Defence hastens IT upgrades

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Defence hastens IT upgrades

Only one project deferred in plan revision.

The Department of Defence has fast-tracked its consideration of three IT projects and deferred a fourth, according to the latest revision of its capability plan.

The newly-revised plan revealed that consideration of phase three of the replacement of its wide area network was brought forward by a year.

An upgrade to Defence personnel systems was also fast-tracked, to have an initial operating capability potentially two years faster than expected.

Defence was under pressure in recent months to improve personnel and finance systems after an embarrassing payment bungle.

The revisions were foreshadowed by the Minister for Defence Personnel, Material and Science Greg Combet on Tuesday last week, but were not published until late Friday.

Plan revisions are published online every six months. The next formal re-issue of the plan was due next year.

Combet said that in total eight project phases were approved, five projects were accelerated, another five were deferred and two were deleted.

"It is important to be up front with industry about the deferment of a number of projects. It is regrettable but is a consequence of the Defence budget planning and capability analysis that has been underway in recent months," Combet said.

"In addition to the changes listed above, some projects have moved within the timing bands set out in the 2009 [plan] as our strategic and budgetary priorities have changed. These changes are normal.

"Government identifies timing bands rather than exact years so that industry is not faced with 'false precision' when it comes to project schedules."

WAN replacement

The "year of decision" for the third phase of the wide area network shifted from "FY2012-13 to FY2014-15" to "FY2011-12 to FY2012-13."

Apart from the schedule, the project status remained the same.

Defence said that the modernisation of telecom switches at selected Defence sites was still "largely complete". Phase 2A, which included the rollout of virtual private networking technology and "enhanced" encryption services was said to be still "in progress".

When completed, the project was expected to provide an internet protocol (IP) based network service to all Defence users across fixed, satellite and tactical networks.

Personnel systems

Defence also brought forward first-pass approval for a new personnel system as part of the Defence management system upgrade project.

First-pass approval was the first of two stages in which the Government was presented a series of options for a project prior to allocating budget or final approval.

It was brought forward a year to FY2009-10 to FY2010-11. That meant a decision could be made as early as FY2010-11. Initial operating capability was now listed as "2012 to 2014", two years ahead of the schedule listed in the first capability plan.

The Government had been under fire over bungled payments to Defence personnel in January that saw 63 officers and soldiers overpaid between $2,000 and $9,000 each.

The overpayment was blamed "on a manual input error where information was not accurately loaded into the pay system."

At the time, the Government said the replacement of its personnel ICT system was being progressed "as a priority", although the capability plan's revision was the first concrete confirmation that system upgrades were being fast-tracked.

Other projects

A project to create networked access to data sourced from multiple surveillance sensors was also pushed back by a year - meaning the initial operating capability would be at least two years later than expected.

The delivery of a satellite ground station in the east of Australia was also brought forward.

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