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Defence White Paper reverses years of ICT neglect

by Justin Hendry •
Free resource

The long-awaited 2016 Defence White Paper is intended to remedy what it describes as “underinvestment” in ICT over the last decade at the Department of Defence, proposing an allocation of more than $5 billion to enhance core systems and improve information management, providing an “agile and flexible” foundation to support the department as it transitions to the One Defence business model over the next two years.

The paper, released on 25 February by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Defence Marise Payne, places significant importance on ICT as a key enabler of defence operations and of the alignment of the department’s strategy, capability and resources.

“Maintaining Australia’s technological edge and capability superiority over potential adversaries is an essential element of our strategic planning”, it states.

Overall, Defence spending will increase by $29.9 billion over the next 10 years, with new initiatives being partly offset by the savings generated through reforms proposed by the First Principles Review. Around nine per cent of the total spending will be devoted specifically to intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, space, and electronic warfare capabilities – areas which are critically dependent on ICT.

Accompanying the White Paper is a 10-year, $195 billion Integrated Investment Program to provide a more holistic view of Defence investments, and a Defence Industry Policy Statement, intended to forge stronger ties between Defence and industry.

The Integrated Investment Program provides a comprehensive outline of all Defence’s planned and approved investments, as part of a new whole-of-capability and whole-of-life approach to investment that was recommended in the First Principles Review. It incorporates a number of formerly separate investment programs across the categories of major equipment, facilities and ICT to “reduce the risk of incomplete or fragmented approaches to investment” and “better enable Defence to avoid making inadequate or ill-timed investment in those enablers (such as infrastructure and information communications technology) that are fundamental to the generation of military capability”.

Core ICT enablement

The Investment Program allocates more than $5 billion in additional funding over the next decade to transform Defence’s fixed, deployed and mobile ICT environments, which it suggests have suffered from long-term neglect. 

“There has been underinvestment in key enablers over the decade, including in the area of information and communications technology … compounded by Defence’s struggle to establish a coherent enterprise-level strategy for its complex and rapidly evolving information and communications technology domain”, it states

The First Principles Review, released in April 2015, called for “transformational change to an organisation which has drifted from contemporary best practice” after it found that an excessive number of structures, systems and processes used by the department had resulted in “institutionalised waste”.

A substantial amount of the ICT investment outlined in the program will be used to stabilise the Single Information Environment, which provides infrastructure essential to core Defence functions. The modernisation of systems that continue to inhibit routine business, software repair, and improvements to enterprise licencing arrangements have also been flagged as areas of concern.

Key funding commitments outlined in the Investment Program include:

  • $2-3 billion towards Satellite and Terrestrial Communications during 2016-2029;
  • between $750 million and $1 billion for a Secure and Unified Computer and Storage Transformation during 2020-2030;
  • $500-750 million for a Deployed and Mobile Single Information Environment during 2016-2025;
  • $400-500 million for an Enterprise Information Management Program to streamline 3000 applications, 800 networks, and 200 processing locations during 2016-2021;
  • $400-500 million for the Next Generation Desktop Program to improve Defence’s end user computing environment by making networks and applications available through a single desktop (scheduled for approval during 2015-16). Defence’s ICT environment currently supports more than 100,000 workstations across Australia and overseas;
  • $200-300 million for the Data Centre Capability Improvement program between 2020 and 2025;
  • $200-400 million to modernise health and security ICT systems during 2018-2026;
  • $100-200 million for the Terrestrial Communications program to upgrade, replace and standardise the Defence ICT “backbone” during 2020-2025;
  • $100-200 million for the End User Interface program during 2021-2026; and
  • an unspecified amount (below $100 million) during 2016-2026 to reduce Single Point of Failure vulnerabilities.

The ERP consolidation program, known as Defence INSIGHT (which has yet to receive first pass approval), is listed in the investment program and slated to cost $1-2 billion during 2016-2025. Funding (less than $100 million) has also been provided for an additional ERP system/service program, which is scheduled for approval in 2015-16.

Investment in simulator technology also accounts for a significant portion of the funding, including a Lead-in Fighter Training System ($4-5 billion), Pilot Training System ($1.2 billion), Air Combat Training System ($500-750 million), and Helicopter Aircrew Training System ($420 million).

Defence and civilian air traffic control systems and infrastructure will receive $1.29 billion between 2016 and 2025. A National and Deployable Air Traffic Management and Control system will then be funded to the tune of $500-750 million between 2023 and 2031.

Defence will also look to rationalise and improve logistical ICT systems, particularly by addressing its central cataloguing, and radio frequency identity technology, and introducing an integrated logistics enterprise resource planning suite.

Next generation technologies

Defence will support and accelerate its technological research capabilities with an expected $1-2 billion investment over the next 20 years.

According to the Investment Program, “appropriate investment in science and technology will enable Defence to prevent technology surprise, solve technical capability challenges and provide cost-effective access to global science and technology advances for the ADF”.

The majority of this funding will be allocated to the Defence Science and Technology Group, which will receive $730 million over the decade to research and begin initial development of projects. Promising projects will then be transferred to a new virtual Defence Innovation Hub (which will receive $640 million in funding over the next decade). The hub will replace existing separate science and technology programs, and enhance the ability of Defence, industry and academia to work collaboratively.

Priority areas to be addressed include integrated intelligence, quantum and hypersonic technologies, advanced sensors and autonomous systems, and reducing the risk inherent in Defence’s dependence on space-based systems.

Cyber security

Identified by the white paper as one of the six “key drivers” that will shape Australia’s security environment over the next 20 years, cyber security is increasingly central to ensuring the availability of ICT networks and systems that underpin operations during both peacetime and armed conflict.

Defence will receive between $300 and $400 million of funding provided from 2016 to 2025 to deter and defend against complex, non-geographic cyber threats under a Cyber Security Capability Improvement program.

Defence will also look to strengthen its workforce, adding 1,200 new APS positions in areas such as intelligence, cyber security and space-based capabilities – to be offset by other workforce reductions.

Defence will also look to establish a biometrics data storage and management system for operational use, featuring identity registration and verification capabilities.

Defence has indicated that it will work in conjunction with the Digital Transformation Office to ensure that its future roadmap reflects best practice.

Related Articles:

First Principles Review tackles Defence’s persistent enterprise issues

Defence initiates CIO group recruitment drive

Defence reveals $1 billion ERP program delivery plan

Suppliers get first look at Defence ERP plan

Defence R&D group urged to improve information management 

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