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Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Department of Defence annual report 2019-20

COYLE, Major General Susan, Head of Information Warfare, Department of Defence

FOX, Major General Natasha, Head of People Capability, Defence People Group, Department of Defence

GORDON, Air Commodore Phil Director General Air Defence and Space representing the Head of Air Force Capability, Royal Australia Air Force

HUGHES, Rear Admiral Stephen, Head of Intelligence Capability, Defence Intelligence Group, Department of Defence

KERSHAW, Dr David, Chief, Science Engagement and Impact Division, Department of Defence [by audio link]

STUART, Major General Simon, Head, Land Capability, Department of Defence

WATSON, Brigadier Robert, Director-General, Information Warfare, Department of Defence

Subcommittee met at 09:10

CHAIR ( Mr Wallace ): I declare open this public hearing of the Defence Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. These are public proceedings and we welcome all who are listening to the proceedings online. On 16 March 2021 the subcommittee resolved to review the 2019-20 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade annual report as referred by the full committee. It has been a regular practice of this subcommittee to look at annual reports of the Department of Defence, with reviews being concluded between 2003 and 2017. In general, areas which may have been of particular interest to members have been highlighted for focus. In determining areas of interest for this inquiry the subcommittee was pleased to have the assistance of Defence representatives during a private meeting earlier this month to scope some of the practical considerations and more clearly identify the various boundaries and considerations around classified material.

The subcommittee is pleased today to be able to hear about some of the areas of focus: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance—in particular, space based ISR—cyberwarfare, estate, workforce and people. We are aware that there are considerations about classification of material in the intelligence and cyber areas, if not all areas. There had been an intention to conduct some site visits and briefings today but, with relatively late notice, this couldn't happen. The subcommittee decided that, in the circumstances, it was sensible to receive some information on the public record. We thank Defence witnesses for being able to attend today.

Before talking about the conduct of today's hearing, I need to advise of some formalities. I remind witnesses that, in giving evidence to the committee, they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee and such action may be treated as a contempt of parliament. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee. In accordance with the committee's resolution at the start of the 46th Parliament, this hearing is being broadcast on the parliament's website, and the proof and official transcripts of proceedings will be published on the parliament's website in due course.

Those present or listening to the proceedings are reminded that recording is permitted and that there is a requirement to fairly and accurately report the proceedings of the committee. I'm reliably informed by the secretariat that none of my colleagues is participating via teleconference. If that changes, I'll let you know. If there are questions arising during today's proceedings, we'll ask that witnesses keep a note and endeavour to come back to us by 9 July 2021 with answers to questions taken on notice. We'll also welcome a written submission from Defence by that date. We'll start proceedings today with representatives from various areas of the Department of Defence. Air Commodore Gordon, would you like to give us a bit of background on what your office does.

Air Cdre Gordon : I look after two major programs for Defence: integrated air and missile defence; and space control, which includes the space situational awareness capabilities. My boss, who I'm representing today, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, as head of Air Force capability, looks after all Air Force capability and the elements of space capability that Air Force are responsible for.

CHAIR: Thank you. Major General Coyle.

Major Gen. Coyle : As head of Information Warfare Division, I'm a capability manager on behalf of the Chief of Joint Capabilities. I manage 62 projects on his behalf, ranging from satellite communications and space services projects through to the full range of cyber electronic warfare, information warfare, health knowledge management, digitisation training areas and simulation technology. And I'm also part of the cyber future concept development, where we're developing the future concept of how we employ our ADF forces in a defensive cyber-operations capability. So there are two significant bodies of work.

CHAIR: Thank you. Rear Admiral Hughes.

Rear Adm. Hughes : I'm the head of intelligence capability, similar to General Coyle, on behalf of the Chief of Defence Intelligence, General Reynolds. My role is to represent him from a capability manager perspective for all our joint intelligence and geospatial intelligence capabilities. We have a broad range of capabilities—from space collection projects through to the way we disseminate and move all that data around the department and also across the national intelligence community. The Defence Intelligence Group was only recently set up. Towards the end of last year and in the beginning of this year, it reached its full operating capability. My division was 'the last leg of the stool' to bring together the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation—a capability arm to meet their requirements but also more broadly across the national intelligence community, the Five Eyes community and other partners we might work with. Fundamentally it's really all the glue that brings all the intelligence systems together and then disseminates that through to the war fighter.

CHAIR: Thank you. Brigadier Watson.

Brig. Watson : I am blessed to work for the head of Information Warfare, General Coyle. I run one of four of the general's branches. The branch that I run is the Joint Information Warfare Branch. In this branch is joint cyber, joint electronic warfare and joint influence directorates. I'm responsible for the capability development strategy and concepts, training and education and delivery of that capability across the department.

CHAIR: Thank you. I'll kick us off. I think this question is probably best directed towards you, General Coyle. Can you give us a bit of a rundown on where we are in relation to the battle management system? What are we doing in its period of hiatus, if I can put it that way, as a stop-gap measure and what are we doing more fully to replace it?

Major Gen. Coyle : It's probably more appropriate I hand it over to Major General Simon Stuart who's got the responsibilities for the battle management system.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Major Gen. Stuart : In answer to your question, the battle management system that you refer to is one part of Army's battle management architecture. There are other parts that deal with intelligence information, offensive support, so fires, artillery and joint fires as well. Those are—

CHAIR: Just for the benefit of my colleagues—I don't know whether my colleagues are aware of this or how much knowledge they have of the battle management system—just very briefly, can you give us a bit of a rundown on what it is and what it seeks to achieve? You probably don't want to go into any details about why we are where we are right now. Suffice to say, just give us a very general overview of why we are where we are.

