstated. The focus they bring to capital investment and capability prioritisation decisions underpins the effectiveness of the Strategic Centre and together with our Joint Capability Management and Integration team they ensure this is not a static process.
Force Design has become a business as usual function; an almost continuous ‘Force Structure Review’ focused on identifying potential capability and integration gaps before they arise. In this they are supported by a robust contestability function that in my view is adding real value.
Integration of course is the force multiplier that allows the relatively small force like the ADF to maintain a higher operational tempo, optimal agility and superior manoeuvrability.
The VCDF went on to suggest that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) should look past multi-domain, joint warfare to be better postured for future challenges:
As long as we talk and think in a segmented framework (such as domains) we inevitably think in a sectorial way, one that leads to a focus on the ‘seams’ rather than the system as a whole.
That is the leap we need to make, that is why a One Domain concept is intellectually important if we are to design and build an integrated force…Our specialist and Service building blocks will always be crucial and I think the post First Principles Review era has absolutely reinforced the crucial role of the Service Chiefs.
This is a discussion about our intellectual starting point in designing the force and what constructs are useful and what are not.
The Committee observed a maturing force design and integrated investment mindset and a pragmatic and collegial approach to managing Department of Defence capability. While it is early days, the Committee has confidence that investment decisions made by the Department and Government over, and since, the reporting period will endure to form the core of ADF capability in the future.
The Committee also notes that the design, acquisition and sustainment of capability will assist attract young Australian’s to undertake STEM education, and improve Australian research acumen and Defence industry capacity.
The Committee would like to see further development of the ‘One Domain’ concept and how that would integrate with One Defence.
The Department of Defence manages approximately $94.1 billion of total assets. During the 2015-16 financial year, the Department continued efforts to improve its financial and asset management capabilities through embedding the shared services delivery model for asset accounting and a maturing data assurance framework and controls environment to identify and resolve asset management issues.
The VCDF updated the Committee on how improvements made to the Capability Life Cycle were assisting the Department of Defence’s management of the Integrated Investment program. VCDF explained the scale of change and the cultural and behavioural adjustments undertaken to make this change a success are not well understood. The VCDF advised the Committee that the Department is:
Tailoring and streamlining the process and not being locked in…to a strict financial view of the world;
Taking a broader, multifaceted, risk based approach to deciding internally what we would recommend to government would be the best approvals pathway and the best strategy to execute acquisition;
Incorporating for the first time in an integrated way the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) capital investment and the capital investment in infrastructure and estate in the Integrated Investment Plan;
Reducing the document sets, particularly in the committee process which is often talked about as being a block or a choke point in our deliberations;
Making contestability a key aspect of the new system … bringing some independent rigor to the work that the capability managers do in bringing forward proposals. It keeps things in alignment, which is good, but it also challenges people to think about alternative ways of looking at a problem;
Ensuring the contestability function is not adversarial…what we need is one that is strong with strong decision rights, that is at arms-length to the process but is involved in the process at the same time;
Involving industry early on … It is not just about whether this project is on track or not on track; there is a focus on the Australian industry piece as well; and
[Involving other departments]…The most significant change in dynamics has been the involvement of, first, the Department of Finance and then Prime Minister and Cabinet as members of the investment committee.
During the Public Hearing, Service Chiefs as Capability Stream leads reinforced the critical role they perform, in conjunction with the Joint Force Authority, in designing, acquiring and sustaining capability. One example of this was during the Committee’s examination of the SEA 5000 Project – Future Frigates – specifically the capability the new vessels may deliver. Vice Admiral Barrett advised:
As the capability manager for the system when it is in place, I will take that question. As part of the risk reduction studies and the broader view as to when the RFT goes out, there are decisions being made at the moment about where and how the down-select will look in terms of those. So, to answer your question: yes, we are actively considering those positions at the moment. We will provide that advice to government as to where and how that should be formulated. The issue for us is to make sure the timing around development and design of combat system is coordinated with the design and development of the hull so that we do not have one organisation driving a design that is not complementary with the other part.
The Vice Chief of Air Force, Air Vice Marshal McDonald, advised the Committee of the key role the Department of Defence’s strategic Centre, and in particular the Vice Chief of the Defence Force has in resolving system integration and sub-system connectivity across the Services and Groups. Air Vice Marshal McDonald advised the Committee:
It is very much led by the centre, by Vice Chief of Defence Force, and it is a clear focus of Air Force to make sure that we can network very clearly across the three services.
In 2016 – 2017, Government approved 63 Department of Defence Submissions, close to double the previous highest number. The Department will prepare around 80 submissions for Government consideration in 2017‑18.
Projects of Concern
The Department of Defence Annual Report 2015-16 reported five (5) projects of concern:
CN 10 – Collins Class Submarine sustainment;
Air 9000 Phase 2, 4 & 6 – Multi-Role Helicopter;
Mulwala Redevelopment Project;
Sea 4000 Phase 3 – Air Warfare Destroyer; and
JP 2008 Phase 3 F – Australian Defence Satellite Communications Capability Terrestrial Enhancement.
As at 22 August 2017, the Department reported six projects of concern:
CN 10 – Collins Class Submarine sustainment;
Air 9000 Phase 2, 4 & 6 – Multi-Role Helicopter;
Sea 4000 Phase 3 – Air Warfare Destroyer;
JP 2008 Phase 3 F – Australian Defence Satellite Communications Capability Terrestrial Enhancement;
Air 5431 Phase 1 – Deployable Defence Air Traffic Management and Control System; and
Air 5431 Phase 3 – Civil Military Air Traffic Management System.
While Submarine sustainment and Air Warfare Destroyer remain on the project of concern list, the Committee observe throughout 2017 significant progress in the realisation of desired capability levels from these programs. The Committee also acknowledges that the assiduous management of the other once underperforming programs has greatly increased the probability of the Department of Defence delivering capability that meets its needs.
Decisive action taken by the Department of Defence to rectify materiel deficiencies, or to correct underperforming project arrangement, as observed in 2017 through the rectification of Canberra Class vessels propeller shaft vibration and the addition of Air Traffic Control projects to the Projects of Concern list, demonstrate a developing depth of program knowledge and active management of performance criteria. This increasingly active management by the Capability Stream leads is a significant step along the journey of Reform and the Department of Defence being recognised as an organisation that routinely realises and sustains effective, integrated capability at an affordable cost.
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Space and Cyber
The Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Space and Cyber capability stream was not scrutinised in full during this review, however the Committee reviewed Cyber and Space. Additionally, the Committee examined personnel issues and training requirements which are covered in Enablers – Personnel Matters, later in this Chapter.
The Defence White Paper 2016 states:
New and complex non-geographic security threats in cyberspace and space will be an important part of our future security environment. The cyber threat to Australia is growing. Cyber attacks are a real and present threat to the ADF’s warfighting ability as well as to other government agencies and other sectors of Australia’s economy and critical infrastructure.
The Department reported that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) is the lead agency in the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and will deliver a number of the key initiatives under the strategy. These include:
increasing ASD’s capacity to identify vulnerabilities in Australian Government systems through increased active vulnerabilities assessments and [providing] technical security advice and assistance on emerging technologies;
increasing ASD’s capacity and capability to identify new and emerging cyber threats;
improving intrusion analysis capabilities;
relocating the ACSC to a new facility; and
focusing on recruitment and retention of skilled specialists.
The Prime Minister also announced that the Department of Defence’s offensive cyber capabilities would complement the existing defensive cyber capabilities available to defend Australia’s interests in cyberspace. Since the release of the strategy, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) has implemented a dedicated program to recruit cyber specialists and to relocate the Australian Cyber Security Centre to a new facility.
