The review and reform of Defence's Systems Program Offices (SPO), one of the most substantial changes included in the First Principles Review (FPR), is still ongoing with the process not expected to be completed until 2023, a new report has found.
The Australian National Audit Office's (ANAO) report, Defence's Implementation of the First Principles Review, found that the reform and consolidation of Defence’s Systems Program Offices and enabling services will take longer than the initial two-year time frame that ran from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2017.
"The implementation of other important recommendations — including the reform and consolidation of Defence’s Systems Program Offices and enabling services — remains a work in progress," the ANAO report said.
"Achieving full implementation and the intended results of this agenda will require continued focus across Defence for several more years."
The report also found that many of the expected improvements "in the efficient, effective and professional delivery of military capability" will only be realised when this is complete.
The consolidation of SPO and enabling services was just one of the recommendations included in the FPR which was commissioned in 2014 and then released in 2015.
The review made 76 recommendations, of which six were key recommendations. The government agreed or agreed in principle to 75 recommendations. The review set out a high-level implementation plan in its last chapter, which envisaged that the vast majority of the changes should be delivered within two years.
ANAO also found Defence’s ability to improve enabling functions is limited by the lack of a co-ordinated, enterprise-wide plan to address the inefficiencies identified by the review in the service delivery work stream.
"Defence has implemented the recommendations in the workforce stream, but delays in implementing the Strategic Workforce Plan, including Defence White Paper people initiatives, will take until 2021," ANAO said.
"Defence has implemented the recommendations relating to behaviours. Defence is not yet able to demonstrate that the intended outcomes of the recommendations relating to enabling services, workforce and behaviour have been achieved."
On a positive note for Defence, the ANAO report also found that Defence has implemented a substantial number of the most important recommendations of the Review, including those relating to building a strong strategic centre within Defence and reforming the capability development process.
"Defence established sound governance arrangements for the implementation of the First Principles Review, which were commensurate with the importance and scope of the activity," the report said.
"The Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force invested substantial time and effort, and were seen by Defence as leading the implementation."
Defence is now evaluating whether the implementation of FPR recommendations has achieved its intended outcomes. While initial evaluation plans included only selected elements of the review, Defence has now decided to adopt a more comprehensive evaluation framework encompassing all elements of the review.