Major Gen. Stuart : Certainly. The purpose of a battle management system is to support decision-makers at the tactical level. It's about presenting a digital picture of what is going on around you: where your own elements are, where those elements of opposing forces or other people in your area of operations are, understanding where they fit in time and space and then providing that information in a way that is digestible to the human in that loop who needs to make decisions. It's about speeding up the decision cycle so that you can make a decision at a time that is more advantageous than your adversary.

CHAIR: Would I be right in saying that it's basically a helicopter view of where all your assets are on the battlefield?

Major Gen. Stuart : That's correct, yes.

CHAIR: Just very briefly, where are we right at this point in time? How did we get here? I'm conscious and I don't need to tell you—

Mr HILL: Is that the Elbit system?


Major Gen. Stuart : Army's digitisation journey, for want of a better term, started back in 2009 and it was always going to be a 'learn by doing' activity. We've certainly benefited from that journey and the level of digital literacy and the way that we operate today are reflective of the investment that's been made over time. I will just touch on where we're at today because I think that's relevant. We have two contracts with Elbit, and one's an acquisition contract. We also have a sustainment contract with Elbit Systems of Australia. Those contracts remain in place and are the subject of negotiation between the Commonwealth and the companies. There are some reviews underway, both commercial and technical, to try to resolve and move ahead on those issues.

CHAIR: If I remember correctly, a decision was made to remove the battle management system from operational assets and that was to come into effect mid May. Is that right?

Major Gen. Stuart : That's correct, yes.

CHAIR: Has that been paused, or what's happening with that decision?

Major Gen. Stuart : No, that was executed—

CHAIR: Put into effect?

Major Gen. Stuart : That's correct, yes.

CHAIR: Right. But we, being Defence, are still negotiating with Elbit to overcome some of Defence's concerns.

Major Gen. Stuart : That's correct, we're still working with Elbit. We're still using the system in some of our training institutions to maintain digital literacy. But those systems are not connected to our operational networks.

CHAIR: Alright. What are we doing in its place today? What's the stopgap measure and what are the longer-term measures that we're taking to have an alternative, perhaps?

Major Gen. Stuart : If I start with your second question first, Chair. We're currently in phase 2 of three phases in this project, which is nominally known as Land 200. Phase 3 is due for first pass consideration next year, with the view of having a new system in place within three years, and that was already planned. There's no change to that plan as it stands today.

CHAIR: Was that necessarily with Elbit? Was that going to open tender or had it already been decided that Elbit was going to be the provider?

Major Gen. Stuart : It was always going to be a tender, an RFT. Where we are today is that there are a number of components and a number of battle management systems, and indeed they exist in the other services as well. There are, in broad terms, a number of key components. There is the offensive support Battle Management System, which is a US system. There's no change to that. Our intelligence information is communicated over another set of systems that are all fused together. There's no change to that. We had another system called SitaWare that we were using at the divisional level and deployable joint force headquarters that we have expanded into use at lower levels. Our people are very innovative. They are using a collection of those systems to provide that situational awareness that commanders need about where their own elements are and to be able to bring together the feeds from a whole range of sensors to best inform those commanders. It is not to the same level as we were previously operating, but it is to a level where they are effective and they are still digitised to a certain level.

CHAIR: When word first broke that defence had made a decision to cease the Elbit's Battle Management System, or to at least put a pause on it, there were news reports about how the ADF was going back to pen and paper. Do you want to talk a little bit about that? Also, was the Elbit BMS across all three forces or was that specifically Army?

Major Gen. Stuart : I'll answer the second question first, Chair. The Elbit BMS was for Army, for the land force. Some of the systems were integrated in the landing craft, that are part of the amphibious system, but for the land force to use. So it's correct to say it was a land force related system. A lot of what has been speculated about publicly is factually incorrect.

CHAIR: Go figure!

Major Gen. Stuart : For example, claims that contracts had been torn up are not correct. That's fairly basic information. We're still in contract with Elbit and Elbit Systems of Australia and we're certainly not back to paper and pen. Although I would say we retain the skills to work in degraded environments digitally, physically—

CHAIR: One would hope so—

Major Gen. Stuart : and biologically. As you know from your interaction, our people are superb. They innovate and they will use what they have to get the job done and that's exactly what's happening today.

CHAIR: Do you want to talk a little bit about the future? I appreciate you haven't shut the door on Elbit. You may not be able to talk too much about the future, but do you want to give us any idea of what the future looks like?

This new phase 3 program, what will that look like? What will it achieve over and above what you have now? Can I also get you to clarify—the phase 3—my understanding is that the Elbit system was more asset based rather than personnel based as well. Is that correct?

Major Gen. Stuart : I understand.

CHAIR: You understand? Thanks.

Major Gen. Stuart : The benefit of our long association with Elbit and its battle management system is we have a very clear understanding of what our requirements are as we go into phase 3, which will digitise the entire deployable part of the Army. Where we are today is, in broad terms, about one-third of the Army is digitised; one-third of our combat brigades are digitised. The way you slice that, you can either do that vertically or you can do it horizontally. When we began this journey, we began with trying to digitise a soldier and then move up. We quickly discovered that actually the best return on investment is to digitise your headquarters from the top down. That way, you are able to channel all of the information from the joint force to commanders to enable them to the greatest extent. So that's what we've sought to do—digitise our headquarters to get the best return on investment and then, over time, work out how we best enable our individual soldiers with a system that enhances rather than encumbers them. There's a sweet spot in digitising the individual soldier, who needs some limited functionality. But in our headquarters and in our vehicles, as nodes on a broader land and joint network, that's where we really get the best return on investment. We want to make sure phase 3 is an open architecture system, that it is compatible or the same as our key allies, and that it is a system that is upgradable and can be maintained as technology changes. The step change from phase 2, which we're currently in, to phase 3 is to take everything we've learnt since sort of the mid 2000s and what we've learnt by digitising about a third of the Army, specifically our headquarters, and apply that through an open RFT and a detailed set requirements that reflect everything we've learnt since the early 2000s.