The Committee sought further information on the implementation of the Department of Defence’s cyber security strategy. The Department advised:
Over the last five or six years, the cyber element within our planning and our operations has been increasing over time. We are working closely with our allies on this issue. We have been developing a cyber workforce and a cyber workforce plan for the ADF. That has been ongoing and that will evolve, and the organisational construct that will come with it, I think, is still something that we are working to.
I think the important part about cyber is that it is a complementary capability to the more traditional kinetic capabilities. Sometimes the debate gets skewed, and cyber is seen as a clean and painless way to achieve military objectives. I think that is simply not true. It is part of the mix of options and capabilities that are in play to achieve a military effect.
The Committee sought additional information regarding whole of Government utility of the ADF’s Cyber capability. The Department of Defence advised:
The Cyber Security Strategy focuses on enhancing education and the concept of security around your information, your access, and of course the Australian Signals Directorate, who have a national information security responsibility are key advisers in that area. So they will continue to enhance their role. I understand also, as the Prime Minister or ministers had announced, that they had spent some time with members of parliament on those matters, and that has been a long-term piece of work that ASD has been involved in, which is part of cybersecurity and education. In relation to the cyber workforce, that is an integrated workforce, and the white paper outlines the need to develop that sort of workforce. That is done in an integrated way from both the information security perspective and the operational perspective across the public sector, other agencies and with the ADF, noting that when you are talking about the high-end types of activities, those are very niche and hard-to-find sorts of skill sets, so the most important thing is that you have a workforce planning aspect around building that capability and ensuring that capability is available at the level that you need it. That will be one of our ongoing challenges through both the implementation of the white paper and in general in industry and other spheres.
In terms of what the biggest challenge is for us, it is the workforce skilling and competency issue. I think it cuts to the heart of the broader STEM debate, which obviously affects us as a reasonably high technology organisation, but obviously it is much broader than defence; it really is a national matter. It really starts to hit home, particularly in this area, where the STEM competencies are so crucial.
In June 2017, the Prime Minister announced the release of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review. A significant recommendation of this review is that the ASD become a statutory authority within the Defence portfolio.
The Committee notes the challenges the Department of Defence is experiencing in recruiting personnel to trades that enable cyber security. This subject is covered in the Section: Enablers – Personnel, later in this chapter.
The Committee will monitor the development of the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review recommendation for the ASD to become a statutory authority within the Defence portfolio, and will consider any impacts this change may have on ASD’s support to Military operations in 2018.
The Committee observed that the Defence Integrated Investment plan makes a significant commitment to space. The Committee sought advice on whether Air Force would retain responsibility for space based capability, and the future plans to grow the capability. The Department advised:
Air Force has historically looked after the space element, but it will move—as it rightly should—across to the centre because it is a whole-of-Defence and whole-of-nation requirement. As we speak, there are plans afoot to move the space capability out of Air Force and over to the Vice Chief so it can be more collectively managed … We have matured more rapidly than some would think, with C-band radar reaching initial operational capability. There are many firms inside Australia—EOS being one of them—with space situational awareness. We have a very good interaction with the United States for space capabilities and we are looking at where we can contribute to that. Obviously, their size and scale is very dominant. We want to make sure we are a complementary, not parallel, activity in that area.
From July 2017, Chief of Joint Capabilities, became responsible for the management of Space capability when he assumed responsibility for the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Space and Cyber capability stream.
The Committee observed several Space capabilities during 2017 and acknowledges the resources the Department of Defence is investing in this critical capability. The Committee believes there is greater opportunity for the Department to work with Industry on Space innovation and collaboration. The Committee will examine this further with Defence in 2018.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Defence investigate opportunities to partner with Industry to advance research and innovation on space capabilities.
The centralisation of responsibilities to design, acquire and sustain Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Space and Cyber in ADFHQ as a capability stream is a positive step in ensuring the ADF transitions from an organisation that desires to be networked to an inter-connected and pervasive network of networks.
The Committee commends the Department of Defence for the focus on this capability stream and working with allies to deliver current capability levels. The Committee sees greater opportunity to innovation and collaboration in across the space and cyber domains.
Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface Warfare
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) supports the ADF through its maritime forces that contribute to the ADF's capacity to defend Australia. Through the Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface Warfare Capability Stream, Navy contributes a range of strategic, security, protection, surveillance, hydrographic, oceanographic, meteorological and humanitarian assistance to support the Defence of Australia and its national interests.
The Committee noted Plan Pelorus, Navy Strategy 2018 lists four objectives, they are:
Warfighting. The ability to generate and sustain maritime task groups capable of accomplishing the full spectrum of maritime security operations.
Capability. A seaworthy fleet of ships and submarines and an airworthy fleet of helicopters sustained as systems through mature plans that support current capability and enable transition to future capabilities.
Workforce. An integrated, diverse, resilient and deployable workforce that has the skills and competencies to deliver Navy’s warfighting effects.
Reputation and reform. A culture that supports innovation and continuous improvement. Navy will be agile, resilient and innovative organisation that actively seeks ways to better deliver warfighting effects.
The Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, AO, CSC, appraised the Committee on the Navy program view to modernisation:
Firstly, in the way that we are looking at a program view of naval shipbuilding, we have considered infrastructure as an integral part of each of those individual projects, so we are looking at the moment at the naval estate across Australia, not just in isolated pockets. With that in mind, there are a number of significant projects that are already in place for improvements to the wharves in Darwin, consideration of improvement to the wharves in Cairns, improvement to the wharves in Sydney itself at Garden Island, and under the redevelopment of Stirling, money set aside for the redevelopment of wharves in that area as well. So there has been acknowledgement, and we are in progress through various stages of both projects. The Public Works Committee is looking to consider each of those areas around Australia. So I am comfortable that we have a programmatic view. Each of the projects themselves, SEA 1180 and SEA 5000, have a component that looks at infrastructure that will be used to ensure that you do not just have a wharf, but a wharf that is suitable for these particular ships. It sounds like we have everything complete. I would say we certainly are in the right direction of putting those things forward, but there are still some decisions that need to be made about the level of maintenance and, therefore, how much of that wharf needs to be considered and used for those particular ships, and we have not yet finalised all those elements. That will occur as we get information through the competitive evaluation process for SEA 5000, SEA 1180 et cetera.
On 16 May 2017, Government released the Naval Ship building plan to lay the foundations for an Australian‐wide naval shipbuilding enterprise, ending the boom‐bust cycle that has afflicted the Australian naval shipbuilding and sustainment industry.
The Shipbuilding plan is centred around three build programs for submarines, major surface combatants and minor naval vessels, including:
a rolling acquisition program for the new submarine fleet, at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia, with construction of 12 future submarines commencing around 2022‐23;
a continuous build of major surface combatants, also at the Osborne Naval Shipyard, with construction of nine future frigates commencing in 2020; and
a continuous build program for minor naval vessels, commencing with the pacific patrol boat replacement project in 2017 at the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia, and the construction of 12 offshore patrol vessels, with the first two to be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard commencing in 2018 and transferring to the Henderson Maritime Precinct at the start of the future frigate project.
The Committee commends navy for implementing Plan Pelorus and for its substantial progress in its delivery. The Committee looks forward to following the attainment of these objectives and the implementation of Navy’s next tranche of reform and modernisation goals throughout 2018.
The Committee notes the initial steps the Department of Defence has taken to implement the Naval Ship Building Plan and acknowledges that the achievement of Plan will require a national endeavour involving Government, industry, academia and the education and training sectors and the Department of Defence. Nethertheless, the Department as the Plans customer has significant work ahead to ensure a capable workforce is available to design, build, operate, sustain and in time dispose of the capability when it is replaced.
