In this submission to the Australian Parliament's review of the Defence Annual Report, Lowy Military Fellow James Brown argues for greater parliamentary oversight of defence by outlining just how little reporting defence makes to the parliament and public.
- Defence policy is extraordinarily complex, vitally important, and mistakes have far-reaching consequences. In 2011-12 defence accounted for 5.8% of government spending and 3 of the government’s 20 most expensive programs. The Australian Defence Organisation (ADO) has three times more government employees than the next largest government department and its 105,000 staff constitute 40% of all government employees.
- It is unclear whether parliament is able to effectively measure and judge the performance of the ADO. Or indeed whether the parliament can determine if the Australian Defence Force is improving or declining. Defence transparency is very limited and there are few mechanisms to facilitate parliamentary engagement on defence issues
- The Defence Annual Report 2011-12 does not sufficiently allow parliament to assess the performance of the ADO, or the capabilities and readiness of the ADF. It is less transparent and detailed than similar defence reporting in the UK, US, Canada, and New Zealand.
- The Australian Defence Organisation assesses its 20 departmental and administered programs using a system of one, two, and three ticks. The three tick system is an exceptionally crude performance measurement methodology for a government department with 105 000 employees and an annual budget of $24.2bn.