Address to Australian Defence Magazine Conference by Major General Jeff Sengelman
Ladies and Gentlemen, Good afternoon and thank you.
Today I have more to say than I have been assigned time, so excuse me for getting straight to my points. At the end, and if time allows, I want to tell you my thoughts for Land 400 and of the challenges currently facing the Defence acquisition and Defence Capability Plan process relevant to a Capability Manager.
Let me start on a positive note. Army is overwhelmingly satisfied with the capabilities it has received in recent years. The large proportion of Land projects which received recognition last night is testament to that. Our soldiers are now among the best equipped in the world and we are closer to being fitted for and with all the things that allow us to do our job on the battlefield. That IS a team effort and I see you as part of that team. I have said it before and I will say it again: Army sees Defence Industry as a key member of our capability team and it wants relationships built on trust, understanding and performance. To the bulk of you, this should be reassuring praise but no surprise. On behalf of us all, thank you. For any who simply want to sell us stuff or elevate self profit above mutual advantage, well that's a way to do business, but it isn't a way to stay in business.
Last night recognised performance in the Defence Materiel Organisation and Australian Defence Magazine style. Fantastic and well done. I fully support this, and within Army I have found favour recognising performance, not through high profile events, but rather on the ground with the people that deliver. As an example, I recently visited Thales Brisbane at short notice to meet and thank the workers delivering and repairing our Bushmasters. A wonderful dedicated group of Australians that perhaps don't get the recognition they deserve. I'd like to correct that where I can and following that visit it was my pleasure to not only formally recognise the performance of those individuals, but also arrange a Day in the Army for a small group to connect these people with soldiers who use and have operated with the equipment. It’s a great way to establish bonds and strengthen our relationships at the foundation level. I trust you think this is a good thing and I am open to approaches where Army can do more of this where credit is due.
As Head of Modernisation, I am an architect for Chief of Army for the future Army. I am tasked to imagine, define, oversee and deliver all aspects of capability to the current Force to ensure it is relevant and ready for the challenges it will face and the missions it must win. In this appointment I have overseen the delivery of much of Plan BEERSHEBA. Perhaps unusually, this is a story of quiet achievement. In the last five years, and concurrent to major operational commitments, Army has fundamentally reshaped itself. It did so because it needed to. The challenges we were facing at almost every level made it clear we were hollow, poorly aligned, inconsistently trained and equipped, resources were inefficiently assigned, overall operating costs were trending in an unsustainable direction and our hierarchy had grown over-large. We needed a major rethink and an approach which didn't repeat the failed attempts at reform of the past. Thus BEERSHEBA was born. In December 2016, less than three years from now, it will be complete. On time, and entirely within Army's assigned resources. Don't let me fool you however with creative citation of statistics on my organisation’s performance or faint attempts to attract your approval. This was hard, sustained work underpinned by enormous analysis. It required fundamental cultural change and those of us who have lead this needed to draw deep from the well in terms of innovative vision, bold execution, tenacious commitment and managed risks. More than anything it was a team effort that involved each and every member of the Army and many from Defence. Today we are doing things that were not possible five years ago. Today, and without exaggeration, we can see that had we not acted, we were on course to see our capabilities incrementally dilute and fade. The banner statement for this is perhaps closer to the phrase adapt or fail than many realise. The exciting news is that BEERSHEBA is not an end unto itself and was never meant to be. It was an act of organisational self-recognition and dynamic reform which stopped the capability rot and has set the conditions for us to consider the future with confidence. A future that now presents options we would never otherwise have had.
