Chief of the Defence Force - Address to the Australian Defence Magazine Congress, Canberra
21 February 2012
GENERAL D.J. HURLEY, AC, DSC
** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY **
Good afternoon Senator Carr, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am pleased to be here this afternoon and to have this opportunity to share my views on the current and future challenges facing the Australian Defence Force.
When I began my tenure as the Chief of the Defence Force last July I considered my priorities for the next three years. The result is a list of priorities that represent the challenges facing the organisation. Many of these are well publicised and we are acutely aware that our actions in addressing these issues will also attract public scrutiny.
My highest priority is for the welfare of our people followed closely by our commitment to ADF operations. We are dedicated to achieving our objective in Afghanistan - to train the Afghan National Army in Uruzgan, and support the development of a long term relationship with Afghanistan. Around the time I became CDF, the first tranche of provinces began the transition to an Afghan security lead.
Today this process is well advanced. We are already seeing the shift from ISAF led combat operations in some provinces to a more advisory role known as "security assistance operations". When Tranche 2 is complete, Afghan National Security Forces will have the lead security responsibility for half the Afghan population. In Uruzgan Province, the ADF mentored 4th Brigade is increasingly taking the lead in planning, preparing and executing tactical operations. This has allowed Australian forces to concentrate greater effort on advising and partnering Afghan command elements and combat support units. Our most significant challenge now is to complete the transition process and determine what the international contribution to Afghanistan will look like beyond 2014. The NATO Summit in Chicago in May will shape the long term Strategic Plan for Afghanistan.
On a smaller scale, this year is a decisive year for East Timor as it conducts presidential and parliamentary elections. The success of these elections will be a major influence on the timing and pace of the reduction in Australia's defence presence in East Timor. Aside from our core business the remaining priorities fall into three categories I like to refer to as the three Cs; capability, culture, and 'ccountability [accountablility].
Time does not permit a discussion on the breadth of ADF capability issues, both good and poor, so I will concentrate on one of my capability priorities: overcoming Navy's engineering and maintenance challenges. The Chief of Navy and I have already voiced our disappointment at the state of the amphibious fleet. We acknowledge that the issues we currently face have a long history and developed over the past 20 years, but our focus is now on fixing the problems to ensure that we do not repeat these mistakes in the future. We must ensure that our maintenance practices provide ships in the right condition for the mission they are required to undertake.
Since the Rizzo Review was released in July, a joint implementation team representing Navy and the Defence Materiel Organisation has begun work to implement the 24 recommendations made in the review. The Chief of Navy's Seaworthiness Board and the Seaworthiness Management System will go a long way to ensuring the material condition, maintenance and other capability enablers are respected and delivered.
HMAS Choules entered service in December and started operations last month.
The Landing Ship Dock is a proven capability. The vessel has a crew of 158 officers and sailors, and can accommodate two large helicopters, 150 light trucks and 350 troops. She provided valuable assistance as part of the UK's response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and will no doubt prove an important asset for the ADF, particularly as we introduce the new Canberra Class amphibious ships.
Complimenting the Rizzo Review is an analysis of the sustainment issues associated with Collins Class submarines. The Coles Review is focussed on optimising existing commercial arrangements between Defence and Australian Submarine Corporation and increasing efficiency and effectiveness across sustainment activities.
The Collins Class submarine is a complex capability and Navy, DMO and ASC are also working closely together to improve submarine availability, through the Australian Submarine Program Office in Adelaide. DMO's Collins Program is in the process of implementing a series of reforms to the sustainment system of the submarines, including strengthening Industry participation and capacity. The submarines’ programs are carefully prioritised to meet scheduled commitments, while allowing the remediation of longer term sustainment issues.
Phase One of the Coles Review was released in December and Defence has already taken action on a number of short term recommendations. We are systematically addressing problems with the propulsion system through the planned maintenance schedule and allocating additional funding to inventory and spares to increase availability. We are also investigating how to incorporate industry training visits for Commanding and Technical Officers while recent reform programs have resulted in more personnel gaining qualifications that can only be achieved at sea, which is critical to sustaining and growing the entire submarine workforce. Phase Two of the Coles report, which represents a major component of the evidenced based work, is due at the end of April with the third and final report expected at the end of June 2012.