Maritime Surface Warfare
In February 2016, HMAS Canberra sailed to contribute to Operation Fiji Assist. Following this operation, HMAS Canberra formed a task group with a number of frigates and travelled to Rim of the Pacific Exercise. Therefore demonstrating the capacity to deliver the capabilities for which the class of vessel was acquired; Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relieve (HADR) and task group operations as part of a multinational force.
HMAS Hobart is the first ship in the new Hobart Class guided missile destroyer. Based on the Navantia designed F100 frigate, HMAS Hobart is fitted with an Aegis Combat System. The ship commenced construction on 6 September 2012, was launched on 23 May 2015 and commissioned on 23 September 2017. The Department states HMAS Hobart:
Will carry a helicopter for surveillance and response to support key warfare areas. The surface warfare function will include long range anti-ship missiles and a naval gun capable of firing extended range munitions in support of land forces.
Hobart will also conduct undersea warfare and be equipped with modern sonar systems, decoys, surface-launched torpedoes and an array of effective close-in defensive weapons.
These capabilities ensure that the Hobart Class guided missile destroyers have the layered defensive and offensive capability required to counter conventional and asymmetric threats.
The Committee will monitor the development in capability delivered by the Hobart Class of Vessels over future years.
The Committee notes the operational effectiveness and saving made through improved contracting arrangements with Industry which has improved the reliability of Navy’s surface fleet. The Committee will monitor the ongoing performance of these arrangements to assess their suitability across other capability streams.
Maritime Sub-Surface Warfare
Following the release of the Auditor General’s Audit Report No. 23 2008-09, Performance Audit – Management of the Collins-class Operations Sustainment and systemic underperformance of this capability Navy commissioned Mr John Coles to conduct a detailed review of the submarine capability.
The Coles Report, a Study into the Business of Sustaining Australia’s Strategic Collins Class Submarine Capability, sought to answer four questions:
What is wrong now with the Collins fleet sustainment performance?
What caused the current problems with sustainment performance?
Will improvement initiatives address these issues?
What are the recommendations to resolve the remaining issues?
The Chief of Navy updated the Committee on the current status of work to remediate deficiencies raised in the Coles Report:
I can report that we are having success in the measures that he anticipated, and his latest report, which was issued late last year, details significant improvement in submarine availability and, as a result, the ability for us to generate a submarine force. In the second half of last year at one stage there were five Collins class submarines in the water. Of those, four were consistently available to the Fleet Commander. We were able to conduct a number of overseas deployments to South-East Asia and North-East Asia, and in the last two years we have managed also to send a submarine to India and one to Hawaii, so the Collins class is demonstrating what it was originally designed for—that is, long transit—when it is in those areas.
The Committee commends Navy and the Department of Defence on the significant improvement in performance of the Submarine capability and in the morale of the submarine force.
The Committee will continue to examine the submarine capability’s performance during 2018.
Through well communicated priorities hard work and strong leadership Navy is making significant progress towards addressing capital equipment, sustainment and cultural deficiencies across the fleet. The Committee commends Navy and the Department of Defence on the significant progress made in improving the performance of the Maritime Surface and Sub-Surface Warfare capability stream. This capability stream will be subject to ongoing review by the Committee in 2018.
Land Combat and Amphibious Warfare
As a small Army defending a large country with national interests spanning the globe, Army seeks to combine superior warfighting concepts, with optimal force structure and the best, affordable, technology. Army through the Land Combat and Amphibious Warfare capability stream continues to meet its operational requirements, with approximately 960 personnel deployed on operations, and a total of about 17 per cent of the total Army committed to contingency forces.
In conjunction with Navy, Air Force and Joint Operations Command, Army proactively manages its operations and contingency forces commitment to ensure the current tempo can be maintained. The Deputy Chief of Army advised the Committee:
The total force strength of the Army, as at 1 February, is 44,564, of which 30,981 are in the regular Army and 13,583 are in the reserve. Of that total force, 12.2 per cent of our regular force is female as is 14.2 per cent in the reserve.
The Chief of Army has set an aim of 25 per cent female participation and five per cent Indigenous Australian participation by 2025.
Currently, 2.4 per cent of Army has declared themselves as Indigenous Australian; an increase over the past year.
The Deputy Chief of Army, Major General Rick Burr, DSC, AM, MVO reminded the Committee of the Chief of Army, Army’s, four enduring priorities – Support to operations; to assist Army’s wounded, injured and ill; to modernise the force; and ongoing cultural reform and renewal. To support the enduring priorities, Army’s has ten lines of effort:
Recruiting remediation – More choice for more people will provide the best base from which to build Army;
Implementation of the 2016 Ryan Review into training, education and doctrine – We should unashamedly aspire to be the best Army in the world (albeit not the biggest);
Reserve Transformation – Army is an integrated and operationally-focused force;
Special Operations renewal – Special Operations Command is a trusted, team of teams delivering national mission forces;
Retention – Army is an organisation in which people have a purpose and are inspired to serve;
Joint Warfighting Readiness – In all aspects, readiness is the essential first step to success on operations;
Amphibious force development – Army is amphibious capable;
Implementing the Huston Review into Army aviation – Army aviation is in all aspects a safe, sustainable and effective contributor to ADF capability;
Force Posture – Army is postured for Plan Beersheba and capability delivery under the Integrated Investment Plan;
Modernisation – Army thinks critically to deliver capabilities required to meet Australia’s future strategic challenges.
The Committee notes Army is making steady progress towards achieving their stated priorities, especially regarding joint warfighting readiness, recruiting remediation, improving training and education, reserve transformation, realising the amphibious capability milestones and implementing Plan Beersheba.
The Committee will continue to monitor the progress of Special Forces renewal, the implementation of the Huston Review recommendations and modernisation; especially the progress of Land 200 and Land 400 programs and those programs enabling the renewal of special operations.
Committee members observed the Amphibious Landing as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017 and were very encourage by the progress the Department of Defence has made in realising this critical capability. While it is acknowledged that Army’s amphibious structures will continue to mature and additional capability will be introduced through the Integrated Investment Plan progress to date is commendable.
The Committee inquired into the role of 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR), under Australia’s amphibious capability development. The Deputy Chief of Army stated:
2 RAR will reconfigure to be an amphibious support force providing the enduring command and control and support structure for the amphibious capability at the tactical level.
The Committee sought additional information on whether Army would require additional workforce to accommodate 2 RAR being a dedicated amphibious unit. The Deputy Chief of Army advised:
No, it does not. It is being done within the existing numbers that we have. It is through a broader remediation of our workforce to eliminate other areas that were either hollow or part of the Plan Beersheba implementation to draw our overall force structure down to reflect our funded strength and the people that we have available to make sure that that is a tighter fit so that our structure reflects the capability requirements which reflects the funding that we have. As part of that review the amphibious force was very much considered to make sure that we were getting the best force within those resources. We believe that this is the optimum force structure.
The Deputy chief of Army also provided detail on the combat and command elements of the Amphibious force:
The combat elements of the amphibious force will come from the Beersheba brigades and they will be rotated through the brigades…Sitting above that we will have a Commander of Landing Forces, and that will live as part of Commander of the Amphibious Task Force, co-located.
The Committee commends Army and the Department of Defence for the progress made towards delivering a truly amphibious capability. The Committee notes that challenges remain before the desired level of amphibious capability is realised. Included in these challenges will be the integration of new capabilities to be delivered through the Integrated Investment Plan. The Committee will continue to examine the development of the ADF’s amphibious capability in 2018.
