Chapter 4 - The current career path
Chapter 1 included a discussion on the reasons
people join the ADF. The Committee recognised the fact that many people join
the ADF for a secure career. Indeed, Australian and other western Defence
Forces advertise job security and career benefits in their recruiting
campaigns. Naturally, ADF personnel expect their career to be managed with
appropriate training, education and promotion milestones available along a
career path. In this chapter, the Committee will examine the retention issues
associated with the current career path available to ADF personnel.
Strategic personnel management
The Defence Personnel Executive (DPE) is the
strategic-level personnel management agency for the ADF. This agency is
responsible for the development and maintenance of personnel policies and
plans. The Committee found that some of the ADF’s retention problems are
embedded at this strategic level.
The Committee noted that, while DPE retained the
responsibility for strategic personnel planning, it had no representation on
strategic ADF decision-making committees. The Head of DPE, Rear Admiral
Shalders, explained that:
In terms of the role of the Defence Personnel Executive within
Defence, it is correct to say that we have no direct say on the Defence
Committee, which is the peak defence executive committee, but there are some
nuances to that that I should explain. The first nuance is that I do attend the
Chiefs of Staff Committee and I report on a monthly basis on personnel issues
to that committee, so there is a very close focus on personnel issues at that
level. I am not a member of the Defence Committee, but in terms of personnel
issues I have a channel through to that committee through one of the deputy
secretaries who is the chairman of the Defence People Committee, one of the
subordinate committees below the Defence Committee. As for personnel issues
that need to be taken to the Defence Committee, they do invite people to attend
and present those issues. In fact, two have been conducted since I have been in
the job and I have attended that committee.
The Committee believes that, if ‘people are the
key to capability’, then DPE should be part of the strategic decision-making
process. Moreover, the recent personnel crisis in the ADF strengthens the need
for the Head of DPE to be a member of the Defence Committee. It is not enough
for ADF personnel matters to be handled in that Committee by surrogates,
including by non-uniform members. It is essential that, in future, when
decision are taken on other major matters, the ramifications for personnel are
The Committee recommends that the Head of Defence
personnel Executive be made a member of the Defence Committee.
The Committee developed the clear impression,
having considered the issues raised in hearings and submissions, and the facts
presented by the Department of Defence, that many of the grievances voiced by
ADF personnel are due to misunderstanding of policies and poor communication.
Successive Defence reforms have caused some personnel policies and procedures
to change several times in a short period. ADF policy on technical trade civil
accreditation is a case in point. Indeed, the Committee itself experienced
difficulty in confirming the latest information on many policies. Different
information is provided between the Internet, Service manuals and Service
newspapers. For these reasons, the Committee believes it would be prudent for
the Department to develop a clearer strategic plan to communicate career
management and personnel policies to ADF members.
Human resource specialists
The ADF develops its strategic level managers
under a ‘generalist’ philosophy. This means that officers are regularly posted
and given a wide variety of different appointments to provide them with a
general understanding of different facets of the ADF. They are eventually
promoted to a strategic management position, often with minimal specialist
experience for that appointment. It should be noted that three people have
occupied the position of Head of DPE in little more than 12 months.
It might be argued that this ‘generalist’
approach prevents the development of intellectual capital in strategic areas
such as DPE. Accordingly, some submissions to the Committee have recommended
the development of ‘specialist’ officer streams in strategic areas to
facilitate better management.
Such officers would be specifically trained and posted to the area of their
strategic speciality from the middle part of their career onwards. If this
approach were to be adopted in Human Resource (HR) management, then it is
likely that more intellectual capital would be developed in agencies such as
DPE. The Committee notes that Army has begun this process of ‘career streaming’
as a result of its Project OPERA study.
The first step to rectifying personnel retention
problems is the establishment of the correct strategic framework for addressing
such problems. Currently, this framework lacks strategic muscle and
intellectual capital. The inclusion of Head DPE in the Defence Committee and
the development of a human resource (HR) management career stream would go some
way towards improving this strategic framework.
The Committee recommends the Department of Defence review
its strategic framework for personnel management to include:
- a clear strategic communication plan to convey information on
career management and personnel policy, and
- career streaming for ADF officers in HR management.
