The Department of Defence (Defence) seeks approval from the Committee to proceed with the proposed Defence High Performance Computing Centre (DHPCC) in Edinburgh, South Australia.
The proposed works will provide the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST) and the Australian Defence Organisation with secure capability for high fidelity modelling and simulation it currently does not possess.
DST is the Australian Government’s lead agency responsible for applying science and technology to safeguard Australia and delivers support to the Australian Defence Force on operations, sustainment and improvement to current capability, and development of new and emerging capability.
An analysis by DST of the high performance computing capability found that DST required:
… a secure computer centre with sufficient physical capacity to house future specialised high performance computing infrastructure and access to DST’s classified research networks.
The estimated cost of the project is $68.8 million (excluding GST).
The project was referred to the Committee on 13 September 2018.
Subject to Parliamentary approval of the Project, design activities are expected to be completed by late 2018, with construction expected to commence from early 2019 for completion in mid-2020.
Conduct of the inquiry
Following referral, the inquiry was publicised on the Committee’s website and via media release.
The Committee received two submissions and one confidential submission. A list of submissions can be found at Appendix A.
On 29 October 2018, the Committee received a site inspection by presentation. On the same day, the Committee also conducted a public and in-camera hearing. A transcript of the public hearing is available on the Committee’s website.
Need for the works
In its submission, Defence outlined the significant role that DST Group plays in Australia’s defence and national security:
DST Group contributes to Australia’s defence and national security through its capacity to reduce and mitigate strategic and operational risks, and to create and maintain a capability edge.
According to its submission, in 2006 Defence identified a need for a secure, centralised supercomputer capability in order for DST to conduct advanced research, development, modelling and experimentation. This will support DST’s contribution to Australia’s defence and national security by enhancing its capacity to reduce and mitigate strategic and operational risks and to create and maintain a capability edge.
While the project received Departmental approval in 2010, it was subsequently suspended until November 2015 due to funding constraints. It recommenced following the 2016 Defence White Paper and the Defence Integrated Investment Plan. This recommencement led to an analysis of high performance computing capability needs, which recognised that DST required a secure computer centre with sufficient physical capacity to house future specialised high performance computing infrastructure and access to DST’s classified research networks.
As a result, this proposal was integrated into DST’s plans to replace its existing secure computer centre facilities at Edinburgh with new facilities.
DST Group Edinburgh manages its own secure computer network with a role to provide expert, impartial and innovative application of science and technology for the defence of Australia and its national interests.
The DHPCC is intended to deliver a new fit for purpose facility at the DST establishment in the Edinburgh Defence Precinct which will consist of a secure high performance computing centre, capable of a capacity expansion, a visualisation capability and training facilities.
DST Group Edinburgh is the largest Defence science and technology site in Australia, providing research facilities for approximately 1200 personnel with a total workforce of approximately 2000.
Scope of the works
The DHPCC project will consist of a facility that has two interdependent parts:
A high-reliability secure data-centre to house the supercomputer; and
Co-located visualisation facilities which encompass secure visualisation and auditorium facilities as well as training rooms and laboratory facilities.
The project will include:
A new high security/high integrity high performance computing data centre capability;
Secure visualisation and auditorium facilities;
Dedicated DST secure meeting, training and laboratory facilities; and
Increased new car parking capacity required to support the facilities.
The high performance computing data centre capability will have 2.5MW of computing capacity (load managed within site capacity limitations) with the spaces and building services infrastructure to enable capacity to be expanded to 5.0MW once it is available.
In the submission, Defence notes that the mechanical services systems in the building have been designed to enable the 2.5 MW system to be readily expandable to 5.0 MW.
Cost of the works
The total estimated cost of this project is $68.8 million, excluding GST. This includes management and design fees, construction costs, information and communication technology (provided by Chief Information Officer Group, but excludes the high performance computing and associated components to be provided by the Information Communication Technology Project), furniture, fittings, equipment, contingency and a provision for risk and escalation.
Defence provided further detail on project costings in its confidential submission and during an in-camera hearing.
The Committee is satisfied that the costings for the project provided to it have been adequately assessed by the proponent entity.
The Committee sought details from Defence on the decision to locate the DHPCC at DST Edinburgh.
Defence confirmed that they had considered DST’s existing research sites at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne and DST Edinburgh. They noted that the Fishermans Bend site had size constraints but also that the DHPCC should be co-located where the larger datasets were. Defence further noted for reasons of people, interaction, capability and the need to store, digest and manage large volumes of data, DST Edinburgh was the more suitable site.
The Committee did not identify any issues of concern with the proposal and is satisfied that the project has merit in terms of need, scope and cost.
Having regard to its role and responsibilities contained in the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the Committee is of the view that this project signifies value for money for the Commonwealth and constitutes a project which is fit for purpose, having regard to the established need.
The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives resolve, pursuant to Section 18(7) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, that it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work: Defence High Performance Computing Centre project.
Proponent entities must notify the Committee of any changes to the project scope, time, cost, function or design. The Committee also requires that a post-implementation report be provided within three months of project completion. A report template can be found on the Committee’s website.
Hon Dr John McVeigh MP