CHAIR: The Elbit BMS was not just being used by Australia. Am I correct in my understanding it was being used in part by the UK?

Major Gen. Stuart : That's correct. They are using Elbit products. I couldn't speak in detail to that. It's not exactly the same as the way that we've been using it. Just for the record, we are still using the Elbit BMS in our training institutions.

CHAIR: In your training institutions? But are the US using a totally different model?

Major Gen. Stuart : There are different parts of and products in their range of product offerings. I would need to take on notice if you need some specific detail about what those are. I can't speak to the US or the UK.

CHAIR: I don't need to do that; it was more of a general question than anything else. Given that you have said that one of the important factors we're looking at is compatibility with our allies, how does it work if we're compatible with the UK but not compatible with the US? I mean, I can't imagine the US are going to change what they're doing to be compatible with the UK and Australia, so does that mean that we have to, along with the Brits, change to be compatible with the US?

Major Gen. Stuart : There are probably a couple of key points in answer to that question. The first is, as I mentioned earlier, we have a range of different systems. The Elbit system we've been using at the battle group and below, so at that sort of tactical level. We haven't been sharing that information or had a requirement to share that information into those coalition networks but we communicate certainly in that offensive support network and the intelligence networks; those are part of the alliance system, so we can communicate with the US in that regard. What we want to be able to do is have the whole system able to be hosted on the same network that we can use with the US and other allies. We will still have a requirement for systems—digital radio systems—that we can share we with other partners who are not part of the Five Eyes, so there is a different set of requirements. We're looking at how we do that. At present we have a consortium called the C4 EDGE consortium. We're up to about 19 local small and medium enterprises which Army has co-invested in to the tune of about $35 million dollars over two years to prove the capacity of Australian industry to produce and provide digital radios, sovereign waveform and cryptography. That's really important as we look at phase 3 and we're trying to prove the capacity of Australian industry to potentially provide better understanding if they wish to compete for parts of that phase 3 project.

CHAIR: Can you give us a bit of an understanding of our vulnerability. Given that phase 3 is not going to be operational until 2025, what is our vulnerability? I appreciate you've said that we're adaptable, we can operate off the grid if we have to, but what's our vulnerability in that period between now and 2025?

Major Gen. Stuart : I will answer your question here by saying that we have a digital capability today. It is being used by 7th Brigade as part of a United States division on a training activity today with the 4th Infantry Division in Fort Carson, Colorado. It is not to the same degree and level as the system that we have been using but it is fit for purpose and it enables us to meet our requirements and certainly our readiness and capability requirements today. We obviously have an aspiration for a system that would provide better and more functionality but we can operate today with what we have. The other key point is that we only had about a third of the Army digitised, so, at that full sort of vertical integration level, headquarters are certainly digitised across the other parts. The level of risk, I think, is at the heart of your question.


Major Gen. Stuart : I quantify that numerically but I would say it is manageable, and we're working hard to ensure we reduce it as quickly as we possibly can.

Mr HILL: I think you said—I am not trying to verbal you—that you can meet make your capability and readiness requirements to government with what you have at the moment and that the level of risk is manageable. If you had your aspiration for the phase 3 system, would that enable you, with the resources you have, to offer a better set of capabilities or readiness requirements to government? Would that see a lower risk or is it just you still sitting in the envelope but it'll be better? I'm just curious about that interplay.

Major Gen. Stuart : I think what you raise is exactly that risk calculus. That is exactly at the heart of all of this. We want to be able to assure the government to the greatest extent possible that we can achieve mission success in support of our national objectives, wherever and whenever they may be. In order to do that across the ADF, we seek to have the best balance of affordable capabilities to provide the best assurance for mission success, and to bring our people home safely. So whatever tools that the ADF has on any given day are what we have to meet our national requirements. We will always do what we can with what we have. The key point, I think, is that there are different levels of risk in achieving those outcomes, depending on the range of tools you have at your disposal, if that makes sense.

Mr HILL: I'll just try to put it in plain English for those, no doubt, many Australians listening to this conversation at home. If you have this phase 3 capability, you wouldn't expect to change your readiness and capability commitments to government, to the Australian people, but your level of confidence would be higher, and the level of risk that you're bearing in delivering them would be a bit lower. Is that a reasonable summation?

Major Gen. Stuart : That's a very elegant summation, Mr Hill.

Mr HILL: I just wanted to finish that topic. I've other topics, but back to you, Chair.

CHAIR: I'd rather just square this issue away. Does anybody have any questions on the BMS?

Mr HILL: It's a matter of public interest; it's a good one to start with.

CHAIR: Alright. I've got a lot of other questions, but I'm going to invite my colleagues to kick off with anything else.

Mr CONNELLY: General, from your perspective, I'm interested in the announcement around building missiles within Australia. I think we've committed about a billion dollars towards such activity. Is that one of the projects that you have oversight of?

Major Gen. Stuart : No, that's not in my bailiwick.

Air Cdre Gordon : There's no-one at the table that is responsible for that. We all have levels of knowledge of it. It was obviously announced by the Prime Minister. I know the department's working hard to give meaning to that. There are a lot of opportunities in my own program, in integrated air and missile defence. There are going to be a lot of munitions that we look to acquire over the next 20 years, so I think it's the right time to be having that discussion before we start really scaling-up a lot of our capabilities and our guided munitions. I'd characterise it as being in the early stages of development, but I think it's very timely and appropriate.

