Panel discussion - video transcript

Defence Innovation Hub Industry Update

Master of ceremonies: So firstly, thank you, all, for your time today. We have a large number of questions coming through, so we’ll try to get through as many as we can. Again, if you would like to up-vote questions, they’ll be the ones that we’ll answer first. And the ones we don’t answer, we’ll try and get a response out after the conference.

Question: So, first question to the panel-- two years on from the defence industry policy statement, what is the sentiment amongst capability managers on whether the new innovation system is working? We might start with Brigadier Blain on that one.

Brigadier Jason Blain: Thanks. I’m not a capability manager. So I will hand over to those who have a role within management. Look, it’s a maturing process. And I think a key strength is the fact that it actually is nested to a cycle I just showed you, which means the warfighter requirements are being considered early and upfront and then are driving the innovation. But it’s just not the warfighter. It’s also the broader portfolio requirements.

So some of the innovation areas are also there to support ICT, the state, look after some of those areas, particularly our enabling capabilities that, in the past, may have been neglected-- or not neglected but, indeed, not given the same focus. Because while they provided the capability effect to everybody, there is no central CM responsible for them. And briefly, Steve Beaumont, who now works in Joint Capability Group, which is a new organisation created last year, has now, through JCG-- they now have a strong role as a capability major on those enablers. So we’re seeing the market industry respond to our priority areas, which is fantastic.

We’re also ensuring that we maintain other ideas and options for stuff coming forward that might not be the priorities. So we don’t want to be blind to new innovations that are game changers. And also, we want to utilise the special notice process. I know you’ve been briefed on earlier this morning, as well. So those things, special notices, rapid assessments, coming out, as well, now. They are strengthening the process even further.

Brigadier Stephen Beaumont: OK, I’m Brigadier Steve Beaumont. Some of you will know me, Director General of Information Warfare. Covered off on many of the capability areas that you saw in that ISR/IW cyber stream discussion that Jason made just a moment ago. Innovation is a good thing. In my capability area, we absolutely need it, because technology changes so quickly. That, in itself, poses innovation challenges.

Is the innovation processes, as we’ve constructed it at the moment, user friendly for both me, as a capability manager, and for industry? I can’t speak for industry, although I hear rumours. For a capability manager, I think it can be improved.

I would argue that the process we’ve constructed is not nearly innovative enough. You need an innovative process if you really want to accelerate the good ideas is what I would say. And I think we still have some more work to do there.

But it is early days. And through forums like this and feedback, we will get there. Special notices is a really good development. And we will need to take advantage of that.

And just to close, I would say that, in Joint Capabilities Group, we are in the joint space. And any of who have been around knows that you never have enough people to dedicate to your day-to-day business. And so extending that extra step to deal effectively with industry in the innovation space is actually a challenge.

And as many of you will know-- if you’ve tried to reach into Joint Capabilities Group Information Warfare Division, especially-- you may have struggled to get attention. And that’s simply because we are few. And the span we are covering is large.

Air Commodore Mark Green: I think Jason and Steve both touched on a key point. It’s about the focus that the new process brings. It’s important. Innovation vehicles into defensive existed for a long time-- RPDE, the other ways in which innovation was engaged, which now have been rolled into the Innovation Hub and the processes we’ve currently got. The prioritisation of submissions, I think, is important.

Because let’s face it, regardless of what we’re talking about, we’re living in a finite fiscal environment. Not everything is going to buy itself onto the programme. So actually having a process where we can compare apples and elephants and decide which one actually gives you the better value for money potential proposition is important.

And we also have to be prepared for some of these things to fail fast-- actually, make the decision to move to the next stage of work, especially for some of our micro-companies, where the only business in town perhaps is the contract they have got with the Hub. I think, early in its days, the Hub was very interested in getting the proposals on and up, being more of that sort of a showroom salesman type of interface. And now we have to have that service department, as well, so that those we decide to take forward we can do so more expeditiously than we’ve done to date.

Colonel Brad Kilpatrick: I’m conscious of the fact that the Chief of Army was one of the keynote speakers earlier this morning. So if there’s anything that I say that’s different to what he proposed, he’s correct. I’m ill informed.

What I would say, from an Army perspective, is, obviously, innovation is very important. And it’s not just about the invention of new things. It’s not just about new technologies. It’s also about new processes, new ways of doing things, and the new structures that come with that.

And if I tie our approach to innovation back to the earlier presentation we just had after lunch about forced design and the different temporal horizons of the capability lifecycle-- if we look to the force in being the equipment that we have in the force in being is set. That is the stuff that we have. It’s what’s parked under hangars at the moment. We can’t really change that, because it’s the force in being.

