Government to address 'underinvestment' in Defence IT

The government will earmark an additional $5 billion to fix what it says is underinvestment in Defence’s ICT systems over the last decade.

The funding is included in the $195 billion Integrated Investment Program unveiled today as part of the new Defence White Paper. The IIP funding stretches through to FY26 and includes already approved major investments.

“Underinvestment in information and communications technology over the last decade, coupled with the lack of a coherent enterprise-level strategy for Defence’s complex and rapidly evolving information and communications requirements, has led to serious degradation across the information and communications capabilities of Defence,” the White Paper notes.

Defence needs to address the shortcomings of “out-dated, and in some cases obsolete, systems”.

The White Paper states that in the future, Defence will need to be able to more quickly procure contemporary IT systems that will offer a technological edge and also make maintenance and ensuring security easier.

Defence has one of the largest ICT environments in Australia, the IIP notes. It encompasses more than 100,000 workstations in Australia and overseas, as well as some 800 networks, 200 processing locations and more than 3000 applications.

The current environment “needs to be streamlined substantially to more management levels to improve both the effectiveness and the efficiency” of Defence ICT, the IIP says.

“While the process of remediation has commenced, the injection of substantial additional funding through the Integrated Investment Program is designed to consolidate early gains,” the IIP states.

“It is also essential that Defence accelerates its efforts to modernise its information and communications technology infrastructure to take advantage of the rapidly advancing digital transformation that is occurring across the Australian economy more broadly.”

Defence will work with the government’s Digital Transformation Office “to ensure that Defence’s plans reflect best practice”.

“As a result of under investment and a lack of coherent enterprise-led strategy, Defence's current ICT systems need urgent remediation,” defence minister Marise Payne said today at the White Paper’s launch.

“I know from first-hand experience how retro some of Defence's ICT systems are — quite retro... Much of Defence's work force, including me, are using computers that run Windows XP. There are people in the room today who had not started school when that was first released. This does inhibit productivity.”

Central to the First Principles Review of Defence released last year was a shift to a unified ‘One Defence’ model of organisation.

As part of this it advocated the move to more standardised systems and an enterprise-wide approach to IT under the auspices of the department’s chief information officer, in order to deal with the problem of a sprawling ICT landscape within Defence.

Defence is currently seeking a number of IT executives as part of its response to the review.

“Under the accountability of the Associate Secretary, the Chief Information Officer is the single authority for all Defence-wide information networks, including their design and management,” the White Paper states.

“The Chief Information Officer will have a mandate to ensure warfighting and corporate information management projects comply with required standards. All proposals for new information systems are to be agreed with the Chief Information Officer.”

Key initiatives in the IIP include the delivery of a 'Single Information Environment', a terrestrial communications project, the Next Generation Desktop project, and the Centralised Processing Project (which will see the consolidation from 280 to 14 Defence data centres).

“Our ICT systems must be more flexible and agile to take advantage of both the rapid change to and improvements in technology, and I look forward to working with the department to implement these investments and changes,” Payne said today.

The government will also invest $300 million to $400 million to boost Defence's cyber capabilities.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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