Brigadier Jason Blain - video transcript

Defence Innovation Hub Industry Update

Master of ceremonies: Our next session is on force design update and innovation investment priorities. Force Design division support the Australian Defence Organisation in delivering and maintaining a joint force that is capable, agile, and potent in achieving the strategic Defence objectives directed by government. The division identifies emerging gaps, risks, issues, and opportunities, develops and tests operating concepts, and proposes force structures and capability options that enable and enhance the Joint Force. Importantly, Force Design inform the Defence innovation high priority areas for innovation investment.

I am pleased to introduce our next speaker, Brigadier Jason Blain, Director General, Force Options and Plans.

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Brigadier Jason Blain: Good afternoon, and thank you very much to the Defence Innovation Hub for the invitation to address you today. This is the second conference of this nature that I’ve attended, and I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about force design, the force design process as it relates to driving or helping drive the innovation agenda, and also to get your feedback as those partners of ours who have a strong interest in ensuring that we are delivering on what we said we would deliver, but also giving us the ideas, giving us the understanding of what we can drive forward on in innovation and bring into our force structure.

It’s good to have a number of my colleagues here who will be addressing you this afternoon as part of a panel discussion who are involved in the Innovation Hub, and particularly the Hub Investment Advisory Group that some of us sit on where we get to see the proposals coming through that are looked at and then assessed about how they go forward into potential contract and taken forward into options development that may then move into our future force structure or into a capability investment.

Also note that we have head of Force Integration here, Air Vice Marshal Meredith. The integration function or the integration division that he heads up, Force Integration, is a key partner with Force Design in supporting the vice chief of Defence force in delivering a joint force by design. So limiting the aftermarket integration requirements as much as possible to ensure that, very early on in the CLC, the Capability Life Cycle phases, we are taking appropriate consideration of integration and operability issues are being addressed very early. It’s also important to be a feedback loop to us as well, as his division reviewing the realisation of the force structure, so those capabilities that are delivered, and then testing how well those capabilities deliver a joint force outcome, and then informing force design about where there may be integration requirements that need to be addressed. So good to see you here as well, sir.

So I will talk through some points that you may have seen at previous forums. I do ask for your patience as we go through that in case there are some new members present today attending the conference. But then we’ll go into a bit more detail about how we look at the innovation aspects of the force design cycle, and then also how we drive innovation priorities, and then how those innovation priorities come back into potential force structure outcomes.

All right. So the capability lifecycle-- hopefully many of you are familiar with that, and you have seen the cycle before, or seen the process, and indeed are involved with it, particularly if you’re an industry partner. As you know, as it goes through those gate processes as we get capabilities, they go to government for consideration, are approved, and then actually acquired to be brought into service. We’ve put a rectangle on this slide around that first phase of the CLC, the strategy and concepts phase.

It does say our force design function sits in that phase, but it actually has a role across all four phases. But I want to emphasise today in this presentation about that very early phase that we call strategy and concepts. This is an important part of the process because, one, it ensures that whatever decisions we’re making in regard to force structure and force options are always anchored to our strategic requirements. And I’ll explain a bit more shortly about how we look at that through a triad, a triangle of strategy, resources, and capability.

So the strategy context that we work within sits with the Defence White Paper, so the most recent Defence White Paper, 2016. It then moves into our more classified versions of strategic guidance. That includes our Australian military strategy. And also, it links to our operating concepts.

And nested with that in whatever we do, the decisions we make, is how are our force structure options and outcomes ensuring we achieve against the Defence missions which the DPG, the Defence Planning Guidance, gives us requirements to meet. Now, you may all have seen the white paper and be aware that Defence has three strategic Defence objectives. So secure and resilient Australia is SD01. SD02 is focused on our region and regional stability, and SD03 is about a rules-based global order.

So we have three strategic Defence objectives that are prioritised. The government hasn’t said to Defence, your focus is only on SD01 or only on SD03. The government has said, these are our Defence objectives. You are to provide a force structure that is able to achieve missions across all three objectives. So when I start talking about how we meet those requirements in that triangle of strategy, resources, capability, we have to look at that in a lens of achieving against those three SDOs. And they all come with relative challenges and also responsibilities. So I’ll talk a bit more about those as we go through.

You’ll hear a term called gaps and opportunities, G and O’s. We have spent a long time in creating the force design cycle ensuring that we have a framework in place that actually allows us to have an evidence-based, transparent approach to how we identify future capability requirements and also how we have to remediate potential force [INAUDIBLE] issues. So gaps and opportunities are what we term issues or risks or requirements for us to consider, a gap being something that we need to close or treat, an opportunity something that we should exploit. And I’ll talk a bit more about that in the process. And you’ll see why innovation becomes so important to how we look at treatments for gaps or how we exploit opportunities where innovation really is the key player in the opportunity area.