What we can do is we can change our processes, what we do with those things. And we can perhaps-- probably less likely-- change the structures around them. When we then cast ahead to the period and the temporal horizon of the planned force and the integrated investment plan, then we’re starting to look at better things.

We have new equipment, new investments that are coming. We can use those things differently through new process. And we can reorganise around them, as well.

That is the area where we’re looking at the money that comes into the Defence Innovation Hub and how we approach innovation in Army Innovation Day. And the events that we do in that environment are in that temporal horizon. We can get new things, and we can look at how we might use them differently. And then we cast ahead to the future force, where we’re getting entirely new investments, things that we might not have thought of before, using them in manners that we haven’t imagined previously. So I guess that’s how we approach innovation across our technology, process, and structure in the temporal horizons of the capability lifecycle.

Army Innovation Day has been a big journey for Army. And we’ve been doing those now since 2014. And I think, in some regards, we’re becoming a victim of our own success.

The things that are coming out of Army Innovation Day are building on top of the workload from the previous year. And in recent times, and since 2017, we’re now doing Army innovation Day in partnership with the Hub, which has been fantastic for us and through with special notice. But each year that we have done this and everything that we learn-- again, we are building on it cumulatively. And we probably are reaching the point now where we need to look at investing more if we want to keep, from a staff perspective-- in the conduct of innovation, if we want to keep doing it to the same standard.

Captain Tim Johnson (RAN): Just from a Navy perspective, it’s certainly maturing and getting better. And when I say Navy, of course, it’s all in one Defence. And so we may benefit from what might be seen as a land or air project, either an amphibious or the undersea submarine warfare stream. Navy, parochially, had about $17.5 million worth of wins out of it. And about 15 bids are either through or going through at the moment.

I have heard some people say there’s still red tape. Of course, there’s red tape. We’ve still got to scrutinise, and prioritise, and link it the bids or other things that are in the programme which may be better, or quicker, or cheaper. But essentially, from Navy’s perspective, it’s definitely a win and going in the right direction.

Question: OK, thank you very much. Next question-- how can innovators get access to Defence capability managers and operators to inform development of solutions?

Colonel Brad Kilpatrick: I might lead off in the absence of anyone else. One of the ways that Army is doing this is through the Army Innovation Day. And I know a lot of you have been participants in that. But that’s something that Army has been doing since 2014.

Each year, we put out a theme linked to a current challenge in the contemporary warfighting environment that we’re looking to industry, through partnership, to help us solve particular problems. And through 2014, it was small, unmanned aerial systems; ‘15, enhancing human performance; ‘16, manned and unmanned teaming; ‘17, novel weapons and novel effects. So through that process of Army Innovation Day, putting out a theme to industry, describing to you the challenges that we’re trying to address, and look for innovative solutions, through that process is one of the ways that industry can engage with Army.

Captain Tim Johnson (RAN): From Navy, twice a year, we have the Maritime Environmental Working Group, which is a key event for industry. The invitations go wide. But please don’t think, if you’re not in the business of something that floats or sinks-- intentionally or otherwise-- you can’t be part of that. Because obviously, it’s all about the Joint Force. And so something that could be launched from a Maritime platform, there’s still skin in the game there if you’re in that area.

Brigadier Stephen Beaumont: I should add, from a Joint Capabilities point of view, we didn’t run our annual Environmental Working Group. Some of you may have noticed this year. And that’s simply a bandwidth thing. We will be running our C4ISREW Environmental Working Group in the first quarter of next year. That’ll be something to look forward to.

So reaching out the Joint Capabilities Group, we are thin. So it’s really a matter of just getting on the phone, and sending an email, and coming on in, and having a chat. And there’s no harm in that. It costs nothing.

No promises are made. No commitments are undertaken. But we can have that initial sharing of ideas. And we can take it from there.

But that’s where we’re at from Joint Capabilities Group. We’re regretful we didn’t get around to having the Environmental Working Group this year-- but like I said, first quarter next year. Thanks.

Air Commodore Mark Green: From an Air Force perspective, of course, we have Air and Environmental Working Groups, also. We ran one earlier this year in concert with the Air Power Conference. Next year, we’re still working through. We had planned to run one as a standalone event during the AVALON week.

The chief had a better idea. The chief’s idea was obviously better. So we’re going with that. But we’re looking at what other opportunities will present during that week. And obviously, that is a showcase for bringing industry and the operators together, anyway.

So that presents a very good opportunity for that interface. And it’s probably heretical at a Hub discussion. But I’d also mention Plan Jericho, which is the Air Force initiative which has been around for a number of years now and will be ongoing. And that’s also another conduit for innovation.

