Up to 1500 public servants in the Defence Department will face the sack under a long-awaited review into the nation’s Defence establishment, with the axe to begin falling within months.
Bosses at the department in Canberra have begun telling staff that the “First Principles Review” will require between 1000 and 1500 official to lose their jobs in the next 12 to 18 months.
The review will be handed to the government’s National Security Committee on March 24 for consideration, but Defence is preparing to begin implementing its 67 recommendations from August 1.
Elsewhere in the department, other teams were being warned the review, which has been distributed among senior management, would be “challenging for the organisation” and a “bracing read”.
The department declined to respond to questions from The Canberra Times on Wednesday.
The Defence establishment is also anxiously awaiting publication of two other reviews; The Force Structures Review, and the Defence White Paper which was due to have been delivered this month.
Civilian staff at the Defence HQ have been told the Force Structures Review will call for an increase in the 57,000-strong Australian Defence Force with and more civilian scientists and technicians recruited into the public service to support the expanded armed forces.
It is unclear how the cash-strapped Abbott government will reconcile the two conflicting pieces of advice.
The new cuts to Defence Department staff numbers will come after a significant reduction, of 3000 full-time equivalent employees through natural attrition and redundancies, since 2012 and the cuts set out in the last budget.
Defence’s full-time public service workforce now stands at about 19,300.
Departmental Secretary Dennis Richardson told The Canberra Times last week that First Principles would bring staffing cuts in its wake but was coy on the exact numbers.
Technical union Professionals Australia, which has been warning that the bleeding of skilled engineers and scientists from Defence has reached crisis point, said more job cuts would leave the nation’s capabilities even more exposed.
“On Monday the secretary said in relation to skills and expertise challenges that Defence is like a Dalmation,” union official Dave Smith said.
“It’s more like swiss cheese.
“There is a thin grey line of engineering and science expertise across the agency.
“We are exposed in too many areas.
“Dennis Richardson knows this and (Defence Minister) Kevin Andrews should know this.”
“Successive cuts to this workforce have created dangerous capacity gaps that risk both national security and operational safety.
Mr Smith pointed to a workforce audit of the Defence Materiel Organisation that he says found many vital jobs sitting empty.
“The 2014 DMO engineering workforce audit identified that the current vacancy rate places further strain on critical positions and may pose a risk to Defence operations,” he said.
“We have warned the agency about these safety risks and their responsibility under work health safety legislation.
The union called on Defence’s political bosses to put a stop to the job cuts.
“Proposing further cuts to the Australian Public Service workforce is irresponsible,” Mr Smith said.
“Minister Andrews needs to step in and step up.
“David Johnston wasn’t up to it.
“You can’t be serious about national security and defence capability if you not only don’t fix critical skills gaps but make them considerably worse.”