Mr CONNELLY: Obviously, there are going to be land based components, air and maritime strike capabilities, so all three services are going to share some capability requirements. It strikes me that defence projects generally take a long time. That's not necessarily a criticism, because if we get things wrong, there can be some poor outcomes. As a general observation, given that the traditional 10 year window of awareness of a significant threat has been reduced to zero, particularly if we look at certain domains like cyber, would you agree that the ability to speedily get that capability and achieve that Australian sovereign manufacturing capability would be heavily weighted in the decisions that those programs will face?

Major Gen. Stuart : I think the government's announcement reflects a very clear-eyed understanding of exactly the circumstances that you've provided. We in the department are certainly of the same view and disposition. I think the work that's going on at the moment certainly sees this as a priority. Again, there's a lot of work within the department to ensure that we're using that capability life cycle, which is the system of capability development, and assuring government that taxpayers' money is being spent in an efficacious way. We're looking for ways to continue to evolve and improve that, to better meet the time frames that are required.

Rear Adm. Hughes : I think that if you put aside the weapon component, what we can talk you through is all the underpinning enabling capability that brings effect to the weapon. You can get very focussed on the weapon and the explosive bang it will make at the end of the day—and I would not want to be on the end of anything we're considering at the moment! But I think the things we can talk about are the systems that will enable the war fighter to apply that weapon at the right time, in the right place and at the choosing that government wishes it to be applied through the mechanisms we have.

For example: if you can't see what you're after, the weapon is blind and there's really no point using it. So we need intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems that allow us to have situational awareness on the battlefield. To come back to the general's comment about situational awareness, it's what I call 'assured decision ability'—the decisions you make and having assured data entering into that process. So you need a collection system to identify it and you need the means, not just to find the target but to 'fix' the target, as we call it—that is, locate it. Then you need the ability to track the target and then, obviously, to target it and understand what you're doing. Then you gauge it and you assess it.

There's a beautiful acronym, F2T2EA, which I love! The point is that there's a process, and unless you have all that acronym in place, the attack piece will never happen. At the moment we're asking how we do that over-the-horizon targeting for some of the programs we're looking at, where we reduce the risk on our personnel and our equipment to be able to see beyond the horizon. There are initiatives underway and they're reflected in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update around space based collection capabilities. There are initiatives in the DSU and in the 2020 Force Structure Plan around how we then take that data and move it through the system to the targeting process, for the war fighter to then use the weapon. That's through processing, exploitation and dissemination: that's the networks, the databases, the processes, the training and having the right workforce. And then there's the ability to task those collection assets; whether they're air-breathing, or space-breathing, or special forces or whatever the means, we want to get that situational awareness. Then ultimately, I suppose, it's around the decision, whether it's the government making a decision to do something or whether it's at the operational or tactical level.

What I can give you assurance about is that when you take the public narrative of the strategic update and the Force Structure Plan at the classified level, there are a number of projects and programs, two of which I own—the geospatial intelligence and the joint intelligence. If I take from sensor to shooter, all those programs fill that enabling gap. It belongs in my remit, and that of the Chief of Defence Intelligence, to provide that collection from a space perspective—all the services will provide aircraft, or a vehicle or a maritime platform, so they're part of that intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and sensor collection bit. When that tap of information comes on, I have to flow that through the system to get it to the guys at Headquarters Joint Operating Command, or the tactical operator or the ship in the fleet.

We're now stitching up all those fundamental inputs to capability—like I said, the training, the workforce and the skills, and we're stitching the networks together at all classifications. How do we move different levels of classification across those different networks for the purpose they're intended? An example is that we're in contract through a space collect program; it's a commercial contract with an American company, and we're about to expand it with a European company. It's basically to buy commercial, high-quality foundation geospatial information for mapping and all that underpinning. That gets downloaded in Australia.

We're building the networks—well, we've got the networks, but we're expanding them with more databases, opening the pipe up to get that information through. We're working with the Australian Space Agency on their proposed Rosetta program, which is really a foundation geospatial information collection program. We're going to invest with them to provide us with another commercial avenue to get that foundation geospatial information. We're working with them quite closely around how we can help support them both through requirements and ultimately, I would like to think, through a funding mechanism. I think that's a fantastic opportunity to take a whole bunch of small and medium enterprise capability in Australia and build a genuine Australian capability.

So I hope that gives you a perspective that it's not just about the shiny weapon; it's a very important component of it. It is the teeth, but it's how we bring all that together. The work that Major General Coyle is doing in communications, position, navigation and timing is all part of that enterprise—that system. We've got that in place.

I'll just finish by giving you the temporal nature—you asked if it's the right time for weapons. We've been very clearly directed by government and through our own needs that we need—if I could use a terrible analogy—something like the wi-fi in your house by the middle of the decade. You need that because you're about to buy a television or a computer, and without it you can't watch Netflix or go on the World Wide Web. So we have to have that infrastructure in place between the mid- to late-20s because all these weapons are going to turn up and they need to be enabled by that system.

Mr CONNELLY: That's very helpful; I really appreciate it. I have some more stuff, but I'm happy to hand to others and come back.

CHAIR: Thanks, Mr Connolly. Mr Snowdon.

Mr SNOWDON: Major General Coyle, would you mind just taking us through your responsibilities in relation to space—what it all means to us?