Air Force has got its own funding line. And the chief has the discretion, and applies, and uses to sponsor some innovation through Jericho. But some of the approaches to Jericho, in turn, are passed forward to the Innovation Hub. Because they’re seeing that that is a better place for them to be considered and potentially funded.

Ms Alison Petchell: Thanks, Mark. The only other thing I wanted to add from a acquisition and sustainment perspective-- increasingly, you will see my organisation, CASG, reaching out to industry early-- so rather than waiting until we’re ready to approach the market for a request for tender. And you’ll see my branch, which delivers command and control systems to all three of the services and the Joint Warfighter, approaching industry with requests for information early and that, often, those requests for information are less about detailed specifications and more around questions that we’re trying to solve. So I would also encourage you, as well as the Environmental Working Groups, to look to AusTender increasingly for those requests for information, which are quite insightful in terms of, what are we planning to procure in the short to medium term?

Question: OK, next question-- space is one of the Hub’s top priority areas for innovation investment. Will Defence work closely with the newly-established Space Agency? I might ask Brigadier Beaumont to start that one for me.

Brigadier Stephen Beaumont: Yes, I guess is the short answer. I sense a loaded question. But yes, for sure-- the Space Agency are here. They’re thin. They’re under-resourced for now, but more money will flow into them.

And Space-- there’s lots of little players in the market. My personal view is some of those small players actually need to band together to get some critical mass going. And the Space Agency sure as heck can help there. That’s one of its mandates is to build industry capacity.

We can help give that a bit of a prod along. But the short answer is, yes, it’s very early days-- is the point I would make around that. Greeny.

Air Commodore Mark Green: I’d probably just agree with you. We’re seeing quite a number of proposals come forward through the Hub. And it is getting more and more difficult to make those prioritisation choices, especially when we have a number of smaller micro-companies coming forward with what are very similar types of proposals.

We’re working through that. Had we been, I guess, a little bit more proactive and the special notice out first, then we could have been inviting that input. But I think we’ve got a good half dozen or so under consideration. And in a fiscally-constrained environment, it’s going to be a question of, which ones show the greatest merit? Or do even look at asking each of them to de-scope a little, and come with a less-costly proposal initially, so we can, perhaps, seed fund more of them to understand their potential before making decisions as to which horse to back.

Brigadier Stephen Beaumont: I’ll just add one point on that. Space, more than perhaps any other capability domain, is expensive. And that, when you come into the Hub environment, poses some challenges. Leveraging other parts of government is really important for Space, especially, but for others.

Because you build something for government. It may be very much usable across government, including Defence. And the point I’m trying to make is you pull some of those levers, and you may shake a few more coins out of the slot machine-- I guess is the point I would make.

Brigadier Jason Blain: I’ll just add from a Force Design perspective. Our strong interest is not so much in the technology, but the application of space capabilities or space technologies. We know there’s a lot of work going on with satellites, for example. And what we really want to see, though, from an innovation perspective, is, how do you apply something into a military effect?

That’s where the innovation is for us. There’s a number of technologies already. They’re so mature. You could go after it, buy it off the shelf, or create something to make it work. It’s the application in a military sense.

Question: OK, so the next question-- I’ll roll it into two to save a little bit of time. Essentially, what are your thoughts on the quality of proposals that have come through the Defence Innovation Hub? A bit more context on that is the Hub has put through 62 contracts from roughly 630 submissions valued at $76.2 million since its inception. Are industry proposals not getting it right?

Captain Tim Johnson (RAN): From my perspective, I’ve got a desk officer who scrutinises all the Navy proposals before they go to my boss, Commodore Spedding, to the [INAUDIBLE]. So we try and work with the people making the bid to help them get the words right, and make the proposal as attractive as possible. As I said earlier, obviously they’ve got to go through the scrutiny and the priority when it comes to funding. But in terms of the initial bid, we try and work with the people bidding to help them use the language that’s been successful in the past.

Colonel Brad Kilpatrick: I would say, one of the most important things to be successful in a bid is to link it to a capability requirement. Quite often, some of the technologies and the innovation that we see sounds great. It sounds fascinating. But it’s not actually solving a problem that we have.

And on occasion, I have seen the same innovative technology being pushed to us on multiple occasions with just a nuance around the language, or trying to change it, or draw a long bow to it to ensure that the same thing can come back to a another Army Innovation Day under a different theme. So the key thing for us initially is that the thing that you’re proposing and what is being put forward should be linked to a capability requirement.

From there, it’s just about using language that we can understand. It’s sometimes difficult for us to understand the difference between the science and the science fiction. So being able to articulate what it is that you do, and show it in terms of the level of capability, and understanding where it’s going to be at a particular time, and what we can actually expect to see demonstrated will help.