Opportunities, though, also make us look at what do we divest in-- not just invest in, but what can divestment of capabilities that are no longer relevant, particularly where technology has overtaken a capability-- so we move away from a replacement mentality, replacing like for like. So opportunities for divesting of something that’s obsolete, redundant, or indeed, the threat that we are having to mitigate against has actually made that capability non-effective. So opportunities are not just about taking new investments forward. It’s also about looking internally to Defence structure to see where we should be divesting. That’s a much more difficult conversation, as you can imagine.

And a big emphasis on prioritisation-- again, in setting up the force design process, we’ve invested in tools that allow us to make that evidence-based recommendation to the committees within Defence and also the government, and again in a transparent process. For those of you familiar with the First Principles Review that was delivered in 2015, you’ll know of the major changes that were recommended, and indeed adopted within Defence, about how we do business, how we strengthen our business to improve trust-- improve trust within Defence, within essential agencies, across government, and indeed, across industry and across the nation.

So moving towards evidence-based and transparent processes has allowed us to actually do prioritisation of Defence requirements in a much more collaborative and collegiate manner. And the results speak for themselves. I think for those who track the number of submissions that go to government and get through government with announcables through media releases, et cetera, in particularly over the last 18 months, they are at record high because of that very early engagement and transparency in the process within Defence, with centrals, and broader. Now, it doesn’t mean we can’t do better in that regard, and we should be doing more to ensure that transparency is always being looked at and the evidence base is maintaining our foundation for our decision making and how we bring in more partners to that process.

So under the First Principles Review, they said Defence stop standing up-- I’m speaking a bit about what they were actually stating in regard to the force design structure. But Defence, you have this cycle of standing up teams, doing force structure reviews that look at the force structure, decide on a force structure outcome, an investment programme. You then implement the investment programme, wait for the next white paper, and stand up another team to review.

I said you need an ongoing force design structure, and you need the vice chief to be the joint force authority. So you need a person who is the chair of the investment committee but is ensuring that there is a joint force by design, an authority that is ensuring integration and interoperability is being done very much upfront in that strategy and concept space. So that’s, again, working with head force integration.

You need a joint force authority who is giving the C4 ISI design requirements. So have that structure early and have an ongoing force design process. So think of force design as an enduring force structure review team within Defence not having to stand up when there’s a white paper to go through a 12 to 18-month strong focus on what are our force structure requirements, how do we leverage innovation, how do we leverage industry, technology. Rather than doing that ad hoc, it’s done constantly on an enduring basis. And that’s an important outcome of the FDR.

So why do we have a Defence Force? Well, this diagram, this slide explains it pretty simply. We are there to respond to risk. Now, risk emerges in many different ways. And the risks that we face are always changing, whether they be from a potential adversary, whether they be from environmental conditions, whether they be a black swan that we do not see or foreshadow. So how do we respond to risk?

Well, the government has funded the Defence Organisation with an investment programme of $200 billion over the decade to develop those capabilities to be able to achieve against the three Defence objectives that I gave you before about treating risk-- risk to Australia and risk to our national interests. So that’s why those three SDOs are equally weighted.

And then we have to look at our plans, our resources and opportunities on how we actually respond. But they also shift and change. Resources will change. Governments will change their priorities in spending. That’s just the natural flow of budgets. Governments will declare certain percentage of GDP against Defence spending depending on where they wish to focus their budget requirements. So you need to ensure that you’re not just sitting and forgetting when you deliver an investment programme, or indeed, your meeting against those three SDOs.

So going to the triangle I mentioned of strategy, resources, and capabilities, all three of those need to be balanced. Of course, the strategy is what we actually resource against and build capabilities to achieve. But if you haven’t got enough resources or the capability, you won’t achieve the strategy. And indeed, if the wrong capabilities are being purchased or acquired, then you’re not achieving the strategy the government is giving us.

So these must be balanced. And this is what force design and force integration and the vice chief of the joint force authority, working with his peers and his colleagues from across the Defence portfolio, is constantly focused on. Are we balanced? Because if there is a break in that triangle, then we need to consider, OK, has the strategy changed, and we haven’t put up with it regarding capability? Have the resources changed to an extent that we can’t afford capability, or the capability, like I said, is no longer valid?