Major Gen. Coyle : Yes, certainly. I'm responsible, on behalf of Chief of Joint Capabilities, for the space services component of the space domain. As you know, the space domain is managed by the Chief of Air Force, as the capability manager. We have a number of projects within that: we're currently delivering satellite communication services through Joint Project 2008. And we have a new project on the horizon, Joint Project 9102, which is going to be our sovereign satcom capability coming forward. That's gone out for tender at the moment. We expect the tenders to come back in October and then we'll be in a position to inform government of what options are available for a sovereign capability that will support our ability to enable the war fighter.

Mr SNOWDON: So you're confident of SME capabilities in Australia to provide those?

Major Gen. Coyle : Until we get the responses to the request for tender, I'm not in a position to know that.

Mr SNOWDON: That's fair enough.

Major Gen. Coyle : But, to my knowledge, a number of companies or conglomerates intend to respond to that request for tender, based on the initial questions and information that CASG are receiving. So we're confident we'll get something.

Mr SNOWDON: What's your time frame?

Major Gen. Coyle : In terms of delivery? It will depend on who comes back and what it is. We have plans in place: should the time lines be different to our current capabilities we have mitigation strategies in place to ensure we maintain our ability to provide satellite services.

Mr SNOWDON: Do you have the annual report in front of you? I have. We don't have anyone from the defence science organisation here, but I'm interested in looking at activity 3.1, around strategic research enablers. Would you mind explaining to the committee how it all works? I know how it works, but I'm not sure the other members of the committee know how it works. Would you mind explaining the interaction between the various services as clients to the defence science organisation and how you set priorities?

Air Cdre Gordon : Specifically with regards to space or just generally?

Mr SNOWDON: Space in particular, but more generally as well.

CHAIR: Can I just get you to clarify one thing, Warren: are you talking 3.1b?

Mr SNOWDON: It's 3.1b; yes.

Major Gen. Coyle : We all have responsibilities, and we all work closely with the Defence Science and Technology Group through the Chief Defence Scientist. Probably something more recent that would bring attention to this is through the STaR Shots program that they're doing, the science technology research programs. We all have involvement in a number of those STaR Shots, and we're working really closely together to identify areas where we have shorter term needs to try and get after potential opportunities, and we're working closely with them.

Air Cdre Gordon : Major General Paul mentioned Chief of Air Force is now the promulgated space domain lead, and one of the things we see, as a consequence of that, is Air Force's responsibility to make sure that we fully exploit the capabilities of Defence Science and Technology Group and the work that they're doing to support all of Defence in its efforts. Defence Science and Technology, through their More, together strategy under the Chief Defence Scientist, are really focusing in on areas where they believe there is real value for Defence in their research.

Major General Paul mentioned the STaR Shots program, and they have a number of particular focus areas and goals. One of those is specifically around space, and Multi-mission Resilient Space is the name of that STaR Shot. In a lot of ways, DSTG is unbound by what we think we need. They have a mandate to actually work out what is the disruptive science and the opportunity and to go and chase that to help inform the capability managers at the table about what we should be thinking about in our projects and programs. However, they're not completely off the leash; we have a fairly robust governance system. I sit on steering groups where we review their programs, what they're going after as it pertains to space, and all of the groups and services equities are represented in that.

In the space STaR Shot in particular, I can say there's a really great body of work being done to look at some technologies that I think will have a lot of application across our future projects—artificial intelligence; novel sensors; a digital twin technology, which is essentially digitally designing something in a much more agile way and being able to do a lot of the testing without actually having to build the physical product, so it really promises the ability to speed up the development of new systems. And in the past, through their space program, they've launched the Buccaneer CubeSat—about the size of a shoebox—and they have a program under development to do further series of satellite launches, increasing complexity with each one.

Mr SNOWDON: Does their hypersonic program feed into that?

Air Cdre Gordon : Hypersonics are different from space. Obviously hypersonics often involve things that go up into space for at least a little while, and I think that's one of the challenges that we all face in the complex modern era—that is, everything we're working on affects everyone else—and so, through good governance and engagement, we try and join those dots.

Mr SNOWDON: I was going to ask that question earlier, because we've got five organisations, with Defence Intelligence and the three services and Defence Science. How is it all integrated? If we were looking at a diagram, how would we be seeing it managed and the priorities being set?

Major Gen. Coyle : When Capability Development Group was disbanded a number of years ago, there was a creation of some new capabilities, some new organisations, Head Force Integration and Head Force Design, who both work to VCDF. It is through those bodies and a series of committees and steering groups that we make sure we're absolutely nested and integrated across the workforce.

CHAIR: I think it's on page 15 of the annual report.

Rear Adm. Hughes : On the coordination work DSTG are doing, the Chief Defence Scientist—in fact, I think it's in the next month—has a routine, what I call, steering board, which allows us to bring our requirements from our programs into that, where they are aligned against the STaR Shots and the strategic need that's outlaid across the force design area. Then, through that mechanism, we can each be accountable for our component of that. That's the brilliance, I suppose, of the head capability roles that we have—we work seamlessly together to make sure that everybody's aware of what we're doing. A big area that General Coyle and I are working on is the artificial intelligence space, where she will own and operate and govern the Artificial Intelligence Centre. All the service will access that. A big player in that is DSTG, because they have all those networks into academia and a lot of industry partners. In fact, just peeling back the AI story, I was personally surprised just how much capability we have in Australia, in our universities who are working on this. My part of the picture, by example, is that I'm looking at smart data in cognitive intelligence and how you take AI to bring the human out of that loop and on the loop to the speed of that intelligence data, at machine speed, through to the user. That's my component, whereas General Coyle has another component, as Army does for theirs. So I'm very confident that it's being seen at an enterprise level now. It is much better than where we were five or 10 years ago, from personal experience.