Air Commodore Mark Green: I sound bit like the broken record. But money is a factor. You spoke about over 500 submissions, 50 odd getting contracted for a value of the mid $70 millions. The hub is funded to $650 million over 10 years.

So if all 500 or so had got up, then the money would be gone. So there is the prioritisation. Even when we get to the point of working with the proposals to refine the bids so that we can understand exactly what it is that we’re going after, there are hard decisions that have to be made to make sure we can get the balance of investment, that we don’t get a lot of repetition in one area.

Ms Alison Petchell: Now I’d probably add that the Hub has done a fair bit of work to refine the process over time. So I think we’re getting better and better at asking the right questions so that we get the right information. And the linkage into a future acquisition project or a current capability with a problem that requires solving, particularly where there’s an opportunity to reduce cost so that we can reinvest elsewhere, where that is really clearly evident, that always helps.

Question: Rightio. What are the biggest capability gaps and/or opportunities that you’ve identified thus far? And I would expand on that a little bit to ask if you can provide some examples of gaps and opportunities that have been treated or supported in their treatment by the Hub.

Brigadier Jason Blain: Yeah, I suppose those three priority areas that I talked to in my presentation around ISRW space, and cyber, and the subcomponents of that area, the key enablers, and also land combat. I could have added this to the last conversation. The proposals we’re seeing coming through the Hub portal are very much, I suppose, tailored towards those three areas. So the market industry is responding to our gaps in opportunities through those proposals coming through.

If you want to go back to the slide, you can. But we have listed some of those areas within each of those streams that we think are important, that we want to see where technology can take us, and to see if industry can provide some innovative solutions to some of those gaps. So again, looking at-- I suppose, from my perspective-- artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, where we’re going with autonomous capabilities, the growth path for those, where we can enhance human performance, where we can actually grow a lot of those logistic support capabilities, in particular, to free up our logistics tails and our burden of logistic requirements, they’re all there.

Those areas are broad enough to give, I think, a lot of options for industry and for others to look at where they might provide some solutions. But also, we want to drive some more special notices, as well. And I’m working with my colleagues about some special notice areas that we want to settle on.

And soon, we’ll come back out to you with our special notice focus areas on some of those key technology opportunities that we see that we can actually exploit. We haven’t decided on those just yet. But we’re pretty close on those special notice ones.

Colonel Brad Kilpatrick: So I think, from an Army perspective, you can see the areas that we’re most interested in by the challenges that we have put out to industry through the Army Innovation Day. And they speak to all the things that Brigadier Blain just mentioned. So integration and interoperability of all of our systems, both for ourselves, in the joint environment, and with our coalition partners is a major focal area.

We want to remove soldiers from the dangerous and dirtiest business of soldiering, and do those things with robots and autonomous systems. So we’re very interested in that. And through that, you see the manned and unmanned teaming.

Signature management is another area where we are particularly interested. At the moment, if you are located, if you are found, then you can be destroyed. So we want to reduce our signature. So there are the sorts of areas that are most interested to us. We put those out through the Army Innovation Day challenge statements.

And I’m also aware-- and I did have some feedback from the discussions I had over lunch-- that we’re not getting those challenge statements out in a timely enough fashion for industry to really respond effectively. We know that. And we are working to improve it.

Question: Rightio. Next question will be a little bit difficult for this panel to answer, but I would encourage it to be further explored this afternoon with Andrew Fish, the director of project management within the Hub. Nonetheless, for innovations which have successfully progressed through the Hub to TRL 8, what is the path to transition to a SPO acquisition programme or into service?

Ms Alison Petchell: I’m happy to have a go. But I don’t have any silver bullets. That point is the point where the ambition of the Hub butts up against other policy imperatives. And it still remains a fact that this government has given us the challenge of a very ambitious investment programme. $200 billion over 10 years is significant by any stretch of the imagination. My organisation is required to do it with less, not more, people.

So whilst at the same time we’re exploring innovative technology solutions, we’re also exploring ways in which we can, as efficiently as possible, undertake these investment activities, which means the expectation that the procurement organisation is going to increase the volume of individual contracts is managing, that’s not the way we’re going. However, we do have a parallel policy piece which we’re driving very hard, which is to ensure that all of our work is, to the extent possible, maximising Australian industry participation. So I go back to how we consider proposals in the first place.

And to the extent that proposals can clearly identify a pathway through to future projects-- and in particular, where there’s a commercial strategy attached to that-- then our inclination to want to make the investment is going to be higher. And the inclination for that to then materialise into future work is going to be increased. But there is no specific and structured process whereby we move and transition an investment in an innovation activity straight into a direct procurement activity.