While Navy has a number of near to mid term issues to address as well as preparing for the arrival of new capabilities, Army has taken the first steps towards building its future force. Plan BEERSHEBA, which was released in December last year, will restructure the Australian Army to create three Multi-role Combat Brigades consisting of infantry, armour, artillery, engineers, logistics and communications elements. Re-organising skills and capabilities across the Brigades will provide each with a mix of firepower, protection and mobility. The three Brigades will rotate through the Force Generation Cycle in a more stable and predictable format - which will enable better forecasting of activity levels and hence the production costs. It will also be a great help for families.
As part of the changes, the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), will form Army’s core contribution to the future amphibious force. 2RAR will provide a lead capability, working on a day to day basis with Navy and Air Force on the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) and other amphibious platforms.
Much of what I have spoken about today is leading toward 2014 and introduction of a new amphibious capability. The impending arrival of the ADF's new amphibious capability and of the Joint Strike Fighter represents the biggest change to our nation's force projection capability since our first aircraft carrier arrived more than 60 years ago. The first LHD hull was launched in Spain last year and is scheduled to arrive in Melbourne later this year where further work will be completed before HMAS Canberra becomes operational in 2014. To understand the significance of this acquisition, we need to understand our strategic geography.
The ADF's Primary Operating Environment extends from the eastern Indian Ocean to the island states of Polynesia and from the equator to the Southern Ocean. This area encompasses 25 thousand islands and 85 thousand kilometres of navigable waterways.
The ADF must be able to maintain situational awareness across this vast area and must be capable of responding swiftly and decisively to a range of scenarios. While Australia's concept for regional operations is fundamentally a maritime one, the nature of this geography is such that there is enormous advantage in possessing conventional land forces that can assist in controlling our approaches, securing offshore territories and potentially denying adversaries access to staging bases. To ensure the ADF is able to respond to traditional and non-traditional threats in our region, we are enhancing our amphibious capability with two Loading Helicopter Dock vessels, a large strategic sealift ship, six ocean going heavy landing craft and ship to shore connectors.
The amphibious capability is intrinsically a joint capability. The ADF's two LHDs, HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide will be crewed by members of the Navy, Army and Air Force which means all amphibious operations will require significant levels of joint force integration. We cannot afford to think of the LHDs as simply a transport capability. These ships will become an integral part of our operations with unprecedented and unique challenges. Australia's modern concept for regional operations is built around joint operations. Future amphibious missions must be fully networked across all three services from the strategic level to the tactical level to enable collaborative planning and execution.
The Amphibious Task Force (ATF) represents the combination of the Services’ force elements and operational concepts. This Amphibious Task Force must be flexible and able to adapt to different missions sequentially and/or simultaneously in a rapidly changing environment.
In a sense our troops will become more Marine-like, but what does this really mean? Perhaps the most basic challenge is for our Army personnel to learn to operate from ship to shore. Army needs to understand how the ship works, how to load its equipment, how to prepare for operations, draw weapons and ammunition and at the most basic level, you need to learn how to move around a ship without clogging up the passageways. It is simple stuff, but we have to get it right and that takes practice. Army is aware of this and the Commander of 1 Division, Major General Rick Burr has already travelled to Spain to study the operation of the Juan Carlos, a sister ship to the LHDs. The Juan Carlos has been in service for a little over a year and we are drawing on the Armada's experience and the lessons learnt in introducing a new ship into service.
Under the current Amphibious Capability Transition Plan, the ADF will provide at least two amphibious lift vessels during the transition to LHDs. In capability terms this means maintaining Choules until at least mid 2016 and retaining HMAS Tobruk until the end of 2014. Importantly, the plan also allows personnel to be released to begin training for the LHDs. Over the foreseeable future we will build our exercise program around key amphibious capability milestones to utilise the opportunities provided by the Talisman Sabre series of exercises. This will also allow us to draw on our allies' expertise - particularly the United States. Based on our current schedule, we expect to achieve a mature capability by 2017 allowing us to certify the Amphibious Task Group at Exercise Talisman Sabre that same year.