And if that’s the case, we then need to stop and review ourselves and conduct a fundamental review of the force structure to ensure we can achieve against the strategy with the budget it has been given. So it’s not a set and forget. A $200 billion Defence investment programme is not just, hey, come back to us in 10 years’ time with your next 10 years of investment. This is an ongoing investment process. So we are always looking at modernising the force, ensuring we have a balance of investment, and prioritising across our resources and capabilities to ensure we can achieve against our strategy. And prioritising becomes a key aspect of how we do force design business.

So to help us do that, we have developed the Defence Capability Assessment Programme. This diagram I’ve shown at many different forums. Hopefully for many of you, it’s not unfamiliar. This is the annual cycle you see in front of you that we have created to give us a battle rhythm, a plan of activities throughout a 12-month period on how we address our force design requirement. If you look at the 12 o’clock position and this number 3 on the diagram, step 3, you’ll see gaps and opportunities.

So this is collecting across the portfolio-- where are our gaps, where are the opportunities we need to exploit based on not just the force that we have in being today, but looking at the future force out to the 30-year and beyond horizon? But having a strong focus, though, on the 10-year force and the next 10-year force in particular. So what are the gaps we see in our ability to achieve the Defence missions that have been given to us to actually realise the three Defence objectives? So we collate those, and then we look at how do we now treat those gaps and opportunities from a joint perspective.

There are a number of ways of treating them. We might look at studies into those gaps or opportunities more. We might go back to a capability manager saying, can you fix that gap within Army, for example. Or we might go to our SNT, to our DST group. Can you do some work on this from an emerging technology area?

Or we might say, this needs to go to a stream view. So we have six streams in the Defence portfolio with stream leads at the three-star band 3 level for each stream. Can the stream fix a gap, or can a stream exploit an opportunity? Do we need to go to the joint board? You’ll see further on a thing called a joint consideration, which is where we will take a joint view. Where does that gap sit in joint priorities?

But one of the key ones for treatment that we will exploit is innovation. And we call it force exploration. You can see the roll around the cycle. We have Defence industry innovation playing its part throughout the whole cycle in assessing, understanding, designing. And then we’ll decide through our committee process before going to the government for final decision.

So what part does industry and innovation play in particular? Well, we think it’s there to help us treat gaps but also to exploit opportunities. And in that grey area at that step four, you’ll see a term called force exploration. And that is how we look at driving the innovation agenda, helping set priorities so the warfighter’s requirements are being met through that large amount of innovation funding that the government has given us through the investment Programme, both in the Defence Innovation Hub and the Next Generation Technology Fund that the Defence Science Technology group goes after.

So the gaps and opportunities then flow into what are the priority areas for Defence for innovation. And then as you go down around the cycle, you’ll see another grey area around at that step six and that 5 o’clock position, which is about are those innovation or technology opportunities actually feasible, mature enough to come into Defence options.

Now, it’s not like it happens in the same year. This input down here could happen two, three, 10 years beyond the start of that innovation technology pathway. But that’s where we drive that in to our force options testing and start testing that outcome to say does it really provide us a force option to take forward. That’s why the Defence Innovation Hub on the Hub Investment Advisory groups has the capability of major reps at the one-star band1 level and the enablers and delivery groups as well as force design.

Because we want to see what is a pathway of bringing something into service through a project that currently exists or we may have to create in our future force structure. So every year, going through a process of looking at our innovation priorities noting that we don’t want to do big change. We don’t want to make major change innovation. It’s important that we are letting innovation thrive and work.

But where do we make those small changes based, again, on the risk that we’re seeing and the need to maintain that triangle? So where do I drive innovation focus areas? And then bringing into a future force structure where we see some revolutionary change.

So while you see an annual cycle here, we also have what we believe is a prudent, four-year fundamental update of our force structure. Most Western nations, Western militaries will, every four to five years, do a larger, more in-depth review of their force structure and their investment Programme to say how well are we achieving against the strategy. We may also be told we want a new white paper. The government directs you to do a white paper. Therefore, deliver our new force structure against that as well.

So the annual process informs either a four yearly update or as it goes to our force structure. So every four years is about right, we believe, in making sure we’re looking at strong, revolutionary change options but not missing also each year where opportunity presents to take innovation technology forward.

So we are now into our second-- third year of this cycle moving to a four-year period since the last FSR, which was done in 2015. So our processes are now working towards looking at the technology innovations in a more fundamental aspect. And one of the outcomes of our work over the last few months has been to reinforce that force exploration function more within force design division.