The Committee inquired into the role of the 2nd Division and the Reserve component of Army. The Deputy Chief of Army advised:
The role of 2nd Division is to continue to command the reserve brigades and ensure that their output is aligned to the force generation cycles—so very much command and control of those dispersed brigades to do that. One of the 10 lines of effort that the Chief of Army has directed is reform of the reserve, so there is a number of initiatives in that to improve recruiting, retention, the lived experience and so forth, and 2nd Division are ensuring that is occurring inside the division. Of course, not all reserves live inside 2nd Division; there are many others around the army, including in our combat support brigade, but there are no specific plans to grow the headquarters 2nd Division by any great margin; it will be through improvements.
The battle group out of the reserve has been going on for two years and has been validated on Exercise Hamel. It is proving to be very successful. Under the Plan Beersheba construct, two reserve brigades are required to work together to produce a battle group to support the ready battle group. Given the fourth generation cycle, they can anticipate well in advance what that requirement will be and, as I said, that has now been validated twice and will continue this year and into the future. It is proving very successful for the Army Reserve because it gives them focus, allows them to anticipate and be resourced, and to get highly valued training—and, very much, it is fuel as in the lived experience of being part of a total army.
The Chief of Army has directed that every operational commitment will have reserves as part of it, and right now I think we are at about 10 per cent of the force that is deployed is reserve. We are very satisfied where that is going.
The Committee sought additional information on the rationale guiding the latest change to Army Reserve structures and roles. The Deputy Chief of Army advised:
It is all aspects of the reserve, to make sure it is very much part of the total workforce. Fundamentally, it is focused on delivering the outputs, which is a ready battle group to sustain our brigade group commitment. That is very much part of our core structure now; ensuring that it is able to do that. But it is also the individual aspects of recruiting and accelerating the training continuum so that reservists whose time is precious do not spend any longer than they need to in the training continuum before they can then get out and do collective training.
The Committee notes the Reserve component of Army has been under scrutiny, underfunded and in a state of change for almost a generation. The Committee welcomes the renewed focus by Army to structure and employ Reserves in a manner that provides meaningful employment and capability to Army.
The Committee commends and thanks all Reserve personnel who make such a vital contribution to the nation and ADF operations.
The Committee will continue to monitor the performance of Army’s reserve component during 2018.
The Committee notes the progress Army has made to reorganise, re-equip to deliver against their priorities. The Committee commends Army and the Department of Defence on the significant progress made in improving the performance of the Land Combat and Amphibious Warfare capability stream. This capability stream will be subject to ongoing review by the Committee in 2018.
Air and Sea Lift
Strike and Air Combat
The Chief of Air Force, currently Air Marshal Gavin (Leo) Davies, AO, CSC, is the capability stream lead for both Air and Sea Lift and Strike and Air Combat. Air Force provides air power for Australia’s interests. Air Force’s strategy has five top level focus areas: joint operations, personnel, communications and information systems, infrastructure and international engagement. Air Force communicates their strategy to the workforce through Plan Jericho which has three themes; joint operations, workforce focus, and the sustainment and acquisition of equipment.
The Vice Chief of Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Warren McDonald, AM, CSC advised the Committee that Air Force is going through a large recapitalisation, he stated:
[Air Force aims] to be a modern fifth-generation Air Force. [We are] well on track to do that by 2023. On that journey from here to 2023 there is a lot of work to be done in transition, re-equipping our workforce and also making sure that we can cooperate and be very effective in a joint fight. So our aim is obviously to be combat ready at any time and make the best advantage of what successive governments have delivered to Defence and Air Force.
The Deputy Chief of Air Force updated the Committee on the progress of new capability being introduced into Air Force, he stated:
C-27J had reached initial operating capability. This is the final plank of Air Force’s air mobility fleet;
The first P-8 Poseidon for maritime patrol arrived in Nov 2016 and the second in March 2017;
The first two Growler electronic warfare aircraft arrived in February 2017, and initial operating capability is scheduled to be achieved in December 2018; and
Two F-35s will arrive in December 2018, and final operating capability with 72 aircraft is scheduled for December 2023.
The Committee inquired into the communications and integration challenges Air Force encounter when networking to legacy maritime and land systems. The Vice Chief of Air Force advised the Committee:
From an Air Force perspective when we look at it we see the E-7A airborne early warning aircraft as a key node. We look into Navy and see their warfare destroyer and then we look into Army and see their battle management system. So we have been putting in intellectual effort and also doing trials. Army were exceptional in assisting us with a trial in Puckapunyal last year, where we linked Tiger, for the first time on the planet, in with other systems and their battle management system.
The Committee sought additional information from Air Force on its interoperability with Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). The Vice Chief of Air Force advised:
Tiger was connected to the Link 16 network, and that was successfully done… We are looking at certain pieces of equipment that will enable connection right across the Defence Force. They are complicated in nature, naturally, particularly as modern warfare is moving away from very much a platform focus to an integrated network focus… [if you are not integrated] you are at a disadvantage in a modern combat sense. So I would say we are ably assisted by the centre [ADFHQ] who is helping us engage widely to enable the connection of our platforms. We are very much driven inside Air Force to ensure through Plan Jericho that we can do that. My compatriots—my equivalents—in Army and Navy are also of the same mindset.
The Committee inquired into the status of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s integration into the broader warfighting network. The Department advised:
F-35 is not due for arrival in Australia until December 2018. We have a very keen eye on what connectivity requirements are for that aircraft to make sure that when it comes to Australia it can dovetail in…It is a sophisticated piece of equipment and we have to make sure that it will dovetail neatly into the Defence Force. That will pose some challenges… in making sure we focus our effort on the right networks for the benefit of all.
Some people will tell you it cannot talk to anything. That is not true. It can; it is just making sure we make it talk to the right things at the right time. It has a lot of information to provide, but how much of that do you really need to provide? How much…you [can] overwhelm a network if you use it to its full extent? Everyone loves information, but only a certain amount of it is useful in a period of time.
The Committee sought additional information on how the F-35 would inform BMS [Battle Management System]. Air Vice Marshal McDonald advised:
We are very focused on working with Army to understand the battle management system and what they need at what time.... you can flood everyone with information and it becomes useless… So we need to trim it down and work out exactly what Army needs. My view is that you need to simplify it as much as you can for the war fighter so they can make a decision. So Link 16 would be very useful—all of our contacts out of Link 16—to an Army commander and particularly to a Navy commander. That is where our focus is to make sure that we can provide succinct information to the commander when they need it at the right time. So we are looking at trying to get a connection through Air Force of every platform.
We call it seamless situation awareness for the soldier. In the past, if a soldier stepped onto a C-17 we would fly them for seven to nine hours and they would step out of the back—we would have our finest walk off the back ramp or parachute out the back—having no updates for that period of time…That is why we have invested in beyond-line-of-sight communications to allow updates to the war fighter as they move through into the battlefield.
If they have to move from a C-17 we have satellite communications now in C-130 so they too can pick up the fight and move in. That goes to C-27J. We have trialled with Army beyond-line-of-sight communications through the rotors of a CH-47 Chinook. That is not a mild undertaking in engineering terms, but I am happy to report there was a 20 per cent loss of information. As a result, that 80 per cent is essential for those war fighters in the back of that aircraft to be delivered into combat. That is where we are pushing networked and information flow for our fellow services.
The Committee notes and commends the strong progress Air Force has made to prepare Air Force for significant equipment recapitalisation and to deliver against their priorities.
The Committee commends Air Force and the Department of Defence on the significant progress made in improving the performance of both the Air and Sea Lift and Strike and Air Combat capability streams. These capability streams will be subject to ongoing review by the Committee in 2018.
