Defence to overhaul tech capabilities as part of digital transformation program

Defence wants to shift its IT capabilities so that it's less infrastructure-led and more agile.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Department of Defence is now accepting expressions of interest (EOI) from industry to help it modernise its existing capabilities to support current and future military and business operations across air, land, and marine environments.

Defence said the Chief Information Officer Group (CIOG), which is responsible for delivering capabilities including satellite communications, high grade cryptographic systems, tactical data links, and deployed networks and applications, is looking to overhaul the agency's technology capabilities to address existing challenges of redundancy, disjunction, limited interoperability, and legacy processes.

"CIOG must position itself as a business partner, providing a military advantage to the services through the delivery of upstream activities such as: Integration, convergence, service management, information protection, cyber resilience, strategic relationship management, and process optimisation," Defence said.

"Through this transformation, Defence will deliver a reliable and secure warfighting and business network in order to provide access to the required information at the right time and place to enable the mission."

As part of the request for EOI, Defence has divided the project into seven work packages: User support, service desk, centralised compute, and network support; identity and identity and access management; application services; supply chain management; project services; security; and IT service management.

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Defence noted the procurement would deliver on six specific outcomes. These include enabling Defence to focus on core operations while governing sustainment activities; engaging with partners that complement its capability gaps with frameworks and governance models; delivering partner-led solutions; delivering interoperable solutions that facilitate combined operations; offering adaptable and scalable services; and ensuring expertise is shared and maintained.

Defence added the EOI forms part of a wider IT transformation program -- dubbed One Defence -- which is aimed at moving the agency from "an infrastructure-centric approach to IT, to a more agile information-centric approach".

Central to this strategy, according to Defence, is shifting the provision of multiple services including design and architecture, hardware and software, support arrangements, and delivery mechanisms, into a single network.

EOIs are being accepted until November 18. Successful applicants will begin delivery from 10 August 2020.

Defence confirmed in its annual report [PDF] released last week that it is part-way through its IT infrastructure transformation program. It added that the agency's chief information officer Stephen Pearson is addressing any disruptions the agency has experienced during the program.

"While individually these programs have delivered a significant upgrade to Defence's aging infrastructure and systems, the complexity and scale of this work with multiple programs being undertaken concurrently, has resulted in some recent unplanned service disruptions within the Defence Network," the report said.

"These disruptions have not undermined the performance of ADF operations. A comprehensive action plan under the direction of the CIO is underway to remediate these deficiencies."

Earlier this week, insider sources from Defence told ABC that the agency had awarded Victorian-based consultancy firm Sinapse an IT contract, valued at AU$380,000, following a limited tender because a senior official had a close relationship with the company.

It was revealed during Estimates on Wednesday that the senior official involved was Pearson. Pearson confirmed the link to Sinapse was his son.

"My son does undertake part-time casual work in a technology area for Sinapse every now and again," he said, but denied his son received any benefit from the contract.

While Defence said there were no complaints made about the "perceived" conflict of interest, Pearson admitted that on reflection he should have declared it before the contract was awarded, and not afterwards.

"I think because of my intent and commitment to do the right thing for Defence, I did not take it into account as I should have. The event passed and subsequently should have reported [the conflict of interest]. If I had my time again, yes indeed I would do that," he said.

In addition, Department of Defence confirmed during Senate Estimates that it spent AU$7 million to procure an automated travel management system as part of Project Concur that was ultimately abandoned, with the final cost exceeding a possible AU$10 million.

The travel management system was supposed to be completed by 2017.

However, an audit by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) into Defence's administration of travel allowances paid to Australia's Public Service revealed that due to poor oversight from government, the project was forced to shut down in June. 

On Wednesday during Estimates, Defence officials admitted it was due to "poor administration". 

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