Technical and non-technical
trade training and education
Following recruit training, a member of the ADF
attends specific technical or trade training (also referred to as Initial
Employment Training). The length of this training varies according to the type
of trade or specialist skill sought. By way of example, initial trade training
for an Army plumber is conducted over a 14 month period at the Army Logistic
Training Centre, Bonegilla Victoria.
Alternatively, a non-technical trade Airforce cook undertakes an ADF Initial
Cooks Course for 19 weeks at the ADF School of Catering, HMAS Cerberus,
Clearly, the conduct of technical and trade training is the first opportunity
for the ADF to honour its ‘psychological contract’ with personnel by providing
appropriate training and qualifications.
The Committee developed an understanding of
retention issues associated with technical and non-technical trade training
from its visits to training establishments, such as HMAS Cerberus and RAAF
Wagga Wagga. One of the most prominent issues raised on technical and
non-technical trade training was the availability of civil accreditation for
ADF training. Numerous personnel argued that they were electing discharge
because their trade training in the ADF was not recognised for civil employment
purposes. One witness explained:
We do not get a trade but we do get qualifications towards a
trade. If I were to leave the Navy today after nearly 3½ years I would be
qualified as a third year apprentice electrician. As far as retention goes, if
the Navy were still offering proper trades, not just trade qualifications, it
would attract a lot more people. To get an A grade electricians licence I would
have to do about five or six more TAFE modules—that is probably around 100
hours of study - 500 hours working for an electrician.
The Committee notes that the Department of
Defence has developed a policy for civil accreditation. According to Mr Brendan
Sargeant, Deputy Head of DPE:
Our policy is that all defence training, unless there is a
really compelling operational reason otherwise, ought to be accredited in the
national system, and we have a work program that is designed to ensure that
integration. Our policy aim is that when people undertaking training in Defence
the qualifications and recognition that they get is portable nationally, so
that when they leave the defence work force they are employable. What is
happening is that that policy has been made and the services are moving towards
it, but it represents a big fundamental and strategic shift in our policy
While Defence has an official policy of
providing civil accreditation, the practical application of this policy has
fallen short in some areas. The Director-General Personnel for Air Force argued
For aviation trades Defence, accreditation does not meet the
full licensing requirements of the civil sector but individuals can complete
the qualifications on an individual basis. During restructuring of the aircraft
trades in the mid-1990s, Air Force arranged for one-off bridging training and
encouraged members to participate. However, a number ignored this opportunity
such that they now lack accreditation. This was a matter of individual choice
and there is little that the Air Force can do for these individuals. 
The Committee notes that this bridging training
is no longer offered to technical trade personnel originally affected by the
rationalisation and therefore causing experienced technical members to leave
the ADF. The Committee understands the frustration of Air Force that some
technicians did not avail themselves of the earlier bridging course. However,
as this may be a retention issue, it would advisable for Air Force to
reconsider its stand and arrange bridging training to assist those personnel
still affected by technical trade rationalisation.
Air Force also did not provide any explanation
as to why aviation trades are not accredited in the civil sector. It is
unfortunate that the Committee did not have an opportunity to question Air
Force about this situation. However, the Committee presumes that, if there
were a compelling operational reason for not having aviation trades accredited
in the civil sector, it would have been mentioned in the briefing paper. As there
was none, the Committee can only assume that one did not exist.
In view of the fact that there may be some trade
courses in the three Services that are not fully accredited in the civil
sector, it is important that recruits be advised of that fact before embarking
on one of those courses.
The Committee recommends that aviation trades be
structured to enable accreditation in the civil sector.
The Committee recommends that, where recruits are due to
undertake trade courses which lack civil accreditation, they be advised of the
fact before commencing those courses and given the opportunity to transfer to
an alternative course.
Continuation training and education
There is also an expectation among ADF personnel
that Defence will provide continuation training and education to allow the
performance of current and future tasks. The Committee accepts that the focus
of this training and education should be to promote the needs of the Service.