The Key Enabler capability stream is co-lead by the Associate Secretary and Chief of Joint Capability. Individual responsibilities for this capability stream are:
Associate Secretary is responsible for the functions provided by:
Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group,
Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group,
Estate and Infrastructure Group,
Defence Science and Technology Group, and
Chief Financial Officer Group.
Chief of Joint Capabilities is responsible for the functions provided by:
The Australian Defence College;
Information Warfare Division (embedded in HQJCC); and
The management of agreed Joint projects, and their sustainment to support joint capability requirements.
All enabling functions were not scrutinised in detail during this review as they fell outside the terms of reference for this inquiry. The Committee will work with the Department of Defence to ensure future reviews scrutinise the performance of all enabling functions.
Personnel and all aspects surrounding the identification of suitable people, their recruitment, training and wellbeing is central to the success of any organisation. In the Department of Defence where people are often asked to perform activities that challenge their physical, mental and spiritual limits the leadership of this component of capability is critical. The Committee observed a strong commitment from all levels of leadership in Defence to place people at or near the top of their priorities. The Committee also acknowledges that due to their very nature each person is unique and that systems and process deemed adequate for the majority may not work for a minority.
The Committee’s review of personnel matters focussed on Project Suakin, recruitment and retention, skills shortages, attainment of security clearances, diversity, and mental health. Each focus area is covered below.
Project Suakin total workforce model
Project Suakin aims to attract and retain the right people, in the right numbers, with greater workforce flexibility and agility to deliver the ADF’s force generation and operational capabilities. Project Suakin is a new workforce model designed to enable the generation and sustainment of ADF capability through workplace flexibility; including necessary amendments to Defence legislation and revised policies and procedures. The DAR 2015-16 states:
Project Suakin will be implemented by the Services in 2016–17 through cultural and business process reforms. These reforms will enable members of the Permanent Forces and Reserve to move across service categories, including full-time, part-time, Reserve and dual-employment options with industry partners.
The total workforce model supports the attraction and retention of members through enabling them to meet their changing personal circumstances during their working life, and enhances Defence’s reputation as an employer of choice.
The Defence Reserves Association (DRA) Submission to the Inquiry, raised concerns regarding the allowances paid to reservists, specifically ‘the original aim of optimising the capability has slipped into the background’. The DRA is concerned that the allowances between different service categories may vary and reduce the attractiveness of part time ADF service to civilians.
The Department advised the Committee the Total Workforce Model:
Introduces a contemporary workforce framework for the ADF. The foundation of the model is the service spectrum that comprises seven service categories. The ADF Total Workforce Model also provides different service options for meeting workforce supply and capability. Differentiated arrangements can include entry standards, skill sets, remuneration, duty patterns or any other condition that may be approved by a service chief. It builds on the current flexible workplace initiatives that are already happening across Navy, Army and Air Force and it provides Defence with some workforce agility and flexibility that we will need into the future.
As the new service categories commenced on 1 July 2016, they were not reported on in the Defence Annual Report 2015 – 2016. The Committee heard that the new service categories (SERCATs) are in place and being utilised now, particularly for reservists. The Department advised the Committee that:
For SERCATs 3 and 5, which are the reserve options under the new system, people are flowing into those, and so the 19½ thousand to 20,000 reservists that we had under the old system have flowed across into those new service categories, whether 3 or 5.
Rear Admiral Wolski highlighted that the Department of Defence is ‘on the cusp’ of utilising the new workforce model, and it would take some ‘cultural change’ in order to implement. The expected benefits of the model are to better retain personnel by offering more flexible working arrangement options:
I am particularly keen to see the services, instead of losing people through resignation, encouraging people to revert to other service categories and then having them able to be utilised on a days-per-year, reservist-type of function and available in future, when they wish to, to easily move back up the service categories to service category 7, or full time. That is another one of the very important points about the new model—having an ease of movement between those service categories so that we retain people rather than losing them out of the system totally.
The Defence Reserve Association recommends Defence conduct a comprehensive review on how it meets the original objective set out in Plan Suakin ‘to develop a model that optimises the contribution of the ADF Reserves to the Total Force’. The Department advised:
One of the strategies we are looking at is recovering workforce numbers by bringing people back in, and not just in full-time employment. We are using the Defence model or the workforce model of Project Suakin, which allows freedom of movement within Navy, Army and Air Force, to allow personnel to be able to move more freely between civil work and military work. We are looking at all the opportunities there to do it, and we have had some success in particular trades. It does come down to looking at individuals and encouraging them to come back.
The Committee acknowledges the objectives sought through Plan Suakin and the work the Department of Defence has undertaken to implement the Plan. The however notes concern at the pace of implementation and the negative impact on Reserve personnel and the migration of the ADF to the Total Force concept.
The Committee will be closely monitoring Plan Suakin implementation progress in 2018.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Defence review the Plan Suakin scope and objective; its implementation timeframe and resourcing to ensure that this signature program is and continues to meet all of the Department’s personnel capability needs.
Recruitment and retention
The total Department of Defence headcount increased by 631 to 58 035 personnel during 2015-16. This growth in the permanent workforce is expected to continue in coming years as the ADF grows towards the 2016 Defence White Paper personnel allocation. Table 4.1 and Table 4.2 provide a break down on ADF personnel and headcount numbers, 30 Jun 15 – 30 Jun 16.
The total ADF workforce was reported as 79,493 personnel, and includes: 17 170 Navy permanent and reserve members, 43,218 Army permanent and Reserve members and 19 105 Air Force permanent and Reserve members. At 30 June 2016, 1 046 Reservists were also Department of Defence APS employees.
Table 4.1: ADF Personnel Numbers 2015-16
Source: Chapter 7: Strategic Workforce Management, DAR 2015-16, p. 95.
Table 4.2: Department of Defence workforce headcount, 30 June 2015 and 30 June 2016
Headcount 30 June 2015
Headcount 30 June 2016
Source: Defence Annual Report 2015-16, Table 7.8, p. 95.
The Committee noted the Reserve headcount decreased by 1 628 to 21 458 personnel. The Committee will closely monitor this issue in 2018 to determine if this decrease is an aberration or unplanned trend.
The Committee noted the ADF did not achieve its recruitment targets for permanent force or reserve force entry in 2015-16. Table 4.3 details the ADF’s 2015-16 recruitment achievement.
Table 4.3: Australian Defence Force recruitment targets 2015-16
Source: Defence Annual Report 2015-16, Table 3.15, p. 50.
The Chief of Navy advised the Committee:
At the moment (as at 1 February 17) we are achieving about 95 per cent of our recruiting target… about 85 per cent for officers and about 101 per cent for sailors.
The Deputy Chief of Army advised the Committee that recruitment is a key focus for Army:
Recruiting is No. 1 on the chief's 10 lines of effort for improvement. We are very pleased where that is going. We are seeing immediate return by focusing on some of the procedural aspects of accelerating people being able to come in … Army is working with Defence Force Recruiting and the People Group to very much focus on that in a very collaborative way, and we are seeing great gains being made…That is focused very much on all aspects of the Army but with a particular emphasis on female and specialist areas of trade that we need for the future.
The Deputy Chief of Air Force, Air Vice Marshal McDonald advised the Committee:
Our recruiting we are very satisfied with. In percentage terms it is very much in the high 90s of our requirements.
The DAR noted that a focus for 2016-17 would be on improving Reserve recruiting and pursuing greater diversity within the ADF. The Committee will continue to monitor the achievement of recruitment targets during 2018.