Major Gen. Stuart : I would just add that this starts with our operational concepts—in other words: how do we want to operate and how do we want to fight as a joint force in all five domains? Then, as General Coyle said, the design process is: how do we optimise the mix of what we have and what we might need in the future to best fulfil that operational concept? At the next level, the architecture is designed. So there are standards and protocols and those kinds of things that all of our efforts are designed to meet so that they are actually integrated at that level. That's the hierarchy or thinking and effort to make sure that all of our efforts come together in something that is coherent, that can talk with itself and to allies, but ultimately provides the effects and the forces and the capabilities that can prosecute those operational concepts.

Mr SNOWDON: So defence science group is able to exploit the relationships it has with academia who are involved. At what point does the private sector get engaged?

Major Gen. Coyle : At all levels and through all of us. We're all heavily engaged with the private sector, both through industry and academia.

Mr SNOWDON: I'm thinking more about the developmental path.

Major Gen. Coyle : If I use the Defence Artificial Intelligence Centre as an example, which we're creating at the moment, half of the Commonwealth workforce comes out of DSTG. We're actually doing things with industry and with academia to get after short-term, unclassified projects at this stage. If there is any meat on those bones, they will be then transferred into other capabilities. But the Defence Innovation Hub, as an example, is a way that we get after these things. We engage with industry very regularly. For example, Chief of Joint Capabilities yesterday did a 'meet the chief' session, and we talked about all of our capabilities and opportunities that present for industry to engage with us.

Mr SNOWDON: Thank you.

Mr HILL: I have a few more conceptual questions. Looking through bits of the annual report, if you contrast it with perhaps what I would have expected 10 years ago, there's a lot more mention of cyber and information warfare and so on. Probably amongst the Australian public who think about all this and tune into these things, we're certainly hearing more about that. I'm curious just to put a couple of conceptual things to you. You refer here and there to information warfare threats which the ADF faces and so on. I want to get a little bit more of a conceptual understanding of how you see the world and the sorts of threats you are responding to. Is your investment in these going up or down?

CHAIR: That's very conceptual.

Mr HILL: It is. A year or two ago, I read a paper by Ross Babbage. He's been around the block a few times.

Major Gen. Coyle : I think he's taught all of us, actually.

Mr HILL: And probably us, too. He had a few challenging observations around political warfare and information warfare and the extent to which Western militaries have degraded these capabilities post the Cold War. Part of his critique—I'm not trying to put words in his mouth—is that we've spent a lot of time building up really cool technological toys, bombs that can find anything and planes that can outwit anything, whereas our potential opponents have taken a more asymmetrical view of the world. I think the chief calls it 'grey-zone' stuff. I'll just read from the exec summary:

Political warfare operations have been central to the Chinese and Russian regimes' international operations and strategic advances for the last two decades. Indeed, they have long featured prominently in Chinese and Russian strategic culture and practice. Both regimes are well-equipped, very experienced, and highly skilled in the conduct of these political warfare campaigns. The West, by contrast, largely abandoned high-level political warfare operations at the end of the Cold War.

That's the thesis. Since that, we've seen more visible discussion of the grey zone. Can you respond to that a little bit—are we talking terminology? When you say 'information warfare', do you mean political warfare, or is this more a traditional cyber thing? To what extent is the ADF moving into that space or reclaiming that space? What threats do you face? I think you mentioned a joint influence branch in your responsibilities. What does that mean?

Major Gen. Coyle : I might start off, and then I'll hand over to Brigadier Watson to continue.

Mr HILL: I'm just trying to understand some of the language that's throughout your annual report, and what you mean by it.

Major Gen. Coyle : Yes, absolutely. In 2019, we stood up the fifth war-fighting domain, which we call information and cyber domain. You may have attended or been aware of a presentation that CDF gave on political warfare as well. For us, cyber is part of information warfare; it enables us to be able to provide assurances and protections for our force while denying anything for our adversaries as we go forward. So IW is quite broad in terms of what we're getting after. We're still building it—I would argue that a lot of countries are still building it—and responding to how we need to go forward to be able to support and enable the war-fighter. But it's not in isolation. It's the strength of all five domains working together, both kinetic and non-kinetic, as well as our alliance and partnerships that make us capable of being prepared for what may come in the future. Through, for example, Force Design Division, through war gaming and things like that, we are trying to meet not only what we think are today's threats but the unknowns as we go forward. I think that's the magic of political warfare. Cyber is a very real threat today for everybody, not just the military. Acknowledging that it's a threat is pretty critical to getting after what we can, and why organisations like the Australian Cyber Security Centre are so important.

Mr HILL: There was a specific sentence in the report about information warfare threats which the ADF faces. How would you describe them in an unclassified way to the average Australian?

Major Gen. Coyle : Very real. We would be more than happy to provide a more detailed briefing, but it could not be achieved in the unclassified environment.

Mr HILL: That would be useful. Of course, the interplay for some of us, given we're a subcommittee of a much broader committee, is up at the other end of the spectrum, at what might be described as soft power. We've heard through our sister committees a lot of criticism of Australia pulling back from things like Radio Australia and actually having that capability to get our message out in the Pacific. There seems to be a bit of a blurry line in the kinds of things you're talking about between shaping the strategic environment in the world in which we move and the harder, secret stuff which you do. To what extent are you integrated in the strategic sense across other departments?

Major Gen. Coyle : We are absolutely nested hand-in-hand with other government agencies, departments, the intelligence community, industry and academia to get after this. Information warfare is just not in the remit of the military; it's everywhere. We use the term 'information warfare', but it's getting ahead of that strategic narrative and being able to shape your environment so that we can have the environment that we want, advertise what we're getting after and the good things that we're doing. Our ability to respond to disinformation or misinformation is really critical. We have the capability within the Australian Defence Force to do that. It's growing and it's very much a soft power. This is not about technology and platforms for us; it's about people, like psychological operations and things of that nature. We have trained workforces. They're not large, but they're very capable, and we plug-and-play with our allies and partners.

