One Defence, the report of the First Principles Review Team fails one of the first critical tests of any review. That is to understand and learn from the reviews that have preceded it.
If the First Principles Team had properly understood the plethora of reports into Defence engineering over the last five years (Rizzo, Coles, Deloittes, DMO Audit) they would have recommended emergency resourcing to the engineering and science job families rather than failing to address the current crisis in engineering, science and technical skills in Defence.
Mooted as the biggest reform of Defence in 40 years, industry experts were immediately critical of the One Defence plan for its lack of substance and detail.
Professionals Australia Director David Smith said the plan threatened to further erode engineering, scientific and technical capacity in Defence beyond the current crisis, by folding up Defence Materiel Organisation and cutting a further 1,650 jobs.
“One of the most concerning aspects is the suggestion that Defence should rely on more outsourcing. We know outsourcing costs more and results in the further atrophy of critical skills in the Department. For the Government to maintain effective oversight of projects and deliverables, we need greater engineering and technical resources in-house. As Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Griggs, said “we have for far too long viewed engineering as an overhead and not as a mission enabler.”
Mr Smith said that while One Defence acknowledged, and was critical of, the impact public sector job cuts had on Defence’s engineering and technical job family, the new plan would see a further 1,650 job cuts. This comes on top of 3000 job cuts in Defence over the last three years and is likely to affect Defence workplaces around the country.
“You can’t fix professional and technical skills gaps with job cuts. The lack of consideration for the consequences of such cuts and failures to address existing problems should be staggering, but unfortunately it is predictable.
“Professionals Australia will meet with Defence next Wednesday to raise our concerns directly, in relation to the job cuts announced in this initiative.
“One Defence fundamentally misses the point of what Defence needs to run smoothly and efficiently. Right now we are at the point of critical risk because of the erosion of technical expertise. We need to ensure all decision-makers understand technical skills gaps threaten our troops, our national security and our safety.
“After years of technical expertise being eroded, hollowed out and cut, review upon review has reported the same thing: rebuild technical skills or risk serious consequences.
“To keep helicopters in the sky, our troops supplied with accurate intelligence reports and to build ships that are safe, Defence must be equipped with leading edge technical expertise.
“In an era when technology underpins every element of our nation’s defence, surely we need more expertise, not less?”, said Mr Smith.
Read David Smith’s criticism of One Defence in the Canberra Times
Listen to David Smith discuss One Defence on ABC radio.