Australian gov't to review IT defence preparedness

Whitepaper will assess Australia's ICT capabilities as well as the issue of skills shortages

Delivering on a key election promise, the Australian federal government has announced it has commissioned a new defence whitepaper.

It is the first appraisal of Australia's defence capability since the year 2000 when the previous government issued a whitepaper for the first time in decades.

The whitepaper will assess Australia's ICT capabilities as well as the issue of skills shortages which is continuing to have a serious impact on Department of Defence staffing.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has spent A$3.8 billion (NZ$4.3 billion) since 2001 trying to boost recruitment and retention through a range of new initiatives.

ICT skills are in serious shortage which is why the ADF will spend A$215 million in training and support over the next decade.

The department will need 12,000 new employees during this time with 25% coming from an engineering background.

Last year the department spent more than A$300 million on research and development to nurture innovation, this will continue and be supported by a closer working relationship with universities and industry. Last year the government committed A$82 million to the Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) to drive innovation in defence technology.

The new centre will commence operations this year and is a collaborative venture with industry.

Applications cover robotics, electronic warfare self-protection, high-energy electromagnetics and integrated battlespace and systems integration.

The government is also committed to three percent real growth per annum in defence spending until 2015-16.

Details of the whitepaper were announced today by the Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon.

He said the strategic planning document will form the foundation of Australia's defence capabilities through to 2030.

Fitzgibbon has also commissioned a series of accompanying reviews (Companion Reviews) to be conducted across a range of defence areas to underpin the new whitepaper.

He announced that Michael Pezzullo, currently a deputy secretary within the department, will assume the role of principal author of the whitepaper.

"I have also appointed a Ministerial Advisory Panel to provide me with external advice on key issues associated with the whitepaper," Fitzgibbon added.

The Panel includes Professor Ross Babbage, Major General Peter Abigail (Retd), and Dr Mark Thomson.

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