As this year of uncertainty draws to a close, 2016 promises to finally provide some much-needed clarity.
Cast your mind back to January, when Kevin Andrews as the new MINDEF accompanied then Prime Minister Tony Abbott as he visited the Middle East, praising the professionalism of ADF personnel deployed on operations.
In the following month, Andrews told Australian Defence Business Review that having received a series of briefings he had concluded that 2015 would be “a year of decision and delivery” for Defence.
And, importantly, the pledge to set spending on Defence at two per cent of GDP was reaffirmed. “The government is developing a White Paper that will increase Defence spending to two per cent of GDP,” Andrews said.
Shortly after that, the then minister announced in quick succession firstly that the federal government had given first pass approval for LAND 400 Phase 2 to replace the ASLAV, and then details of the Competitive Evaluation Process for the Future Submarine program.
That was then, this is now
The request for tender for the Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle has closed and evaluation is currently under way, with the shortlisted tenderers selected to participate in the risk-mitigation activities expected to be named in March next year.
And evaluation of the Future Submarine proposals has started after Defence received submissions from DCNS, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and the Japanese government by the deadline of November 30, another new Defence Minister confirmed.
Senator Marise Payne has declared that along with the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the rest of the National Security Committee she will be taking ownership of the Defence White Paper, which will not be published until early next year.
It is not hard to imagine a copy of the much-anticipated document that Kevin Andrews insisted was “finalised and ready for release” flying across the office and landing in the bin.
However, there is certainly an argument for taking the time to get it right.
The 2016 Defence White Paper will be accompanied by the Integrated Investment Program, which is set to bring together all capability-related investments in equipment, infrastructure, ICT and personnel over the next decade.
And the government will also release a new Defence Industry Policy Statement that will “reset and refocus” the partnership between Defence and industry to deliver and support the capability plans that will be outlined in the White Paper.
“The new Defence Industry Policy will offer industry greater opportunities to build its innovation, its productivity and its international competitiveness in the provision of goods and services to Defence,” Senator Payne said. “Delivering the high-technology future force will depend on our capacity to partner with industry, and it will take innovation.”
So there will be plenty to keep us busy, as 2016 looks set to be a big year for Defence. Sound familiar?
This editorial first appeared in the November-December 2015 issue of Australian Defence Business Review