Defence has made clear its intention to forge ahead with the expansion of its Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities in two new industry plans published this month.
The new industry plans cover advanced signal processing (ASP plan) and surveillance and intelligence (S&I plan).
Defence defines “sovereign industrial capability” as "access to, or control over, the essential skills, technology, intellectual property, financial resources and infrastructure within our defence industrial base as required".
This provides Defence with a strong channel of domestic industry support for its capabilities consistent with the 2018 Defence Industrial Capability Plan (2018 Plan). As the 2018 Plan emphasises, a focus on domestic industry capability will foster more efficient and effective provision of goods and services, boost economic growth and facilitate innovation.
“Advanced signal processing capabilities” are summarised in the ASP plan as “enabling [Australia] to see our adversaries, hide from them, and disrupt their critical systems and communications while protecting our own”.
According to the S&I plan, “[s]overeign capability in surveillance and intelligence … enabl[es] … access and control of space, cyberspace, data and information, which ultimately enables the ADF to shape, deter and respond to our strategic environment.” As a result, the plans advance both offensive and defensive capability.
There is a clear justification for the simultaneous release of the industry plans. As the ASP plan notes, the plans converge in terms of “a shared industrial base” of “skills, assets and infrastructure”. In addition, Defence sees the potential for wider engagement of Australian businesses from areas such as space and cyber to support capability development.
The plans focus on different perspectives of conflict. The S&I plan takes a strategic perspective and describes how these capabilities can assist overall ADF awareness and cohesiveness. In contrast, the ASP plan is focussed on tactics and to assist troops to understand the operating environment in which they are deployed.
The implementation timeline for the S&I plan outlines four areas to action – “Cyber readiness”, “Communications Security (COMSEC) Industry Engagement Strategy”, “Workforce development” and “Space industry development”. The timeline provides specifics to address each area, metrics, accountable entities and timeframes. While three areas have a timeframe of just over 18 months, space industry development is “ongoing”.
The implementation timeline for the ASP plan has three areas to action – “Cyber readiness”, “Workforce development” and “Industry engagement days”. It also requires a thorough and accountable assessment. The first two areas have a timeframe of just over 18 months while the use of industry engagement days is “ongoing”.
Both plans acknowledge that the nature of the technology involved means these capabilities will continue to evolve.
An important characteristic of both plans is the push for “open systems architecture”. This avoids support being monopolised by one contractor and opens the door for wider engagement of domestic industry and increased competition to support Defence efforts.
The ASP and S&I plans are supported by the “Defence innovation system”, led by the Centre for Defence Industry Capability.