And I don’t expect to see that in the future. We may choose, on occasion, to take that approach. But largely, our expectation is that we’re investing, because we see that the activity that’s being undertaken will be competitive in its own right and withstand that broader competitive procurement activity and process.

Brigadier Jason Blain: Yeah, so I think, where there can be a project or programme linkage to a technology solution or innovation coming through-- really important we see that early, and see a pathway. And through the Hub Investment Advisory Group, that is a key consideration when we look at a proposal coming through. But we don’t want to close the door to, again, those revolutionary opportunities, great innovations that we want to take forward.

So by having innovation tied to the Force Design cycle and having that input come into the Force Options Development, we can create new projects, create new force options that really exploit that technology. So that’s why this is a different path. We have a Defence now for how technology can be exported into four structure outcomes.

So we prioritise. We prioritise our gets and prioritise our opportunities. If something is so significant that it’s going to provide us a technology edge, we will find a way of getting it in, but make some decisions on what we would prioritise, potentially, as a lower investment out of the profile to bring something new in.

That is a difficult conversation, but it is one that people are willing to have. Because we need to understand that the investment programme is not set and forget. There is an ongoing modernisation requirement. And indeed, through prioritisation, we can then go exploit higher-value capabilities and potentially change those at a lower value to find, again, divestment and other options of utilising that funding to pursue a higher priority.

So those three priority areas-- yes, that’s how we drive the focus areas. But if you’ve got innovation out there that will be a technology changer for us, put it through. It will come its way through the process. And if it’s given the consideration and seen to be valid and feasible, it will find its way to us.

Colonel Brad Kilpatrick: When we put out a special notice for the Army Innovation Day, we have already identified funds that are available to lead us to acquisition for capabilities that meet our expectations. So when we look through all our past Army Innovation Days, we have identified various technologies and proposals that have met our expectations. We’ve taken them in, in certain circumstances, through a trial period. And where those have been successful, we’ve then gone into a acquisition. Small, unmanned aerial systems, the WASP and Black Hornet, are examples of capabilities that are now in the hands of soldiers on a wide scale as a result of Army Innovation Day.

Brigadier Stephen Beaumont: I might just quickly add, I don’t know to what extent you’ve spoken about DSTG today. But I’ve seen it work quite well, where there’s innovative ideas out of industry partnering with DSTG capability, which can then be very attractive to capability managers. So they are people that are-- if you’ve got a good idea-- they’re worthwhile talking to.

Question: OK. Brigadier Blain, this one probably best for you. What is an example of a capability Defence are planning to divest? And can you also clarify what is meant by joint integration effects?

Air Commodore Mark Green: Air Force-- I’m joking.

[LAUGHTER]

So let me use the word divestment. It’s just not about cancelling capability or a project. It’s about looking at that project’s basis of provision, modifying its size potential, its spend profile, looking at how technology made something obsolete-- so a replacement mentality is no longer valid for a capability. But we’re constantly looking across the organisation, testing it, using that Force design process about those capabilities.

So we have a prioritised conversation, and discussion, and a process. But we also have a very strong experimentation process that provides us, again, more testing and evidence about capabilities to support the Force structure. So this year, we ran a 10-day experimentation activity-- I know Tim was one of the 06s that attended that-- where we tested our four structure across a range of scenarios using joint task groups and using likely mission sets to see how well the structure would perform, how well the Force would perform.

And what would our new technology do to enhance that? Or what would be a capability that we are not employing to the level we thought we would or a capability it’s having no effect across a number of different Defence missions that we thought it would a few years ago? Because again, the environments change. Threats change. Technologies change.

So we are constantly reviewing that. Now I won’t go into specifics about capabilities that might be divested, or modified, or looked at. But that’s just prudent planning and prudent analysis to make sure we are still fit for purpose-- and then, using our priorities, where we would invest those gaps or opportunities in.

So not only are we experimenting on our current capabilities and those being delivered through the investment programme, we’re also experimenting on the gaps in opportunities. So if Air Force raise a gap in a capability that they believe needs to be treated, we’ll also not just prioritise that gap but then go throw it into our experimentation framework, and test that against scenarios that we’re likely to have to commit to. So that, again, provides another level of evidence and military assessment against whether we would close a gap as a higher priority or, indeed, exploit an opportunity. So I haven’t answered the question directly, but that’s how we do it.

[INAUDIBLE].

Yes. And looking at integration the whole way through-- and again, going back to Air Force integration’s role about the realisation of capabilities and how they deliver a joint force effect in our levels of integration and interoperability. That’s where, again, you identify gaps in opportunities that you wish to exploit.