So the other branch in our division that works to head force design is Force Analysis branch, which is headed up by our Commodore Richard Lennon. His branch is being retitled to be Force Exploration. And Richard and his team will work much more closely with Defence Science and Technology on emerging disruptive technologies and on driving those innovation priorities for the next-generation tech fund, so that 10 years and beyond, that blue sky technology, but having a much stronger force exploration focus and driving the science and technology priorities with SNT about where they go for future force options.

So this force expiration function is only being strengthened. And I think that’s a good thing, particularly as we now are four years-- almost four years beyond the last FSR, to start looking at more of those blue sky options and bringing innovation and technology options into our force structure.

So you can see up on this board they have some of the activities, the emerging disruptive technology forums that the DST group run, which we are very much involved in, and also helping set agendas for those and where the focus areas are, but also our broader SNT and academic partnerships and focus areas. So this is where we see the different touch points of industry throughout the process. Because we do work a lot it’s strategy and concepts, we can have more open conversations with industry. We’re not talking about platforms.

We’re quite solution agnostic within force design. It’s about effects and how well we deliver effects to achieve capabilities that actually help us achieve those Defence missions. So having early engaging with industry on effects, having early engagement about where technology is taking us so we know what is realistic, what is feasible in things such as future vertical lift or in some underwater capabilities or in autonomous capabilities. Where is technology driving us? So what is a feasible pathway of bringing those capabilities into force structure? And then bringing that into each phase, as you see, as we go through the force design cycle.

So our innovation priorities-- I’ll finish on these because I know we’ve got a Q&A session after this, which we can take more questions on these if you wish. But you would have seen these released by the minister recently. Again, these were mostly driven from either what was in the white paper and the force structure review of 2015 that have been reviewed since then, then through that gaps and opportunities process of the force design cycle and [INAUDIBLE] with capability managers and delivery group reps working out our focus areas.

So again, these priorities are very similar to what was in last year’s priorities-- maintaining consistency in the priority areas, so the three streams that we are focused on-- ISREW space, and cyber, key enablers, land combat, amphibious warfare, and special ops, those three key streams. These are the areas that we want to continue focusing on and then put some additional areas for both industry and academia to give us insights into some of these options going forward.

Now, we removed the autonomous [INAUDIBLE] systems technologies from this year’s list in this priority area because we think they’re mature enough now that they are pretty much off the shelf or able to be acquired without requiring significant innovation investment. But you’ll see the additional ones we’ve added there. Now, these are all public, so you should have those available to you. Innovation Hub, I’m sure, has got them available online as well.

And then land combat, amphibious warfare-- one thing we’ve done with that stream title-- we’ve added special operations into the title of that stream. No longer just sitting as a Programme by itself. We’ve elevated special operations into a stream title. That’s important because it now gives it a whole Defence perspective and ensures integration is being considered across all six streams in a special operations sense.

Future areas of interest which are ongoing-- of course, data management is a key one for all of us in regard to how we can get the right level of processing exploitation and dissemination capabilities to be able to manage the volumes of data that will be coming to us with our fifth generation capabilities. How do we have redundancy in those capabilities, and how do we support the bandwidth requirements we’re seeing coming our way, but also policies and workforce behind that as well?

SATCOMM beyond line of sight capabilities. Additive manufacturing is not so much about the technology, but more about the policy and the regulations behind that, particularly technical regulation requirements. And ADF lift-- strong focus on our lift capabilities, strategic to tactical, including air and sea, and seeing where future technologies are taking us in regard to unmanned systems and also into our requirements as a Defence Organisation on the right mix of lift capabilities.

Opportunities and challenges-- earlier engagement with industry and academia. I mentioned before about the fact that we were early in the process. I think we could do more of this. Last year, some of you in the audience may have attended it. We ran a force design conference in this very auditorium where we worked with industry about how do we actually cooperate earlier and more effectively. Obviously, the Defence Innovation Hub is one conduit for that. But what are some other ways that force design can engage with industry, again, being solution agnostic, looking at effects and on delivery of potential force option outcomes?

So cooperation collaboration is critical between Defence and industry and academia, but also internally between industry and industry. And that’s one thing I might talk about when we do the panel is great numbers of innovation proposals come through. And I always find it difficult as a warfighter looking at a great innovation proposal here with one there, thinking, if only those two industries could talk to each other. Because what one is delivering the other can enable, or vice versa. How do we actually manage to get that relationship moving, working within all the issues of IP, probity, procurement rules, but bringing industry together to deliver optimal outcomes?

I might leave it with that. And I know it’s time now for our panel discussion. Thank you very much.

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