I am not here to talk up BEERSHEBA, but I use this to set the scene for three main points I wish to impress upon you today. First, Army has changed and will continue to adapt. Those with outdated views of Army and Land Forces need to recalibrate their understanding and I am determined to open our doors to any and all of you to facilitate that. You know where I am. Ask. Second, if you plan to play a role in providing or sustaining capability for the Australian Army and hope to bid successfully, you need to know us. Many of the questions I receive are fundamentally variations of the same theme ... “what do you actually want?". Good question and let me try and help you with that! Finally, what am I doing to facilitate our relationship with Defence Industry. I've always preferred actions over words and prefer to let my reputation stand on achievements rather than promises. So instead of speaking at you on what I think you should be doing, let me focus instead on what I have done and plan to do.
Providing or sustaining capability for the Australian Army. You need to know that we are not just into buying stuff to take to war. The emphasis we place now on affordability, sustainability, integration, training and the like is strong. I want innovative ideas on leasing and forward positioning of fleets in training areas. Integration ... I need it to work straight from the box as advertised. We now try and equip our Multi-Role Combat Brigades cyclically through our three year Force Generation Cycle. Our basis for provisioning is now also strongly informed by this and this has allowed substantial equipment rationalisation and more extensive use of pooling. We will do more training through non-live means. I personally believe that an aspirational target of 25 per cent delivery of competencies through non-live means within a decade is both achievable, and given the escalating demands of Joint and collective training, essential. We also need to reduce the amount of movement of fleets and people across Australia and therefore favour solutions which maximise local solutions, including improved usability and development of local major training areas such as Cultana, High Range and Shoalwater Bay.
Facilitating our Relationship with Defence Industry. Army isn't just talking about a relationship with industry; it is doing it. In fact we never stopped and everyday, year in and year out, across Australia we quietly and consistently work together locally and strategically for mutual benefit. But more can and needs to be done. Let me now expand on five areas of new endeavour currently underway. Industry collaboration for concept development; redirecting resources to better define needs and retire risks; changing our language and the accessibility of documents; establishing an intellectual Diaspora; and connecting the dots better at the Land Forces Conference 22-25 September 2014 in Brisbane. My door is open on working with those of you interested in being a part of these initiatives. They offer the prospect of better and higher quality outcomes for us all.
Finally, let me touch base briefly on Land 400 and aspects of the Defence Capability Plan and Acquisition process relevant to the Capability Manager.
LAND 400. Army doesn't and never has seen itself as a heavy armoured force and nor does it believe that the prospect of engaging similarly equipped opponents in a high intensity state-on-state conflict is likely for the foreseeable future. It does need suitable platforms to engage and deliver our soldiers onto objectives where the adversaries have weapons that would otherwise destroy more lightly protected vehicles. Land 400 is about armoured vehicles. Land 400 is about fighting and winning, not just surviving and protecting. Land 400 is about dealing with lethal threats which are now readily accessible across the world but are still cheap and man portable. Land 400 is also about networking, and sustaining and training in the smartest and most efficient way possible. Extended life of type means we are after platforms that can be with us a long time. Cost pressures mean we are after ideas on how to raise, train and sustain affordably without sacrificing standards. I sometimes hear and am disturbed at comments which imply that Army's ambitions for Land 400 are too large, or that we are seeking capabilities for conflicts we wish to fight rather than those we need and are directed to execute. This is unfounded fantasy. For those of you in the room and those others that are listening, listen to this. The myths and legends of a bygone era are just that, gone. Today's modern Land Forces have fundamentally changed and are a willing part of a Joint Force construct and have been for some time. If you want to talk about or debate Army capabilities and outlook then let’s base it in fact and do us the courtesy of asking for those facts. My door is open. I am not trying to control debate here, but I insist that contributors have some basis of fact when expressing their points of view on Army and on Land 400. Yes this is a big and, to some degree, a complex project but at its heart Land 400 is simple. Its basis in requirement is irrefutable. And its scope is, and will always be, consistent with Government-directed levels of capability and readiness. So what am I saying? Well we need to replace the ASLAV (Australian Light Armoured Vehicle). It is about