Mr HILL: If we're talking about disinformation, there's been a lot of stuff in the media in the last few years. The harshest examples are allegation of foreign interference in democratic elections, and the softer stuff is about disinformation campaigns on topics of public interest to undermine trust in democracy and sow dissent, and so on. Is that something that you get involved in?

CHAIR: Not seeding it.

Mr HILL: Yes, not seeding it, to clarify my meaning. Is that the kind of responsibility that sits with you to be aware of, or does that sit somewhere else in government?

Major Gen. Coyle : No, it sits across government. We certainly can play a part in anything. In cyber, for example, my responsibility lies with the defensive cyber operations capability of our deployed forces, so offshore, not domestic.

Mr HILL: I will hunt out the people one day who are thinking about this.

Ms SWANSON: Air Vice Marshal Catherine Roberts has obviously just been appointed to this new position. I apologise if you've discussed this before I arrived but I'm interested in her role. I realise what her role would be but I'm interested in what she'll be doing and how that's going to be integrated. So that's the first thing I want to talk about. But before you answer that, I do just want to pick up on Julian's point. It was described to me this week that cyber is actually currently the only active war we have going on, with a billion knocks on the door every day. There are people trying to infiltrate our systems and every second of every day, so I'm interested in talking a little bit more about that. It's noted down here later to talk about people, but I'm also interested in how hard are you finding it to recruit? You said it was a small workforce. Obviously, it's a very specialised area, and I should imagine there'd be some attraction. But how difficult is it? I know that there are great difficulties getting enough people, particularly for the back-end type work, but I'm just interested in hearing about how we're going—you mentioned academia—really. That funnel through—do we have enough people coming through? I think that's going to be really critical for us. So just a couple of broad things. I also have one other question but I'll ask that one in a moment. So whichever you want to talk about first.

CHAIR: We could finish off cyber and then talk about the space division afterwards.

Major Gen. Coyle : It's exceptionally exciting to work in the cyber environment, and it is absolutely a growth organisation across Australia. I guess for us, from a military perspective, there are people who want to join the Australian Defence Force and work in the cyber environment. It is a niche skill. They're serving Australia, serving their nation above the self, they have this great military culture and family and they have access to authorities to do things in a military context that you wouldn't be able to do if you were working for a civilian security operation centre. We can't compete monetarily but what we do compete with is with the purpose and the value of what they're doing.

In the opportunity with cyber as we go forward, retention's always going to be a challenge; it's a challenge for all of us across our different aspects. We care for our people, our veterans, we look after them and we give them valued work. If they do go, we leave the door open for them to come back, or they do Reserve service, so we're still contributing to national security through that mechanism.

In terms of the domestic side and the hits that you were talking about, you'd have to speak to the Australian Cyber Security Centre to get an understanding on that challenge and how broad it is. But we are always trying to harden all of our assets, our platforms, our mission systems and our networks to make sure that, no matter what's going on anywhere in the globe, we can still do our ore fighting roles and responsibilities.

Ms SWANSON: I am just sort of jumping from one thing to another now. Talking about CubeSats, we currently have 3,747 satellites orbiting earth and in the next five years that will go to 100,000. Talking about satellite launching, where are we going to launch from?

Air Cdre Gordon : If you like, I'll talk about your first question there—what Defence is doing organisationally around space—and then we can talk about launch after that.


Air Cdre Gordon : To set the scene, in Air Force, I'm responsible for the space control program, which, at its cornerstone, is space situational awareness—tracking those hundreds of thousands of satellites. Major General Coyle looks after satellite communications. Rear Admiral Hughes looks after earth observation satellites. We spoke before about Defence Science and Technology and the work they're doing around space and satellites. Defence is advancing on all fronts in the space capability areas. But with the appointment of Chief of Air Force as the space domain lead, it was recognised that we could do better to provide focused leadership, direction and integration around space. So Airforce has been leading, on behalf of the department, a space domain review, which resulted in the appointment of Vice Marshal Catherine Roberts, my current boss, as the inaugural head of the space division. I think that's the latest title but it may change.

Ms SWANSON: We're not calling it space force?

Air Cdre Gordon : No yet. And that takes effect from next year. There's still an ongoing body of work to exactly work out the responsibilities, accountabilities and resources that she will have in pursuing that role. But I would describe the intent as twofold. One is to provide that focused leadership and coordination, to make sure that we're not missing opportunities and that we are really, truly delivering on the government's agenda, not only in a capability sense but also in a national sense in supporting the Australian Space Agency's objectives. Because there is a fair bit of money at play and there's a lot of opportunity, so we want to make sure we do this right. I'd say the other role that she will particularly carry is to be the person for space for the Australian Defence Force. When we look at our key partners and allies across the world, we have the US that have created the United States Space Force and they have a space command, so a couple of four-stars leading that. The French have changed. They're no longer the French Air Force, they are the French Air and Space Force, and they have two-star space command. The Royal Air Force has just established, on 1 April this year, a two-star-led space command. Germany's standing up space command. New Zealand isn't at this stage, but everyone else is advancing their focus on space because they recognise the importance of it. One of the important roles that Air Vice Marshal Roberts will play is in that engagement internationally with our close partners to make sure we can work together to achieve the aim.

Ms SWANSON: Excellent. Has there been a facility recently opened by the minister? I know it's colloquially called 'the bunker'. What is that facility? What are we going to be doing there and what's that about?

Air Cdre Gordon : Can you give me any more specifics?