The Committee notes the Department of Defence underachievement in recruiting to the permanent and reserve force. The Committee is concerned at the declining number of Reservists and will work with the Department to understand the reasons for wastage and measures to address this in 2018.
The DAR stated that recruiting and retaining the required intelligence workforce remains a key challenge. The Committee also heard that the services face challenges in recruiting to a number of skill or Navy trade categories.
The Committee sought additional information on the categories Navy is experiencing difficulties recruiting to. The Chief of Navy advised:
We have always had difficulty in the technical trades, and a number of those, particularly marine technicians, remain critical for us.
Similarly, the Deputy Chief of Army advised the Committee the Army is taking measures to address skills shortages:
We are an increasingly high-tech Army and we need to make sure that we are recruiting those types of people, not the broader generalist types of people that you may typically think that Army is employing. Many of the most high-tech capabilities in Defence live inside Army …we want to be appealing to those people who would like to be employed in those roles.
There are many aspects to it. It is not only about being attractive to people; it is also the trade structures and their ongoing future employment. We are very focused on it.
The Committee acknowledges that the Department of Defence is competing with the industries offering the most attractive employment opportunities for human capital. The Committee also notes that the Department is employing several strategies to attract the right workforce; notwithstanding the Department must do more to attract and retain the number of technically capable operators and maintenance and sustainment personnel required deliver on ambitious plans like the Ship Building Plan and to posture the Department of Defence for the next wave of high technology systems required to obtain and maintain capability advantage.
The Committee acknowledges that this challenge is a national enterprise – the Department of Defence cannot do it alone – and will require assistance from all levels of Government, education institutions, and industry to grow a STEM workforce capable of designing, sustaining and employing next generation combat and support systems across the spectrum of conflict and humanitarian support.
The Committee observed that several organisations requiring high level security clearances to complete training or obtain job proficiency are experiencing difficulties in personnel achieving these clearances in a timely manner. The Committee sought additional information from the Department of Defence on the benchmark timeframes to obtain a security clearance and if there was a different between the time it takes for any particular group, including industry applicants, to obtain a clearance. The Department advised:
It is six months for a positive vet clearance. But in the last year we have had a huge increase in productivity in that area.
Australian Government Security Vetting Agency commenced a comprehensive positive vetting remediation program in January 2016. The scale of the positive vetting remediation task means that the positive vetting backlog and average positive vetting processing times will remain high through Financial Year 2016-17 and Financial Year 2017-18. The positive vetting backlog should be removed and returned to benchmark processing times by the end of Financial Year 2017-18.
The Committee notes Department of Defence elected not to provide specific detail regarding security clearance timeframes for industry as requested during the public hearing. The Committee also notes that while the Department advice states the backlog in clearance times was reducing, this is not consistent with advice the committee and individual members have received throughout the year particularly in relation to positive-vetting for critical trades. The committee has been advised on numerous occasions that it can take over two years for personnel to gain a security clearance necessary to undertake trade or mustering training or to commence work as a contractor, significantly impacting their progression in the Department of Defence or the opportunity cost to the Department of work not performed. The Committee recommends that the Department urgently review security clearance process, resourcing and timeframes.
The Committee will continue to closely monitor security clearance vetting timeframes for both the Department of Defence and industry applicants during 2018.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Defence urgently review security clearance processes, resourcing and timeframe to ensure all organisations that require the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency to complete vetting and subsequent re-assessment of clearances are being serviced in a timely manner.
The Department of Defence advised the Committee that separation rates across the services have been lowering over the last few years. Current separation rates are:
5.2 per cent – Air Force.
The Committee noted that APS numbers decreased by 1 389 in 2015-16 and inquired into causal factors for APS members leaving Defence. The Department advised:
We know that, for what we have to deliver for the white paper, we need some different skills in certain areas, so we had a voluntary redundancy program which we targeted to the Senior Executive Service and the executive layers…we had a reduction of, about 10 per cent at our executive level. Some of that was, again, quite deliberate, because we needed to increase the span of control…People have left, but we can now reshape, and we are actively recruiting in a number of areas now.
In terms of the enterprise agreement, we are very committed to getting an enterprise agreement with our staff. I think that we have had three no votes, as you have said. The last one was just before Christmas. We had an initial discussion with the bargaining representatives in late January, so we are looking at how we will then resume bargaining again within the government framework. We have been clear all along that it is our intention to put on the table the very best offer that we can in terms of the framework, and we have, but we will continue to have discussions and work that through…We are very conscious that the votes have been fairly close in terms of people who have voted yes and people who have voted no…For me, it is about our total workforce, not just focusing on addressing people who are unhappy, because we have got people who were happy with the offer and we also need to work with them.
The Committee notes the Department of Defence APS members agreed to the Defence Enterprise Agreement 2017-2020 on 21 June 2017, which came into effect on 16 August 2017. The agreement provides pay increases of Aug 2017 – 3 percent; Aug 2018 – 2 percent and Aug 2019 – 1 percent.
The Committee sought information on the specific reasons trained personnel leave Navy for private industry. The Chief of Navy advised:
There are two parts to the answer. Firstly, we have had, in the past, difficulties with retention with those who have gained technical qualifications. The training is good. Once gained, the experience makes them valuable commodities, particularly in the west if they are, for instance, submarine marine technicians. The mining boom in the west several years ago was a draw for them. It is less so at the moment, but it is still a consideration.
We are using the Defence model or the workforce model of Project Suakin, which allows freedom of movement within Navy, Army and Air Force, to allow personnel to be able to move more freely between civil work and military work. We are looking at all the opportunities there to do it, and we have had some success in particular trades. It does come down to looking at individuals and encouraging them to come back.
The other aspect is, at the recruiting end, gaining the right numbers of people with the right skills and interests to join and then complete a level of technical training, which is not necessarily a short period of time. We have had our own issues about how we have managed that, and we have had to take action to improve our own measures to encourage people. Once they are encouraged, they actually manage their progress through technical training. There are a number of combinations for getting the numbers that we need overall. With where the Navy is going, and it will be the same for other technical parts of the services, be it Air Force or Army, the level and degree of technical skill that is needed is increasing. We need increasing numbers of those with those skills, so it will be a perennial issue for us.
Vice Admiral Barrett advised the Committee that retention fluctuates for many reasons:
Some of which will be the status of other employment opportunities elsewhere. In some cases, we might be able to measure the dearth of those with technical skills coming out of schools in certain areas that we have traditionally used for recruitment. If there is a dearth of those with those skills applying then we will see a knock-on effect as well.
The Deputy Chief of Army advised the Committee that:
In terms of retention, there is much focus on that as well. It is very much providing that lived experience where people feel that their service is valued, where they can realise their full potential and where they will want to stay.
We also seek to accept the fact that people will always leave the Army. What we want them to do is leave well and have the door always open for them to return and to continue their service either in a full-time or a part-time capacity.
The Deputy Chief of Air Force advised the Committee the Air Force is experiencing historically low separation rates. Averaged over the last three years, Air Force’s separation rate [is] 5.5 percent…and that has issues of its own.
The Department of Defence’s Head of People Capability, Rear Admiral Wolski advised the Committee that remuneration is one mechanism the ADF can employ to improve retention:
There are a couple of different methods we have within policy to enable us to try to compete a little on the monetary side. We also have a large number of non-financial retention measures as well, which are just as important as the monetary side. In particular, on the monetary side there are individual bonuses which are available to be directed at particular people. Or we do have the differentiated packages which are available to provide to entire workgroups so that we can work on maintaining the numbers we have now. Or it might be because we see a need in the future to grow a particular workgroup, so we can provide financial and non-financial support to them to retain them.
