by Tim Lohman

Growing role for technology and science in Australian defence: Combet

Sep 11, 2009
GovernmentGovernment ITInnovation

Defence minister, Greg Combet, has flagged a growing role for the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in the future defence of the country.

In a recent speech delivered to the House of Representatives, Combet said the government was placing increased emphasis on the ability of Defence scientists to innovate and design new technologies and to apply and adapt existing technologies.

“Staying at the forefront of the technology is key to the ADF’s capability edge,” he said. “DSTO contributes directly to maintaining that edge by exploiting, adapting and developing new technology, so that our fighting men and women have the best possible equipment and platforms at their disposal.”

The evolving role of the DSTO was flagged in May, with the release of the Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030 whitepaper, which noted that the future operating environment of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) would be shaped in large measure by changes in military technology and its employment.

In line with this, the government was developing a new role for scientists in evaluating defence projects, analysing technical risk, and designing risk management and risk mitigation strategies that will deliver increasingly robust defence capabilities, Combet said.

The DSTO was also working with thee ADF through embedding scientists with deployed units for immediate technical advice on mission effectiveness, developing customised camouflage uniforms, providing survivability kits and blast protection for ADF vehicles and counter measures to mitigate the effects of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

On top of providing innovative solutions to the ADF — such as customised camouflage uniforms, survivability kits and blast protection for ADF vehicles, and embedded scientists for the provision of technical advice to deployed units — the DSTO was also playing a role in extracting value from the equipment the ADF operated.

“DSTO provides expert advice on reducing the cost of operating and maintaining that equipment, and delaying the huge expense of replacing it by prolonging its effective performance,” he said.

Testing by the DSTO has resulted in an additional two years of service life for Australia’s F/A-18 Hornet fleet of fighter planes, saving an estimated $400 million, Combet said.

“Just as important, DSTO also provides advice on how Australia can maintain its capability advantage through the development of leading edge technology that may not be available anywhere else in the world,” he said.

Due to the risks that are associated with such developments, DSTO plays a important risk management role in this process, according to Combet.

“As it acquires next-generation technologies the ADF will be relying more heavily on DSTO’s expertise to reduce technical risk and integrate capabilities into the force structure,” he said.

Headed by the Chief Defence Scientist Dr. Robert Clark, the DSTO has an annual budget of approximately $400 million and employs more than 2,300 staff, predominantly scientists, engineers, IT specialists and technicians.

This month, Defence flagged that it will shortly commence refreshing its core management information system for personnel management, personnel management key solution (PMKeyS), in an effort to better manage risk and add “significant and sustainable benefits” to the organisation.

In June, Defence revealed that less than half of the annual $1.2 billion spent by Defence on its ICT is visible to its chief information officer, Greg Farr.