However, many respondents argued that the failure of the ADF to allow personnel
to upgrade their trade or education standard caused them to seek employment
elsewhere. One witness explained:
A lot of the concern leading to their getting out is because the
Army falls way behind civilian technology. I am a diesel mechanic and the stuff
I work on is fairly primitive compared to the electronic developments that are
in civvy street. You have a choice of either staying in the Army for your whole
career or get out after your six years trade.
The Department of Defence has been addressing
the civil accreditation issue since 1998. The level of criticism on technical
and non-technical trade qualifications during hearings and in written
submissions would suggest that the new policy is either not well communicated
to ADF personnel or not meeting expectations. Also, it should be noted that
this new policy would mainly benefit those technical trade personnel trained
after 1998. Personnel who received their technical trade training before 1998 may
not have civil accreditation under the new guidelines and may not benefit from
current continuation training schemes. For these reasons, the Committee
believes that the Department should review its policy for civil accreditation
of technical and non-technical trade training and education.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Defence
review technical and non-technical trade training policies in the ADF to ensure
- technical and non-technical personnel receive nationally recognised
civilian accredited qualification,
- technical trade specialists are certified and licensed within
the national training authority framework, and
- technical trade specialists receive continuation training and
ADF personnel report for on-the-job training or
full duty with their posted unit at the end of their technical or trade
training. From this point, their career is managed at Service, trade and unit
level. At the operational level, each Service has a Director-General of
Personnel responsible for managing, developing and posting all ranks. Separate
career management agencies manage other rank and officer trades within each
Service. Commanders at unit level liaise with career management agencies
regarding the management, development and posting of unit personnel. The
Committee received considerable comment, some quite uncomplimentary, on career
management issues during the inquiry.
General career management
Many respondents had the general perception that
career management was non-existent in the ADF because individual needs were
rarely considered above Service needs. The Committee developed the view that
Service needs were taking a higher priority simply due to the fact that there
was a shortage of ADF personnel and career management was therefore ‘reactive’
rather than ‘pro-active’. This was explained by the Director-General of Navy
Personnel and Training:
The sea to shore ratios have reduced over the last two to three
years because of the shortages of people overall throughout the Navy. That
means we have fewer people available to send to sea. We have a policy of
manning our ships to 100 per cent to meet operational requirements. The
current figure for our shore positions overall for the Navy is 32 to 34
per cent undermanned—so we have a shortage ashore.
Another contributing factor might be the ratio
of career managers to ADF personnel. The ratio of career managers to Service
personnel is outlined in Table 4.1. This is supported by one witness’s response
to the Committee:
Career management is not happening because the posters - and
believe me, they do work very hard; I know most of them personally - just do
not have the time to properly career manage any individual.
Table 4.1 Ratio of career
managers to ADF personnel
The ratios tell a story. It would be impossible
for one person to manage, even just adequately, the 400 to 475 persons he or
she is required to do in respect of other ranks. Yet those other ranks depend
on those career managers for progressing their careers. Even the workload for
officer career managers is daunting. Clearly, additional career managers are
required. If careers are not managed, personnel do and will leave out of sheer
The perception that medically down-graded ADF
personnel were no longer fostered by their Service was a more serious issue
associated with career management. As one witness explained:
Hand and hand with that, if a soldier gets injured, he expects
to get looked after. If soldiers train hard and get busted and know they will
get looked after, that will keep them in the Army. The soldiers do not believe
they have that security if they get injured (at present).
The current policy is inexplicable. The
Committee is aware that all ADF members should be fit for operational duty.
However, where ADF members injure themselves on duty or even while playing
sport within or for the ADF, those injured members should, wherever practicable,
be re-employed in a non-operational area. Throughout the inquiry, the
Committee was informed of the serious manning shortages necessitating members
working long hours to do the work of two or three people. Yet, the Committee
understands that many members, although carrying disabilities in terms of
operational fitness, would still be fit enough to carry out the duties in many
vacant positions. The Committee cannot see the logic in discharging those
members on medical grounds.
Moreover, there is a psychological factor
involved in these medical discharges. It is being seen as though members are no
longer part of the ADF ‘family’, which would be one less reason for a member to
stay in the ADF. If the ADF does not appear to give loyalty to members in all circumstances,
why give the ADF unstinting loyalty?