Question: Information is critical in today’s warfighting. What are the innovation priorities in information warfare? What is being done to expedite progress in this area? Brigadier Beaumont.

Brigadier Stephen Beaumont: All right. Yeah. Where do you start? You could talk all day about this. So information warfare-- I guess you could look at it this way, defensive and offensive aspects. So protecting your own information-- and I’m not just talking in a cyber environment. But that’s where we fall down often-- so protecting your information but then reinforcing or making better use of your available information.

One of the challenges we have going forward-- and you don’t need to be Blind Freddy to know this-- is we’ve got a proliferation of ISR data coming into the ADF very soon. As Air Force spreads its wings and as more capable apertures get pushed out into Navy and Army, we are going to be flooded with data and information of all different types of nature, of different classifications. Unpicking that, curating it sensibly, working out what you need to hang on to, what you need to keep, and then pushing that data that you need to keep to the right place at the right time, in a two-way sense-- because it’s not just the old-fashioned way, where you wouldn’t just start and make decisions. The data actually needs to flow pretty dynamically both ways. If you think in a reprogramming sense for both platforms and for weapons systems, getting our head around that is going to be really important.

Artificial intelligence on the platform is part of the solution. Artificial intelligence in the processing and exploitation node is also part of the solution on top of many others. AI has this great promise. Finding that sweet spot, and the integration sweet spot, especially, I think will be a challenge for us.

It’s a huge part of what Information Warfare Division is all about. And as I said, it’s not just cyber. Plainly, that’s a really important part for us, particularly in that defensive “protect our information” space.

Brigadier Jason Blain: And Steve, also, workforce, as well-- it’s something I know that you are very much focused on is the right workforce across both uniformed and our public service but also broader support across whole of government. Those workforce issues are very important-- and how we ensure we’re growing the right workforce to support an increase in this part of our Defence capability.

Question: So building on that, the next question would be, what level of focus is there on people capability and getting the skill levels right, given all these new boats, bombs, and bullets will require new skills?

Colonel Brad Kilpatrick: Certainly, for Army, increasing human capacity is one of our major focal areas. And it’s linked to the point that was just made about information at the tactical level. It’s the ability to fuse information, so you’re not overloading the cognitive ability of soldiers, that they can get information in easily digestible fashion, and use that information to make their decisions through augmented processes, with artificial intelligence, whatever it happens to be. So increasing human capacity is certainly one of our major focal areas.

Air Commodore Mark Green: It’s a challenging time as we go through transition. And Air Force is in the middle of a major transition at the moment from current platforms in what we’re calling the Fifth Generation Air Force to have the right type of skillset out there. We have created, in recent times, new categories of airmen and officers for the Force that we’re going to need in the future. How we get to the end state of having that workforce, starting from the workforce we have today, managing the hump of the transition whilst we have the old and the new at the same time, and living within our means is something that is challenging us. And clearly, to the greater extent that we can leverage the artificial intelligence promise of the future, to turn that barrage of information that Steve talked about into something that’s digestible, understandable, and executable by the workforce that we are trying to grow is also going to be key to making sure that we’re able to make the most of the tools and systems that are coming our way.

Captain Tim Johnson (RAN): For Navy, Navy have a 20-year strategy, Plan Mercator. And I’ll speak on behalf of CN, because he wasn’t here this morning. The last two for Navy is probably the pillar that he must most focused on was capability with all the new ships coming in. This chief of Navy, he’s key area is manpower. Everyone talks. Navy is unmanned by about 7%. As was pointed out with the new skillsets, et cetera coming in, it’s going to be a struggle. We’re competing with industry.

The double-edged sword of all the capabilities coming in is the industry workforce that’s required. And we hear all about STEM and the shortage of STEM. Navy, particularly, are going to be competing with the Defence industry for that. So we need to find a way of sharing the resource, not competing for it.

Question: Thank you, all. To what degree is the impact of a changing climate, with reference to equipment, people migration, food and water shortages, taken into account in innovation investment?

Brigadier Jason Blain: Well, I think that is more than just innovation, obviously. It plays a big role in Force structure and Force posture looking at, particularly, our basing requirements. We have a Defence-- a state profile, a future profile that looks well into the future about, what are the basic requirements? And what are those potential environmental threats to our basing-- how we train, as well, and raise, train, sustain the Force in different environmental conditions.

