During its review, the Sub-Committee chose to focus on a broad range of issues as part of the process of accountability of Government agencies to Parliament. This accountability is particularly important in light of the major transitions that the Australian Defence Organisation is currently undergoing, and the Sub-Committee takes this responsibility very seriously.
During the period under review, Australia announced that it would be withdrawing its combat presence from Afghanistan and the process of transitioning responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces commenced. This process occupied a large part of the Committee’s attention during this review, as it is vital that Australian forces are successful in doing all they can to ensure an orderly and organised drawdown of operations in Afghanistan.
Efforts at ensuring the highest possible level of force protection are also examined in this review. The Sub-Committee found that Defence has been active in this area, and further is seeking to strengthen this capability. However, as Australia draws down its presence in Afghanistan, Defence will have to remain vigilant that there is no deterioration in this capability. The Sub-Committee resolves to maintain a focus on this issue into the future.
Also during the period under review, seven key reviews of Defence culture were conducted and finalised. These reviews examined a wide range of cultural issues within the Australian Defence Organisation, from the allegations of abuse at the Australian Defence Force academy to treatment of women in the civilian and uniformed wings of Defence, through to the use of alcohol and social media. The Sub-Committee examined these reviews, and found that there may be a lack of clarity as to what allegations fall within the scope of the DLA Piper Review. As such, it recommends that the Government seek to have this situation remedied.
The Defence budget was examined as a part of the review. The Sub-Committee found that, while Defence reports on its budget in a variety of places and contexts, Defence’s budget needs to be reported on in greater detail in the Annual Report, particularly as it relates to the impact of declining budgets on capability acquisition and sustainment.