The Committee was also told that many ADF
members have become more reluctant to undertake contact sport to avoid the
occurrence of injury that might eventuate in discharge on medical grounds.
Specialist career management
Management of specialist personnel also received
criticism during the inquiry. The Committee received several submissions from
medical personnel, pilots and chaplains arguing that Defence failed to train,
develop and manage specialist personnel. As an example, Dr Michael Seah
the ADF does not give enough flexibility to doctors wishing to
retain or develop their clinical skills. I have seen my colleagues leave the
ADF, disgruntled by the lack of career options, the inability to pursue
clinical training and increasing disparity between what they are paid compared
to colleagues in the civilian world. Although there has been as a submission
on a career structure review for Medical Officers, it has been two years since
the original plan was to be implemented, no doubt caught up in bureaucracy and
hierarchical concerns about the extra money doctors should be paid to make
remaining in the ADF an attractive option. If the career structure review is
not finalised and implemented soon, the ADF will continue to lose experienced
military doctors, and face the increasing costs of employing contract civilian
Also, chaplains pointed out the absence of a
clear career path and absence of a ‘comprehensive and clearly structured approach
to tri-service chaplaincy’ in their speciality area.
It was clear, from the evidence received by the
Committee, that dissatisfaction with career management was seriously reducing
ADF morale and contributing significantly to personnel retention problems.
Improved recruiting strategies will eventually address personnel shortages and
allow ‘pro–active’ career management. However, to address problems with general
career management the Department of Defence might improve the ratio of career
managers to personnel and develop a career management policy for medically
downgraded personnel. The Department should also develop fresh policies for the
career management of specialist trades.
The Committee recommends that the
Department of Defence review the manning of career management agencies to
ensure a more equitable ratio of career managers to personnel and thereby
improve career management procedures.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Defence
develop an alternative career management policy for ADF personnel who are
The Committee recommends that the Department of Defence
review policies for the career management of specialist trades to enable:
- the development of specialist career paths,
- continuation training to maintain equivalent civil
qualifications eg medical clinical training, and
- a choice between specialist streaming and general streaming eg
flying duties only/medical officer duties only without promotion.
One of the outcomes of career management is
individual promotion according to experience, training and performance. The ADF
rank structure demonstrates a clear path of promotion for all ranks. Like other
forms of employment, promotion within the ADF provides the individual with
greater responsibility in exchange for improved pay and (in some cases)
conditions of service. Again, ADF personnel view the opportunity for promotion
as another clause in their ‘psychological contract’ with the Department of
The Committee heard evidence that the
outsourcing of non–core activities and rationalisation of Defence personnel
positions had reduced the opportunity for promotion in some ranks and trades.
This appeared most prevalent in the Sergeant to Warrant Officer rank stream.
In the past, with CSP again, a lot of our positions have been
cut and taken by public servants, so the higher positions are not there
anymore. In the past two years I believe that our 14–16 warrant officers have
been cut down to six, so our positions have gone there.
Clearly, this issue is related to the
implementation of reform. Therefore, the conclusions and recommendations
discussed in Chapter 2 equally apply to this issue. However, the Committee
believes that some form of alternative career promotion path should be provided
to those ranks and trades most affected by Defence reform.
The ADF personnel model
Unless a Return of Service Obligation (ROSO)
applies, ADF personnel are enlisted for a Fixed Period of Service (FPS).
Generally speaking, this will mean a period between four and six years for
Other Ranks and a period between six and nine years for Officers. This FPS is
generally open–ended. This means that there is no requirement for a person to
select another FPS, merely a requirement to give warning of intention to
separate from the ADF.
There are three incentives for a member to
continue service. Firstly, there is the incentive of a continued career path
with associated conditions of service. Secondly, personnel who attain a rank
between Sergeant and Major (with some exceptions) are eligible for a Retention
Benefit of a full year’s salary after completion of 15 years’ continuous
Finally, there is a system of long service awards after 15 years continuous
service. Outside of these incentives, the Committee could find no evidence of
an ADF personnel model that offers progressive terms of service, recognition of
service or incremental retention benefits.
