Following the release of the landmark Defence White Paper a week ago, Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon has acknowledged many of the reforms suggested in the White Paper are to make up for “long-term underinvestment in Defence ICT”.
The Government has allocated $660 million across the next four years to overhaul the management of Defence information. An additional $280 million will also be spent on replacing obsolete hardware and improving information security.
“A number of reviews have highlighted that Defence ICT systems have been grossly under-funded for years, and have been developed in independent silos resulting in high levels of complexity, fragmentation, duplication and redundancy leading to poor performance and unreliability issues,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
In a Defence Roundtable Discussion held last Thursday, Secretary of Defence Nick Warner announced perfecting ICT systems would be a “key prerequisite” to the success of the White Paper’s reform program. The savings target for ICT is $1.9 billion in the decade.
“This is not a toe cutter exercise. The savings that we find will be reinvested into higher priorities in Defence,” said Mr Warner.
“Many examples I could give you; here are a couple. We will reduce the number of data centres that Defence has. We have probably 200 or so at the moment. We'll decrease that to less than 10. No organisation the size of this ought to have anything like that number of data centres. We'll decrease the number of computer applications we have. At the moment we have about 4000. That's ridiculous. We'll cut that back to about 2000.”
Mr Fitzgibbon pointed out further reforms.
“In the future Defence will have one standard underlying computer environment to enable secure access to information through a single user interface. Currently this is heavily stove-piped requiring multiple desktops and passwords.
“This investment will improve computer systems to deliver a more integrated payroll and personnel management capability and a better coordination of estate management. New capabilities such as the automation of procurement, personnel and pay administration, vetting, recruitment, estate management and management reporting will be progressively introduced.
“This will require technologies that simplify the process of reviewing, collating and sharing real-time information. This increased demand for collaboration will drive further use of internet technologies,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
In total over the next four years, the Government will invest more than $940 million to “reform and remediate” Defence’s IT environment and infrastructure. The reforms are consistent with the Gershon Review into the Australian Government’s use of ICT.