There has been a great deal of discussion in recent weeks about the future of the ADF's other major acquisition program, the Joint Strike Fighter. Speculation has been raging since the United States indicated the potential for delays. Given more than 30 Australian companies are involved in making parts for the Joint Strike Fighters, I understand the strong interest in the project's future.
Australia is still on track and committed to receiving two Joint Strike Fighters in 2014. These aircraft will initially be based in the US for training purposes and Australia has signalled its intent to purchase another 12. Given recent events, our Government is now considering the schedule for the 12 additional aircraft. This forms part of an overall review leading up to a major decision by Government this year about our air combat capability. While no decision have been made, as the Minister for Defence indicated earlier today, our current fleet of Super Hornets and compatibility with the electronic warfare capability known as the Growler are part of Government's consideration. The important message here is that no decisions will be made until later this year.
I know the Secretary spoke earlier about accountability, the Strategic Reform Program and the Defence Budget. I won't go into too much detail except to say that the Strategic Reform Program has and will achieve real savings to be reinvested in Force 2030.
As a result, the ADF's future capability acquisitions are bound to the Strategic Reform Program. As our reform continues to evolve so do our capability development and acquisition functions. We are already seeing steady improvement in the number of projects already working their way through the approval process. This progress is evident in the number of Government approvals granted in 2011.
I have spent a great deal of time discussing our capability issues but equally important are the challenges we face in improving Defence Culture. The suite of Cultural Reviews is complete and we are now in the final stages of developing a comprehensive response to these reviews that compliments and builds on the wider Defence reform agenda. This includes Part 3 of the Giles report on HMAS Success which was tabled in Parliament earlier this month. At the centre of our response will be a statement of cultural intent. It will outline the actions that we must take to ensure that we remain the most trusted organisation in Australia.
This statement will not offer a ‘quick fix’. It will however mark an important step in our evolution, starting with a five-year program of integrated and far-reaching efforts to tackle our cultural challenges at their source. We acknowledge it will require a sustained effort from all Defence staff over many years to achieve the kind of real and lasting change across the organisation.
On 27 September 2011, the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Defence Science Personnel announced that the Australian Government agreed to remove gender restrictions on all ADF combat employment categories. Over the next five years the remaining seven percent of roles will be opened to women so that any ADF member who has the ability and desire to do the work will have the same opportunity to do so. These roles include: Navy Clearance Divers, Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Officers; Air Force Airfield Defence Guard and Ground Defence Officer; Army Infantry and Armoured Corps, some Army Artillery roles, Explosive Ordinance Disposal and Combat Engineer Squadrons.
The ADF's Senior Leadership supports the decision to remove gender restrictions and the Services have now agreed to the proposed Implementation Plan for the Removal of Gender Restrictions on ADF Combat Role Employment Categories. The Implementation Plan will be informed by lessons learned from past integration initiatives in Defence, and will draw on the knowledge and experience of our international counterparts – including the Canadians.
Next month a delegation of female combat commanders from Canada will visit Australia to share their experience. Their visit will help broaden our understanding of integration as we move toward unlocking gender restrictions within the ADF. A policy expert who is part of the delegation will also speak to the broader strategic policy issues and changes in the Canadian Forces over the years. Opening all employment categories to all members of the ADF is a significant step in a cultural sense that also poses some management challenges. We have to balance the need for change with the processes to ensure we get it right. Not just for women in combat roles, but for women right across the Defence Organisation. We will only get one shot at this.
The Secretary and I are soon to announce a new Gender Equity Board to provide us with independent advice on gender equality issues. We are both committed to ensuring a principles based diversity policy based on inclusion with provisions for professional development and career management. But if we want to ensure our members have the best opportunity for a rewarding and enduring career we must also consider more flexible working arrangements and support mechanisms. Improvements in these areas will improve recruitment and participation rates not just for our women, but for all ADF members.
We are united by our mission to serve Australia and support its interests. We have earned national and international respect over many decades. At times this is overshadowed by shortfalls in our performance. We acknowledge it will require a sustained effort from all Defence staff over many years to achieve real and lasting change across the organisation. But I am confident we have the people and the skills to meet the challenges that lay ahead.