The Department of Defence has already made $49 million in IT savings in the 2009/2010 financial year, only 1 million off its original target with a month still to go.
The department announced its strategic reform program at the end of 2009, saying that it would spend $708 million on IT in order to achieve $1.9 billion in savings. $100 million of that expenditure was scheduled to occur in the 2009/2010 year, to be balanced out by $50 million in savings.
The $49 million in savings were found by upgrading Defence's infrastructure and improving the management of ICT support, according to secretary of Defence Dr Ian Watt, speaking at the Federal Budget Estimates last week. According to the original strategic reform program document (PDF), there had been long-term underinvestment in information and communications technology infrastructure, meaning that the Defence's systems had an "unacceptable level of fragility, cost and risk".
Although the $49 million wasn't quite up to the $50 million figure quoted in the Strategic Reform Plan, Watt was quick to point out that the end of the financial year has not yet arrived, so that shortfalls in savings could still be achieved.
Watt said the upgrade will enable the development of a more robust system, but admitted that programs were only as good as their human input, which the department will strive to improve.
The hearing also canvassed problems that the army was encountering with free-time internet access in the Middle East.
According to Defence chief information officer Greg Farr, the department was looking into signing up a supplier that would give the army a managed service to be scaled up if needed.
This was unlikely to be in place until the end of the year. "We certainly accept that it is a priority to do that, but [there are] the logistics of doing that in what I would call a fairly bandwidth constrained environment where the precedence always has to go to military operations," Farr said.
Farr could not say how much it will cost as he is still modelling it. "If you are talking about any form of satellites communication, it is expensive," he said.