So again, the innovation drivers would be about, well, how can we use innovation to support our basing, to make their bases more resilient? Look at our fuel and energy needs that are related to that. Where does innovation play a role in, particularly, the power? And we are taking a strong interest, as you can imagine, about fuel and energy requirements as we move into the future to ensure we can support a Fifth Generation Air Force, Fifth Gen Navy, and a Fifth Gen Army and what those capabilities need.

So ISREW’s space is cyber. It will drive a lot of power requirements. We used to do that processing, exploitation, dissemination, all that data management, computing. Look at quantum computing. Look at artificial intelligence. It all comes with a power bill attached to it.

So what are our ways of assuring we’ve got resilience in our power requirements, and we can develop those? Looking at our national support base requirements, in particular, to support that but also our forward capabilities-- so what one of the key priority areas, as you saw, was key enablers. And onto key enablers, we did include a focus area on fuel, and power, and energy. So we need to continue to look at those in both supporting bases, supporting those capabilities coming online, and also our deployable capabilities.

Question: In future areas of interest, it’s noted that ADF Lift is listed. Does that include alternative fuel sources?

Air Commodore Mark Green: I think where we’re at at the moment is understanding the size of the need against the tasking that we anticipate that we are required to satisfy. We’re not into the space of solutioneering yet. And when we get further down the line of understanding if there is a Lift deficit against requirement-- is Sea Lift, is Air Lift.

What is the way to get after it? And then what are the options that are available-- are going to be linking, then, to, what are the propulsion and the fuel solutions that go along with the systems that could ameliorate the problem for us? But I don’t think at this stage of the consideration of the Lift study we have a strong focus on the fuel requirements of a potential future system driving the thinking at this point.

Question: One for Brigadier Blain-- how best can industry engage in discussion on Force Design implications for disruptive tech solutions outside of the gaps and opportunity cycle?

Brigadier Jason Blain: Yeah, I think there’s a few avenues to do that, particularly our links into science and technology, really exploiting those emerging disruptive technology symposiums that are run by DST Group. They provide some very good insights for us. They’re normally done at the unclassified level.

Obviously, we want to move into some classified discussions on some of those emerging technologies. But they do allow us to do a bit of incubation of where industry and technology is going, and allow us to look a bit further into those in a classified sense. That’s one avenue.

The other avenue is how we utilise forums like this to get ideas but also to generate now through our Force Exploration branch-- that branch I talked about that’s being created-- they will have a strong link into science technology, and a strong link into academia, and industry, into getting ideas. So Richard Lennon, who is now preparing this branch, getting the structure put in place-- you will hear from him, I’m sure, in that role about how he engages industry but, in particular, the S&T aspects of those technology opportunities.

He is going to be partnered in each of his directorates within his branch with a Defence science and technology colleague. So they will be completely joined at the hip, so we ensure that, one, we are driving the S&T programme into areas that are urgent or high priority at the moment-- but two, that we’re actually getting opportunity of feedback that comes up through our science and technology research into some Force Options Planning.

Question: Is there a limit to innovation when assessing risks/reward? Is cyber Defence or offence an exception? Brigadier Beaumont, I’m going to ask you to take that one.

Brigadier Stephen Beaumont:

I’m going to have to read that. Is it up on the board?

Yes, part 1.

Look, I think the simple answer-- because I’m a simple, country fellow-- would be, no. Cyber is not especially special. It’s a place in which information passes. And it’s a domain in which capabilities are placed, if you like.

And some may say, well, the risks are far greater. Because I just said a minute ago that protecting information is critical. So therefore, it’s critical. The risks go higher.

But the other side of the coin is that it’s actually the risk there is no greater than if you are flying an aircraft, sailing a ship, or patrolling on your feet. So I think the answer is, no. I think it’s really important we try to keep the discussion about cyber offence or Defence, to be frank, as simple as we can and to break it down into its simple capability components.

It’s technology that you cannot see. I get it. And for a country boy, that’s actually kind of hard. But I think a simple approach to this domain is the best one.

And I think we’re taking the right approach. I’m surprised that the lack of engagement with the Hub-- while I’ve got the microphone-- from those industry players that are in this space-- now there’s lots of discussion. There’s lots of meetings. But I don’t see anything particularly innovative coming through the Hub. So there’s a challenge for you.

Because what we’re doing in cyber right now is going to be different from what we’re doing in a few years time-- I can guarantee you-- as technology evolves. So this has got to be innovative. And so, to get back to that question earlier about the flash to bang between a good idea and filling a capability in this domain especially-- so maybe the answer is not a cold, hard, no-- is actually going to be far more agile than many others, perhaps, could be my initial view.

Question: So next question-- should industry direct its questions about Defence’s integration priorities-- details, not general info-- to Head Force Integration, Individual Services, or the Innovation Hub?

