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‘Prepare for the unexpected’: Industry leader calls for Defence and industry readiness

Returning to Australia after years working in the British and European defence industry, Nova chief executive officer Dean Rosenfield offers some advice amid a worsening strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific.

Returning to Australia after years working in the British and European defence industry, Nova chief executive officer Dean Rosenfield offers some advice amid a worsening strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific.

“What I learned in Europe was that you have to prepare for the unexpected,” Nova Systems’ new chief executive officer, Dean Rosenfield, told Defence Connect.

“The illegal invasion of Ukraine highlighted that you need to understand what capabilities you’ll need as a nation in adverse conditions.”


Rosenfield returned home to Australia commencing his new role with Australian-owned engineering solutions provider Nova Systems in March. Lessons from NATO’s scramble to build industrial capability fresh on his mind.

A priority for the incoming CEO is the need for Australia to audit its industrial strengths and weaknesses, ensuring that both Defence and industry are capable of responding in the event of a crisis.

“We saw a wake-up call in Europe. When Ukraine looked for support, there was a realisation that we were unable to provide them with what they really needed because we have not yet analysed our industrial capability to meet urgent global needs,” Rosenfield reflected.

“As Australians, we need to ask: what assets do we need to survive? What do we already have, and what are we missing? If we are missing something, how can we build this capability?”

This audit follows an example conducted by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) following the invasion of Ukraine.

At the time, the MOD conducted a comprehensive assessment of the country’s defence capabilities, identifying those assets that were fundamental to the conduct of warfare. If a capability was identified as fundamental to the defence of the United Kingdom, then they created a plan to secure long-term supply.

For Australia, this risk assessment and supply planning must be taken in concert with the nation’s AUKUS partners, Rosenfield added.

It is imperative that each country specialise in different fields to avoid industrial duplication and concentrate research and development.

“NATO learned the need for diversification. When war broke out, every country tried to do the exact same thing such as building ammunition. Our three nations must learn not to duplicate,” Rosenfield explained.

“We need an assessment and understanding of what Australia, the UK, and the US will each contribute to the alliance to deliver a unique industrial advantage.”

In delivering the capability, Rosenfield applauded the government’s recently released Defence Industry Development Strategy which included a reduction in the number of sovereign industrial capability priorities (SICPs) from 14 to seven sovereign defence industrial priorities (SDIPs).

To the 20-year industry expert, the move provides assurances to businesses planning long-term investment.

“The conversation used to be focused around Australian industry capability, but as a nation, we never really refined it. As a result, we spread ourselves across so many SICPs,” he added.

“This meant defence businesses inevitably invested in areas that did not end up being priorities for Defence acquisition.”

Reflecting on the document, Rosenfield welcomed the elevation of test and evaluation to the government’s new SDIPs, noting it will make capabilities both safer for the end user while also supporting Defence capability uplift through improved budget allocation.

“Test and evaluation will be one of the most important SDIPs, because it informs Defence’s risk-based judgements. By understanding what underpins Defence requirements, we can assess whether what we are buying meets our needs. This will only become more important under the AUKUS agreement as we buy more capabilities from our partners.

“When you buy or commission a defence product, you expect it will deliver a certain capability and perform at a certain level. T&E effectively determines whether the product performs as it’s required to. T&E is a critically important aspect of certification and systems assurance, and one that Nova proudly does for the Commonwealth.”

Rosenfield comes back to Australia having previously worked as managing director of Saab Australia and New Zealand, and as senior vice-president/chief marketing officer of Saab AB where he led global business development.

He closed the conversation reflecting on a statement made by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the nexus between industry and Defence: “without industry, there is no defence, no deterrence and no security”.

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