DSTO's budget trimmed to fill defence 'black holes'

Summary:The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) budget was cut back five percent by the Treasurer Budget day; that money has been earmarked for filling defence funding "black holes".

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) budget was cut back five percent by the Treasurer on Budget day; that money has been earmarked for filling defence funding "black holes".

The DSTO received AU$372.5 million from the budget, according to Warren Snowdon, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel.

When asked if he was happy with that figure, chief defence scientist Dr Roger Lough told ZDNet.com.au: "You can always use more, but in terms of our share in the context of the spending profile of defence, we're happy."

The savings will come from discontinuing some lower priority programs, according to Lough, as well as some administrative efficiencies such as using video conferencing instead of travelling, and printing in black and white instead of colour.

It isn't necessarily whole programs that have been cut, Lough said: "It's not a salami slice, but it's the lower priority activities in each of our programs." As an example of the type of program which would be discontinued, he named some blue sky research on the fatigue of composite materials.

The DSTO has been allocated AU$61 million over three years for its Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program, which provides a platform for Australian industry to demonstrate hi-tech products — to defence.

The funding for this program will also be scaled down, with smaller amounts being allocated for each successive year. However, Lough said there are other programs that will continue fostering collaboration between defence and industry — such as the AU$82 million Defence Materials Technology Centre in Melbourne, which is designed to drive innovation in defence technologies.

The savings from the DSTO and other parts of defence will go to fill "black holes" in the previous government's defence budget — for example, where equipment had been budgeted for, but not the personnel costs or maintenance — according to a spokesperson for the minister.

The government has commissioned a white paper to investigate how defence spending can be made more efficient.

"Every dollar spent in one area of defence is a dollar not available to be spent in another. We cannot afford to waste a single defence dollar through poor planning," Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon said in a statement.

Topics: Government, CXO, Emerging Tech, Government : AU

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Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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