to reach its life of type and must be replaced by the end of the decade at the latest. We want to replace it with a proven military off the shelf contemporary equivalent platform that we want to be relevant and sustainable for the next 20-30 years. Then we need to replace the M113AS4 (Armoured Personnel Carrier) sometime around 2025 for the same reasons and the same logic as ASLAV. As part of this, Army will also require a small number of specialist vehicles that can clear obstacles under fire and ensure the armoured vehicles get to where they need to go. And of course everything needs to be fitted with the communications systems and support arrangements that allow us to be part of the same Joint Force that the rest of the Australian Defence Force is moving towards. In terms of numbers, what I can say is that because of BEERSHEBA and the raising of three new Armoured Calvary Regiments, I expect that our requirements will be substantially less (yes less!) than the existing number of vehicles we currently sustain. In terms of weight, I will tell you that we are after levels of protection against the agreed levels of threat which the Defence Intelligence Organisation have determined, and that with the rapid maturation of active defence systems and remote weapons station technologies, I believe that Industry will be able to offer solutions that are lighter, faster, better and more sustainable than we have now. This aligns with our conceptual outlook for a small, affordable, agile, deployable and potent Land Force able to operate in austere environments and be deployed by land, sea or air. Anyone who suggests we are somehow aspiring to be a heavy armoured cold war category force envisaging extensive tank-on-tank battles has been spending more time in the Star Wars cocktail lounge than they have at Army Headquarters.
Acquisition and the Defence Capability Plan. I believe it’s time for some new ideas. In fact, there should always be time for new ideas and the truth is that these are being considered and applied all the time. There is much goodness in what is being done already and good people that are working tirelessly to achieve outcomes. Many are drawn to emphasise the downsides of the current arrangements without due account of the achievements. It’s more complicated than many realise but nevertheless, I don't think anyone doesn't agree we can’t do better. Please understand that this is a time for constructive critique and few solutions are simple given the interdependencies of the Defence Enterprise approach. In this we must be cautious we don't unwittingly worsen circumstances through inadequate accounting of second and third order issues. I ask that you note that much reform has been introduced in the last six to nine months and that this will take some time to get traction. Capability Development Group processes are now clearer, more transparent and consultative. Capability Managers now have a much greater say and visibility of all aspects of the process including into Defence Materiel Organisation. The Chief of Defence Force and the Secretary issue comprehensive Joint Capability Directives to each Capability Manager which are unambiguous on who is accountable and what has to be done.
Nevertheless, I feel from my perspective as Head of Modernisation and Strategic Planning – Army that we need to use the Defence Capability Plan better to deliver what we need. Defining what we need needs to improve through our Needs Documents including better concept development, Fundamental Inputs to Capability analysis and risk reduction in partnership with organisations like the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Rapid Prototyping Development and Evaluation, Land Engineering Agency and Defence Industry. We are doing that through the mechanisms that have already been referred to by me earlier.
The time it takes to progress a requirement through the process can of itself, when this time is extended over several years or longer, undermine our ability to frame credible requirements which are still relevant. We need to strive to find ways to substantially shorten the process especially when a requirement is for military use off the shelf and commercial off the shelf. For those projects that are complex and time is required then we need to be better at keeping our requirement relevant across this period in a world where change is more dynamic than ever.
Finally, on the process itself. I acknowledge its necessity, but the scale and effort have become onerous. First pass document suites now seem to require almost as much work as second pass products. Where this is essential, I have no complaint, but nevertheless I believe that this area is worth more of a look to ensure we are delivering lean, concise and clear products that support our senior decision-makers. Implicit in this are constantly improved approaches to the assessment and application of risk that are contextually relevant to the overall purpose of the process.
I would like to finish on a positive note. Don't ever doubt how important you are to us. Don't ever think that my comments on being a team are platitudes. Help us to do better in communicating, collaborating and cooperating. I am open to your ideas. I will respond quickly where I can and I know we all share a desire to support and deliver excellence in training and on operations to our people. Thank you.