Brigadier Jason Blain: I invite Air Vice-Marshal Meredith if he wishes to have a chat. Here you go.

Air Vice-Marshal Steve Meredith: Thanks, Jase. My name’s Steve Meredith. I’m the head of Force Integration. So let me give you a little bit background on Force Integration. We started life as Joint Capability Coordination. We became Joint Capability Management and Integration.

And in August last year, we became Force Integration. So we’ve had a long journey of change. And we’ve spent this last little while from the end of this year to be where we are now working out where we sit in the world, what our temporal space is.

And we sit in that force in-being to object force space, now to 10 years. That’s where we live. And that’s where we function. And that’s where we work.

We’ve also been working out what our system looks like. So what is it? And in particular, capability, integration, and test, and evaluation is the primary branch within my division that works on, what do we need to produce to support the Force design effort? So that’s where we are. We’ve been concentrating on ourselves.

So my strong preference to answer that question would be to continue to go through the Innovation Hub. We have representatives on the HIAG. I sit on the ISG. We’re well-placed in that space to answer the innovation questions.

But as I said, we have spent this year sorting out our processes, sorting out our relationships. What is the relationship between me, as the C4I assigned authority on behalf of VCDF and with Steve’s group, and with CIOG, and with CASG? Who does what? How do we want to work together?

And then, what are the key questions that I need to be answering for the projects coming down the pipe now? So what are the design pieces? What are the rules? Were the principles we need to put in space? What are the quick standards questions we need to ask ourselves, and the answers we need to provide, and the guidance we need to provide under the authority of the JFA? So we’ve been really focused on that.

The simple answer to that question is, please come through the Hub. That’s the best place to go. And we sit there and are represented.

Question: Thank you, Air Vice-Marshal. We’ve only got time for one more. So we’ll go through this one quickly. What quality proposals are not funded? Is there a concern these capabilities may go offshore?

Air Commodore Mark Green: Yes. In my short time-- I’ve only been involved in the HIAG this year. And it certainly is a question that comes up often, in that, when we see that something has got good, sovereign potential but perhaps not a perfect fit for the priorities we’re looking for at the moment and there is a question about, well, do we step outside our bounds a little here, do we invest in this, because we see the potential for it to move offshore quickly? And then if we have a subsequent need, then we’re going to be buying it back, perhaps, with ITARS, perhaps with other issues that we don’t want to get involved in.

Another consideration, too, is-- we’re not only getting proposals from industry. We’re also getting proposals from academia. That poses its own challenges sometimes. Because academia like to tell people what they’re doing.

That’s their stock in trade, collaboration. And putting a wrapper around them sometimes to try and get them to stay within the security confines because of the assessed military potential of what they might bring to us as an innovation but don’t clearly see how we would then use that can also be challenging in itself. But yes, we’re certainly alive to the fact that some of the things we do see coming forward, we’d perhaps not want to see move offshore.

Question: OK, we’ll do one more quickly, since we’ve still got two minutes. What role does Diggerworks play in the innovation acceptance and testing?

Colonel Brad Kilpatrick: This question sits with me. But I’m not sure that I have the information to answer it. It’s not my area of expertise. I don’t know whether you want to take a stab, too?

Brigadier Jason Blain: I was lucky to be the first director of Diggerworks when innovation wasn’t the catch cry. So we were innovating back then. But Diggerworks is very much focused on soldier combat systems. It’s got a role to play in how it supports the soldier, and the airmen, and the sailor as a system on their own. So they do play a role in regard to innovation of the soldier system.

We would utilise them. And we do look at potentially something that would come through as a proposal through the HIAG, through the Hub as something that Diggerworks may also be interested in as an avenue to get that collaboration going within Defence. But I think Diggerworks is there to respond to the requirements of Army, in particular, but also the dismantle requirements you see within Air Force, for air Defence guards, for boarding crews within Navy, for example-- but primarily focused on those soldier combat systems.

They are doing things in the areas of power on the person, looking at how they look at body armour requirements, helmet systems, weapon systems, those sort of innovation and technology areas. Diggerworks has its own avenue of approach to industry, its own methods of engagement, collaboration. It also uses the Defence Material Technology Centre, DMTC, which is also another way of getting industry collaboration and ensuring that there is multiple partners looking at Diggerworks issues. I suppose the thing about Diggerworks, its key requirement is integration on the soldier, sailor, or airman, or airwoman to ensure that integration requirements are being looked at. And therefore, it wants to be engaging early with industry about new capabilities and how well they integrate into the solider system itself.

Master of ceremonies: Ladies and gentlemen, we’re out of time. But please, join me in thanking our panellists from this afternoon’s session.

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