It is the development of those suite of packages with the affected workforce themselves. It is finding out from them what is important to them, and we did that with submariners a couple of years ago, for example. We put a lot of effort into saying, 'Well, what would keep you?' And it was a range of financial and non-financial measures, and we put a package together to do that. So we do have that sort of flexibility.
Rear Admiral Wolski suggested one reason why ADF members leave the Department Defence is ‘because of the training that the Australian Defence Force provides to people, our people are very attractive to the industries outside. We are always seeing people who are leaving the Australian Defence Force and the vast majority of them do move to occupations outside’.
The Department of Defence, through the Capability Stream leads and People Group, are investing heavily in the recruiting and retention of personnel, APS and ADF alike. The Committee is encouraged by the executive’s commitment to increase workforce flexibility and to implement mechanisms to improve an individual’s chance of succeeding during their initial training and eventually when they elect to leave the Full Time Force to remain engaged with the Department of Defence as a reservist, or to re-engage at a future time of their choosing. The Committee will closely monitor these initiatives in 2018 to examine progress in improving retention of those trades and categories where personnel numbers are below establishment.
The Committee inquired into workforce diversity, including female participation rates, recruitment of Indigenous Australians and people with autism. The Department advised:
The Committee heard from the Service Chief’s or their representatives that:
The number of women serving in Navy has increased significantly in the last 24 months. We are now at about 19.7 per cent of the force. Our target is 25 per cent by 2023. Of those, about 19.2 per cent are in the trained force, so these are not just training numbers; this is in the force itself.
Of Army, 12.2 per cent of our regular force are female and 14.2 per cent in the reserve. The Chief of Army has set an aim of 25 per cent female participation by 2025.
Women in Air Force were at 19.9 per cent, and we have the same aim point as the other two services: 25 per cent by 2023. Whilst we are in a good position, that still requires close management to ensure we meet that target.
The Committee inquired into the proportion of women in the senior officers’ ranks. The Department advised:
There are 70 senior officers that are female, which is growing slowly. Over the last 12 months, we have increased that number by between five and 10.
The Head of People Capability, Rear Admiral Brett Wolski, advised the Committee:
The female participation rate in the ADF at the moment is 16.1 percent. Since 1 January 2016, that has risen from 15.4 percent… So we are seeing a very gradual increase in the female participation rate. Probably most startling, though, is the very good news of the percentage of females in each recruiting intake that we have had in the past 12 months. For example, across the ADF—this is for all permanent force intakes—21.1 per cent of those intakes are females…Navy, 27.9 percent; Army, 16.2 percent; and Air Force, 34.7… So we are seeing a much better result, as far as our recruiting efforts go, towards increasing the female participation rate across the three services. We anticipate the gradual improvement of the participation rate will continue.
The Committee sought information on the number of women seeking employment in combat roles. The Department advised:
The first thing we need to say is we are not pressuring people to take up combat roles if they do not wish to. There are females who are choosing to participate in the combat roles, and the numbers at the moment are small but gradually are growing.
Rear Admiral Brett Wolski expanded further, advising:
There is no target for women serving in the combat roles for which they were previously excluded. However, for combat roles that have had restrictions lifted since January 2013, Defence can confirm that in the permanent Australian Defence Force there are around 65 women who are now in training and around 30 women that are trained and serving in these roles.
The Physical Employment Standards for employment in the Australian Defence Force are scientifically based, occupationally relevant, and do not discriminate on gender.
The Committee is encouraged by the Department of Defence’s efforts to improve female participation. The Committee is also cognisant of the physical demands many employment categories place on trainee’s bodies, especially young people. Therefore, the Committee supports the Department of Defence’s current approach which seeks to place greater focus on preparation prior to the commencement of training to minimise injuries and improve pass rates.
The Committee inquired into the participation of indigenous Australians in the Department of Defence. The Department advised:
At the moment, in terms of members in the Public Service, our Indigenous number is sitting at two per cent, so it has risen from 1.5 per cent to two per cent this year. We are sitting at two per cent in the ADF as well.
The Committee noted a suite of programs focussed at recruiting Indigenous Australians, including; graduate programs, pre recruitment courses, Defence Indigenous Development Program, mentoring at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
The Deputy Chief of Army advised the Committee that Army was working to a goal of five percent declared Indigenous Australian participation by 2025. The current participation rate is 2.4 percent.
Rear Admiral Wolski added:
These types of programs have contributed to quite an increase in the recruiting successes for the Australian Defence Force. Of all of the recruits taken in at the moment, 5.8 per cent are Indigenous and we would see that rising in the near future…[The] most important part here is community engagement and getting the word out to Indigenous folk about what it is that is available in the Australian Defence Force. There are up to 1,200 visits at schools around Australia each year.
The Department of Defence’s commitment to the education and employment of Indigenous Australians is to be commended. The Committee strongly supports all initiatives that increase the engagement with and integration of all Indigenous Australians in the APS, ADF or enabling contractor capacity. The Committee will continue to monitor the Department of Defence initiatives to attract, and retain Indigenous Australians into the Department during 2018.
The Committee requested an overview of the Department of Defence’s work to employ participants of the Dandelion Program, ‘an initiative to build valuable Information Technology, life, and executive functioning skills to help establish careers for people on the autism spectrum’. The Department advised:
With the Dandelion Program, we really looked hard at the Department of Human Services, the human services program, which you may be familiar with. The difference with what we are doing in Defence is that we are really looking at how we can bring those people with autism with very unique skills that are suitable to help us in the cybersecurity area……We have been very careful to do this in a way that is slow and deliberate. The on-boarding and the recruitment process are very staged. As you are probably aware, many of this group are not comfortable with interviews and have not been comfortable with formal traditional recruitment…it was really a question of who was going to fit our organisation and were they comfortable.
We have got about nine people now who are on board with us working. That is a contract arrangement, and we partner with Hewlett-Packard in that regard…they have been with us for a few months now and it is proving very successful. We did a lot of work with the work area where they are working to ensure that we had competency and understanding of how to best position us and this group.
One of the challenges is actually providing enough work ….because this group really are incredibly conscientious. They are working in that sort of area where you need the really strong pattern recognition and really high attention to detail. It is a mixture of men and women.
When you look at the STEM data, women are actually over-represented here if you compare it to the national figures. So we are still learning and this is early days, but so far it has met our goals in terms of success factors.
The Committee notes the successful outcomes the Department of Defence is achieving through the Dandelion Program. The Committee strongly support Defence participation in similar programs where the interests of both the individual and the Department can be served.
The Committee acknowledges the wide range of initiatives and programs the Department of Defence is implementing to increase diversity across the Department. The Committee will continue to monitor the level of diversity in the Department in 2018.
Mental health support
The Department of Defence has an integrated, multi-disciplinary focus for the delivery of mental health services, including mental health promotion, training, prevention, early identification, treatment and rehabilitation.
Recognizing that mental health is not solely related to diagnosable mental disorders, but encompasses a broad range of lifestyle, mental wellbeing and job performance factors, the Department through the ADF Mental Health Strategy (MHS) seeks to focus on prevention and evidence-based treatment to maximise retention and enhance the quality of life for the Department’s personnel. There are six key initiatives:
Integration and Enhancement of ADF Mental Health Services;
ADF Mental Health Research and Surveillance;
Enhanced Resilience and Wellbeing in the ADF;
ADF Critical Incident Mental Health Support;
ADF Suicide Prevention Program; and
Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Program.
The Committee inquired into the level of mental health illness in the ADF and amongst veteran. The Department advised:
Most ADF personnel leave the service with no or little ill effect from their service…Some do, and we need to focus on those who do, both while they are in service, during their transition and beyond their service. Of course, that is where the role of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) becomes very important as does the role of the Ex-Service Organisations (EXOs).
