Eighty Defence tech experts ask for voluntary redundancy

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Eighty Defence tech experts ask for voluntary redundancy

Big response to job reduction program.

Eighty-two science and technology workers have put their hand up for voluntary redundancy under the Defence department's oversubscribed job cull program, which has seen over 1000 people apply for just 500 spots.

Defence in September advised its workers that senior executive and executive level public sector staff would be targeted in a new round of voluntary redundancies.

The program grew out of a recommendation made by the 'first principles review' of Defence, which found 2000 executive level two managers were each managing less than three staff, while 4000 executive level one managers averaged only one or two direct reports.

Technical union Professionals Australia at the time warned many technology and science experts would be caught up in the program, given a lot of them sit within the executive ranks facing the knife.

Defence has now accepted 565 applications for voluntary redundancy from a pool of over 1200 applicants, as first reported by the Canberra Times.

Forty of those applicants sit in the information technology division - which employs around 1300 people, according to July figures - and 42 come from the science and technology group, which as of July employed 2050 workers.

Professionals Australia spokesperson Dave Smith said the department had accepted voluntary redundancy applications from those in critical speciality areas, against its stated goal to reduce superfluous middle management.

"The classic thing in areas like IT, engineering and science is [executive-level roles] are often where the technical expertise resides, they're not actually middle management roles," Smith said.

"There's a real confusion between the first principles review - which actually talks about the importance of technical expertise in Defence - and the current approach, which tries to suggest anyone at these levels is a manager. That's just not true."

The first principles review - released earlier this year - recommended a thorough and wide-ranging overhaul of the agency's approach to IT.

The overhaul - which was agreed to by the government - will address problems such as inadequate information management and interopability between platforms, a costly and complex application landscape, and issues with management of IT.

Smith said the department was reducing technical roles at a time when work in the area was increasing.

"We can't see what the rationale is for reducing any of these technical skills," Smith said.

"The acquisition program is expanding, such as the future submarine project, and just as we're starting to wind back from operations there's a lot more pressure on operations support, and that's not just in field ops, it's also to combat cyber warfare."

Defence has been contacted for comment.

The department is expected to reduce its workforce by around 1650 public sector workers, through both redundancies and natural attrition. It would leave the department's final public service headcount at around 17,000.

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