Whole of government behind defence industry – Conroy


There is no shortage of commitment’s from both sides of politics for Defence to get behind industry as a pillar of national security, and from the government, a new Defence Industry Development Strategy. In this edited extract from a speech delivered to the Illawarra Shoalhaven industry development conference, Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy lays out the government’s plans.

The Government’s Defence Industry Development Strategy represents a fundamental change from the defence industry policies of the past.

It’s a focused approach to sustain the defence industry we have and grow the industrial base we need, much faster than we have before.

This is a strategy to overhaul Defence procurement with a focus on simplification and speed.

We won’t compromise on governance, but we are going to reduce the time it takes to receive project and contract approvals to deliver capability at speed.

Defence will adopt a more tailored approach to procurement based on the urgency and risk profile of the project.

​I’ve heard loud and clear the feedback from industry that we need to improve defence’s application of the Australian Standard for Defence Contracting framework – known as ASDEFCON.

Defence will undertake progressive reforms to the ASDEFCON suite to make it easier, faster and more cost effective for industry to work with defence.

And we will establish more strategic partnerships with industry, including to combine related acquisition and sustainment activities where it makes sense so that we can offer more certainty and create economies of scale.

Australia has some fantastic small enterprises in defence industry.

They are smart and agile, and their innovative approach to problem-solving is recognised throughout the world.

But a hard-headed look at what we need to be resilient and increase our self-reliance rapidly reaches the conclusion that we need more Australian businesses operating at the Tier 2 level.

So Defence will use initiatives such as the Global Supply Chain Program, the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA), procurement reform and strategic partnerships to achieve these aims.

We’ve done this for many years for the sustainment of advanced platforms.

Now we are going to roll out this approach to establish continuous naval shipbuilding and evolve it for large programmes such as Integrated Air and Missile Development.

Defence industry development grant

Ever since I started as Minister for Defence Industry, business has complained to me about the confusing defence grant arrangements.

Businesses that had a lot to offer defence got discouraged and had their time wasted.

So we’ve streamlined the grants into a single $183 million Defence Industry Development Grant with four streams which we’ll tailor to build Australian industrial capability in the Sovereign Defence Industrial Priorities.

As part of this strategy, defence will work across government with initiatives like the National Reconstruction Fund and with the defence industry programmes of the state and territory governments, so we have a whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approach to the priorities we need to achieve. I also want defence to work more with important organisations including the industry capability networks.

Australian Industry capability

The Australian Industry Capability (AIC) Program will continue, and defence contracts will continue to require AIC plans because that’s essential to growing our sovereign defence industrial base.

It will also support the government’s broad-based Buy Australian Plan.

You can expect the government to be proactive in promoting the integration of our sovereign defence industrial base into global supply chains because that’s what our strategic needs demand.

That’s the only way we will achieve AUKUS – which is essential for our national security – but it also applies to the integration of our guided weapons and explosive ordnance enterprise with the US to make both of us more secure.

I know that workforce is a huge challenge for the industry, as it is for the ADF.

​So the strategy includes measures to grow and train the defence industrial workforce in partnership with all levels of government, industry and unions.

Getting the priorities right

Prioritisation is central to the Defence Industry Development Strategy.

We’ve had Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities for years, but they’ve been vague to the point of irrelevance.

There was no accountability for failing to deliver.

Prioritisation is at the heart of the new strategy and that means focused Sovereign Defence Industrial Priorities that include identified Capability Managers and Delivery Managers.

Sovereign Defence Industrial Priorities will be considered from the beginning of the capability process from acquisition to delivery to maintenance and sustainment.

And most importantly, the Strategy will drive Defence to engage directly with industry right from the beginning, so that we understand what the sovereign defence industrial base can deliver and where we need to support it.

I want to make it clear that the Defence Industry Development Strategy is not a hands-off, set and forget, strategy.

I’m establishing a tripartite defence industry council that I’ll chair so I can hear directly from industry and unions as we roll out this whole of nation approach to developing the industrial base.

Further reading:
New strategy to support defence industry
Government focus on defence innovation – Thistlethwaite

Picture: Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) antenna array

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