It is a real challenge to have a dispassionate discussion around it. I think the public narrative has been skewed a little. I can understand why, because we have to bring the issue of veterans' health, and mental health in particular, to front of mind—I think it is very important that we do that—but, in doing so, we have to be careful that we do not skew the narrative to the point where people believe that everyone who has served is broken in some way or that veterans are victims. They are not victims. Veterans have a lot to offer. Some of them need help through the transition and beyond, but the vast majority do not. The data we are now starting to see out of the Institute of Health and Welfare, particularly around suicide rates, is that suicide rates of serving members is, in broad terms, about 50 per cent below the national average. For former serving members, it is about 13 per cent above. So, for us, there is a very clear issue that our in-service protective measures around suicide awareness and mental health, I think, are working well.
The challenge for us all—ADF, DVA, ESOs, everybody—is that transition period where that connectedness is lost, and clearly that is translating into a higher rate of suicide in veterans than in serving members. That, for me, is the big challenge. That is what we talked about a week and a half ago in the Senate inquiry into veterans' suicide. We are working very closely with both DVA and CFC Superannuation Fund to make sure that that transition processes is as seamless as possible. There are a number of initiatives we are working on there. The jobs initiative that was announced last year by the Prime Minister, I think is another important piece, and the important thing about that is it focuses on the skills and capabilities that veterans bring to the table, and they are significant.
I think it is very important that we all—everyone involved in this, from the ADF through to the parliament—start to recast this narrative. As I said, there is a very good reason that we elevated the issue of veterans' health, and mental health in particular, because it was in some ways a sleeper issue that needed a light shone on it. But it is about balancing it out. I think things like the jobs initiative does a very good job at providing the counterpoint and helping us recast that narrative as we go forward.
The committee sought additional information form the Department of Defence regarding culture and member behaviour surrounding mental health. The Department advised:
I think this cuts to the core of the national challenge with mental health issues more broadly—that is, the stigma of mental health. There is no doubt that, in the ADF, serving members have the same fear of the stigma of mental health as anyone else in the community does that does manifest in people who hide conditions. I do not think we have any doubt that occurs. But I would say that the sometimes used claim that 'if you put your hand up inside the ADF your career is over' from a mental health perspective is just not supported by the evidence. Around 55 per cent…of serving members who are in rehabilitation programs for mental health issues successfully return to work. If you believed some, that number would be zero but it is not; it is 55 per cent. We are not saying that people are not hiding it; we know that people do and that is why we have been putting an enormous effort into the issue of stigma in mental health over the last three or four years. We will continue that. But, as I said to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into veteran suicide just a week and a half ago, we will never be able to eradicate the stigma within the ADF while there is a broader national issue of stigma and that, I think, is where our collective efforts must be in trying to remove the stigma of mental health nationally.
The Committee sought advice on accessing the Department of Defence data on mental health. The Department provided links to:
Mental Health and Wellness Plan; and
Mental Health and Wellness Progress Report.
The Committee observed that 23 000 of more than 203 000 DVA clients are now under that age of 40. Additionally approximately 1.5 percent of veterans are sufficiently dissatisfied with their assessment that they seek clarification through the Veterans’ Review Board. In 2015-16, a large number of cases presented to the review board resulted in rulings against the Department. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs provided the following statement on rulings against the department:
approximately 1 450, of 2 900 Veteran’s review board decisions; and
223 of 307 Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruling
Therefore approximately 58 percent of all decisions the Veterans’ Review Board considers result in rulings against the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
While the Department invites veterans who are not satisfied with a decision of the review board to apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, placing this onus on the unwell veteran or their families to ‘prove’ their ill health can be unreasonable. The Committee recommends that DVA investigate options to have an independent authority review all unsuccessful Veterans’ Review Board determinations in consultation with the affected veteran or their delegate to alleviate the stress and burden of making their own case to appeal should they wish to do so. Implementing this recommendation may also assist other dis-satisfied veterans to make the initial step of requesting the Veteran’s Review Board review their circumstances.
The Committee acknowledges the efforts being made by Parliament, the Department of Defence, DVA and ESOs to improve the identification of unwell persons or individuals with mental health illnesses; and the subsequent support, treatment, and return to work or transition from the Department to a fully functioning civilian life – yet there is still much to do.
The Committee notes as at 17 Nov 2017, publically available data on Defence’s Mental Health and Wellness plans and achievement against plans lists the 2012-2015 Mental Health and Wellness Plan and the 5th Mental Health and Wellness Plan progress report released in March 2015.
Mental health and wellness is an area of national concern, not just a matter affecting Defence. The Committee notes the significant investment Defence commits to educating, building resilience, treating, rehabilitating and caring for Service personnel, and in conjunction with DVA, Ex-Service Personnel. The reported rates of suicide for serving ADF members, 50 percent below the national average is to be applauded.
The Committee remains very concerned about the high rates of suicide by veterans. While the Department of Defence cannot retain personnel who are assessed as unfit for service due to a mental health condition, the care and transition of this group of individuals must be improved. The Committee acknowledges this not something the Department of Defence can do alone; success will require good policy, processes and deft management by Parliament, Federal Government departments, State and local jurisdictions, EXOs and the broader community. Defence however must lead on this issue. As the organisation that identifies the mental illness, often caused by the individual’s service, the Department of Defence must remain responsible for each individual until they are confident all arrangements are in place for the individual to function in civilian life. The Committee looks forward to working with Defence, and observing the progress on the matter.
The Committee recommends that DVA investigate options for an independent authority to review all unsuccessful Veterans’ Review Board determinations in consultation with the affected veteran or their delegate to alleviate the stress and burden of making their own case to appeal. Implementing this recommendation may also assist other dis-satisfied veterans to make the initial step of requesting the Veteran’s Review Board review their circumstances.
It is a credit to the Department of Defence that they have contributed to raising the national profile of this issue, and in some aspects leading the wider community in engaging and empowering individuals affected by a mental health condition. One such example is the ADF’s contribution to the Invictus Games adaptive multi-sport event, created by His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales, [Prince Harry].
The Committee recommends that Department of Veterans’ Affairs investigate options for an independent authority to review all unsuccessful Veterans’ Review Board determinations in consultation with the affected veteran or their delegate to alleviate the stress and burden of making their own case to appeal.
Estate and Infrastructure
The Department of Defence management and development its estate and infrastructure is aligned to the Department of Defence’s force design, capability life cycle and Integrated Investment Program. This connectivity is reinforced in the recent publication of the Estate Strategy, Implementation Plan and Estate Profile. In addition, all estate management is aligned with the new Capability Life Cycle accountability and responsibility model.
The Department of Defence advised the Committee that the Estate and Infrastructure Group had made the following achievements:
Commenced work on the Future Estate Profile;
Government agreed to the case-by-case disposal of the Defence estate;
Streamlining of process; and
The Defence Estate Strategy 2016–2036 and Estate Implementation Plan were released.
The Department of Defence’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr Phillip Prior, also advised the Committee that:
In our estate expenditure program, we have a much, much better arrangement across the Australian industry to be able to call upon various providers to respond to maintenance requirements and so on.
The Committee acknowledges progress Defence has made in ensuring all aspects of capability are now actively managed through the Capability Life Cycle, including Estate and Infrastructure.
The Committee however remains concerned that significant investment is, and will continue to be made, on Estate and Infrastructure due to the gap between the legacy estate and future capability requirements. The Committee intends to work closely with the Department of Defence to examine this subject in 2018.