Terms of service
The Committee is concerned that, despite
increasing personnel recruiting and retention problems, the ADF has not
developed terms of service aimed at retaining experienced personnel. Evidence
presented to the Committee suggested that, under the existing terms of service,
the ADF was losing personnel just as they developed a useful level of
experience and knowledge.
This was also identified by one respondent who explained:
The (open ended enlistment) system of engagement does not allow
the ADF to assess its manning levels and needs, as does a contract based
system. It appears it is too easy for personnel to discharge in today’s ADF.
In its formal submission to this Inquiry the
Department of Defence detailed several flexible employment initiatives designed
to attract and retain personnel. These initiatives included:
- the development of new entry terms of service;
- a review of ROSOs; and
- extension of the limited tenure appointment and promotion
These initiatives are commendable and require
urgent attention. With regards to the development of new entry terms of
service, the Committee notes that Army has introduced a reduced initial period
of service trial for critical trades.
Under this trial, gun numbers and supply operators will enlist for a two-year
period rather than a four-year period. The Committee believes that this
initiative should be very carefully monitored. The main concern of the
Committee is giving the impression that members only stay in the ADF for a
short space of time. This would be counter-productive and expensive in terms
of recruiting and training if many members only served short enlistments. The
Committee is aware of the drastic shortage of personnel in some critical trades
and understands the ADF’s apparent willingness to try almost anything to fill some
of those positions.
Similarly, the review of ROSOs could examine the
option of full-time ADF personnel transferring to the Reserves at the
completion of their term of service. This is discussed in more detail in
The issue of terms of service is closely linked
to the issue of retention incentives. In the last 15 years, the ADF has
utilised a number of retention and completion bonuses to retain key
occupational groups, with varied success.
In addition, personnel qualify for specific conditions of service after certain
periods of continuous service (for example the Defence Services Home Loan).
Neither of these incentives is managed as a reward for past or future service.
The overwhelming evidence from hearings and submissions was that a system of
incremental retention incentives should be spread across each phase of a
member’s career. These incentives might be financial or conditional. For
Perhaps every time you signed on there could be a smaller
retention benefit. It does not need to be one big retention benefit at 15
years, it could be paid in smaller amounts for shorter time spans along the
The system for a person to separate from the ADF
varies among the Services. Resettlement training is available but current
personnel shortages make it difficult for individuals to attend this training.
In some cases, personnel who notify an intention to discharge are treated as
‘second class citizens’ and denied training opportunities. This creates ill
feeling and discourages ex-service personnel from recommending a career in the
ADF to potential applicants. These problems might be eliminated if the ADF
maintained graduated terms of service and a more positive discharge package
- compulsory resettlement training,
- formal recognition of service, and
- formal provision of a record of service/qualifications and
The important consideration is that the person
discharging is farewelled properly for the service given to the ADF. If a
person is allowed to depart with some grace, that person is likely to remember
the ADF with positive feelings rather than negative ones. If positive, the
member may enlist in the future or enlist in the Reserves. Even if a
discharging member never does either, a positive view of the ADF will likely
encourage other people to join.
The existing broad ADF personnel model does not
encourage service beyond initial engagement. While there is evidence to suggest
that the ADF is reviewing employment conditions, there appears to be no
graduated system for engagement or incremental retention incentives and
recognition of service. Based upon evidence received in hearings and
submissions, the Committee is of the view that a fresh broad personnel model
should be developed. This model should include fixed terms of service. Each
term of service should be packaged with an appropriate form of recognition and
an incentive to continue either full-time or part-time service. For example,
the initial term of three years service is concluded with the award of an ‘ADF
Three Year Service Badge’ (to be worn on general duty dress) and the payment of
a $2000 lump sum. If the member agrees to another three-year term they qualify
for a Defence Home Loan. If the member elects discharge then they receive
resettlement training, formal record of service and employment reference. The
Committee feels, from the evidence received, that such a graduated and
incremental personnel model would attract and retain personnel for the ADF.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Defence
investigate and develop a new ADF personnel model with the following
- fixed terms of engagement;
- incremental retention incentives;
- incremental recognition of service; and
- a formal discharge package.
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