In September 2020, the Honourable Melissa Price MP (Minister for Defence Industry) announced the ASDEFCON and Defence Procurement Review. The goal of the review is to advance and strengthen how Defence does business with industry as part of the broader Defence Transformation Strategy.
ASDEFCON is the government’s Australian Standard for Defence Contracting, used for a range or procurement activities from support services to major, complex acquisition programs and is a key part of the relationship between Defence and industry.
The review is therefore important – not just because it gives defence industry an opportunity to provide feedback, but also because ASDEFCON requires an update to effectively operate in the modern environment.
Technology evolves, procurement must follow.
Technology development methodologies (both hardware and software) are in a constant state of flux as organisations compete for market share across industries where risk tolerance can differ significantly. In defence, threats that technology evolution bring to warfare (among other drivers) have been recognised, and as a result have released Defence’s Strategic Update 2020 and the Defence Force Structure Plan 2020. These documents present an accelerated need for capabilities that will shape Australia’s strategic position and allow Australia to respond with a credible force.
Therefore, we must continually test the framework of Commonwealth procurement practices, policies and templates.
Then we must adapt to reflect the ability of any large organisation, such as Defence, to procure new capabilities and services that match both the government’s tolerance for risk, as well as the most efficient way to bring new capability into service.
The environment highlights vulnerabilities.
Not only do the rate of technology adaptation and development changes give rise to a need to evolve, but so to do the changes in the environment where we operate. These only reinforce the need to evolve.
This includes sudden shifts in the perspective of the impact of environment, such as events bought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it may well be that we must work more effectively as a nation to combat a future of threats just as far reaching, and perhaps even more devastating in the future. The pandemic has brought a degree of clarity regarding the vulnerabilities in economies and supply chains that are now exposed on a global scale.
Adapting to a future where we are better prepared will take time, and a review of the procurement templates and processes may assist to ensure better outcomes in future.
ASDEFCON is complex.
If your organisation contracts directly with Defence, or is a subcontractor to a defence prime, then you have probably worked under the ASDEFCON framework or a flow-down arrangement. ASDEFCON templates and processes can be difficult to navigate as an SME with little commercial support or experience.
But having both experience and support does not necessarily result in a positive outcome for all players. As interpretations differ, technical complexity often results in over-reliance on the contract, which may have been drafted many years prior, and is not tailored to address schedule dependencies and complicated system relationships.
It is therefore possible that good capabilities fail through poor acquisition, and sub-optimal systems succeed, merely because of the processes employed and the people who have been charged with implementing them are not right, despite best intentions and attempts.
Have your say.
If you have ever had the thought that Defence procurement could have been better, more cost-effective, more efficient, or changed in such a way that will allow Defence to succeed from a strengthened industry base, then we encourage you to get online and do the survey.
It is vital that changes to ASDEFCON results in an improved framework under which Defence can acquire and sustain capability. And not one that is reinforced with further complexity, additional bureaucracy, or a further shift of risk and uncertainty onto industry.
After having read through the survey questions I can see the merit in brainstorming within our organisation before we hit submit. We encourage you to reach out to your organisation’s leaders and take the opportunity to have your say.
Submissions close 28th February.
About the Author
Kaylene is a Senior Partner at Luminact. Kay brings a wealth of experience as a senior Commercial and Program Manager. Her career covers both defence procurement within CASG, and industry, as well as technical engineering skills.
Kay is a widely respected strategic program management professional and her work is well known across the defence industry.