Defence IT a bigger job than expected: Farr

Summary:Department of Defence (DoD) CIO Greg Farr has said that the department was provided with $550 million in the 2012-13 Budget for IT remediation because the DoD's IT environment is a bigger job than was originally thought when the strategic reform program began in 2009.

Department of Defence (DoD) CIO Greg Farr has said that the department was provided with $550 million in the 2012-13 Budget for IT remediation because the DoD's IT environment is a bigger job than was originally thought when the strategic reform program began in 2009.

Greg Farr
(Credit: Department of Defence)

While the DoD was one of the harshest hit in this year's Federal Budget, with the government pushing for cuts to achieve a surplus, information technology remediation was given $550 million over the next four years, as part of the strategic reform program specifically designed to deliver savings.

Farr told a Budget Estimates hearing on Monday that this is in addition to the $940 million outlined for IT reform in the DoD back in 2009. That program was originally scheduled to be completed in four years; however, the Budget now has spending running until 2015-16. The DoD was asked by ZDNet Australia yesterday on the specifics of the additional spending, but did not respond by the time of writing.

Farr said that the increased spending is being made because back in 2009, the department had little idea of the scope of the overhaul that would be required.

"We have a much better understanding of the size of the Defence information environment, the amount of equipment we have in it, the age of that equipment and what needs to be remediated. That is probably the largest bit of the additional funding. It is a significantly larger task to do the remediation than we initially thought," he said.

He said that the amount of money spent on IT will decrease over time, and that despite additional outlays, the program will still result in $1.948 billion in savings.

A number of existing programs also need additional investment, he said. In 2012-13, the government has allocated $89 million, with $124 million, $198 million and $139 million in the years after that. Farr said that the determination of when the money would be spent would depend on when the government approves a number of upcoming consolidation programs, indicating that most are scheduled to be given the tick within the next 12 months.

"We would expect government approvals in the next 12 months on our terrestrial communications bundle, which consolidates our networks; I would expect approvals on our datacentre consolidation. I would expect approvals on the replacement of our personnel system — the PMKeyS replacement. A number of those big-ticket items will hopefully get government approvals this year," he said.

"We are bringing together our major computing datacentres, so that we get better asset utilisation and better governance over them. Our terrestrial communications have been brought together into a single contract. Once again, we will have full visibility and control over them. Then we will move on to some of the others around our distributed computing."

Farr said that prior to the reforms, there was a "lack of understanding, visibility and total governance" in the DoD's IT, but added that the department has now attempted to address that.

A report from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) late last year noted that the DoD has managed to save $224 million so far as a result of the consolidation program, but warned that the program is complex, and risks failure if it falls behind schedule.

"More than two years into the reform process, ICT continues to represent a material risk to the timely achievement of the SRP investment and savings target set in support of the longer-term objectives of the white paper," the report stated.

"The failure or even the significant delay of one of these projects is likely to have a domino effect on other SRP activities that could delay or deny the anticipated flow of SRP savings into improved Defence capability."

Topics: Government, Government : AU

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Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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