Ms SWANSON: I think it was revolving around cyber.

Major Gen. Coyle : The Parliamentary Public Works Committee have approved us to develop a defence cyber college, soil turned in February this year out at HMAS Harman, and the facility will be officially opened in February 2023.

Ms SWANSON: And will that be to train?

Major Gen. Coyle : That'll be cyber training courses across the spectrum for Defence. It is a combined college between Defence and the Australian Signals Directorate. It's very exciting.

Ms SWANSON: That's kind of getting to that point that I was making about that pipeline of people coming through.

Major Gen. Coyle : We have growth of up to 230 people coming in the next near term to do the roles and responsibilities we are expecting of them. We've also been participating in the ADF Cyber Gap Program. I'm not sure if you've heard of that—very successful. In the first program that has just finished, 10 of the 46 that attended now have jobs in the cyber environment, whether it be in Defence or in the broader government organisations. The current program, we had to narrow down from over a thousand applicants to put the course on, with 271 students participating. They range from young people all the way through to mature-aged students.

Ms SWANSON: People with a few miles on their moccasins?

Major Gen. Coyle : Yes.

Mr SNOWDON: Is it a 12-month course, a 12-month internship?

Major Gen. Coyle : The ADF Cyber Gap Program, would you like to talk to that?

Brig. Watson : It is a scholarship and sponsorship program and work experience program to encourage people to take up a career in cyber, hopefully in the ADF, but, if not, in the Public Service. You were talking before about the difference in ages. Cyber doesn't have the same physical demands that soldiering or sailing or flying has on individual people, so what we are looking for are particular qualities, skills and attributes in those people, regardless of age. So what we do is encourage people to do anything from a cert III in a particular cyber skill set right up to a master's or part of a master's program. There's a cap on that value. It can be a 15-year-old kid in their bedroom who's deciding whether they continue at school or the Army's for them, or it can be someone who is reskilling in their mid-40s.

Mr SNOWDON: So it's a virtual arrangement?

Brig. Watson: COVID has forced us to adapt the program, particularly the work experience components. There are three work experience components that we ask them to complete throughout the one year of their participation in the gap year program. The original idea was that they go and visit a cyber unit, whether that be Fleet Cyber or 138th Signal Squadron in Army, to see what it's like and what those units do but also conduct a virtual Capture the Flag. COVID forced us to change that. Happily, cyber can be done from anywhere. Those work experience programs have been very successful in encouraging people to look for a career in government.

Mr SNOWDON: Is the intent to get them into a uniform or just to get them working in cyber?

Major Gen. Coyle: To get them into cyber. We don't mind where they go, as long as they're doing cyber related activities as part of—

Mr SNOWDON: What would be the PES test for a cyber person?

Ms SWANSON: Is that what Mick first said when we went to Holsworthy, 'Here's the blue haired dude drinking down—

Mr SNOWDON: Typing speed!

Major Gen. Coyle: It's interesting that you raise that though, because part of what we're doing in creating what we in Army call the specialist service soldier and the Specialist Service Officer is that those considerations will be met.

Mr SNOWDON: They won't have to cart gallons of water?

Major Gen. Coyle : Potentially not!

Ms SWANSON: We didn't talk about when we're going to launch those satellites. I'm really keen on that.

Air Cdre Gordon: All of our projects to actually launch satellites are still in, I would say, the early stages, so our exact requirements for launch are still firming up. The Defence position at the moment is that we have not yet landed on a requirement for launch, and, frankly, I don't see a day when we'll have Royal Australian Air Force or 'Royal Australian Space Force' rockets going up to space. I think where we are at the moment is waiting to see the sovereign launch capability mature and to test its viability for use for defence purposes. But, in a pure capability sense, we could exploit other launch providers, like Rocket Lab out of New Zealand or SpaceX out of the US, to launch any defence payloads. But we will watch with interest, and we work closely with the Space Agency as the Australian sovereign launch capability—

Ms SWANSON: Southern Launch out at Whalers Way is maturing. They're doing a lot of stuff.

Rear Adm. Hughes : The Australian Space Agency in my earth observation program is actually critical, because I can't deliver components of that without the Australian industry and the Australian Space Agency coordinating all the functions that we need to get to space, whether it's design, R&D, building small sats, payloads or launch. So we're very much relying on them to explain their vision, and they're doing a lot of work on that.

Ms SWANSON: Of course Enrico Palermo has come home after 17 years in the states working, and he's a very knowledgeable person.

Rear Adm. Hughes : I've had a couple of engagements with him, and his deputy, more often. The policy they're putting in place—the vision, the infrastructure and the funding mechanisms—I think is a really good news story for Australia. And, rather than us trying to do it independently, the only way to do it is to partner with them—

Ms SWANSON: That's right; collaboration.

Rear Adm. Hughes : and give them good requirements, so they don't get confused about what we're after, and then let them—I was reading a document the other day; there are 319 skill sets you need to make space. Australia pretty much has every single one of those. The trouble is the depth isn't that great. But the idea is they're pulling that together through the Space CRC, the SmartSat program and the SmartSat piece, so why would we want to double up on that? Why wouldn't we just want to help enable it, like I said, through good requirements, and assist in funding, and give them a mission for us to deliver on, like mapping and those sorts of things.

Ms SWANSON: Of course, they're side by side with the Australian Institute for Machine Learning in Adelaide. There's so much happening. For the last six months I've been on an inquiry into space, so I've spent some time over there with him and it has been quite interesting. That's part of the reason I'm so keen on asking these questions. It is important that we have that integration.

CHAIR: Can I take you back to item 3.1b of the annual report? I don't know who this is going to be aimed at—pardon the pun—but can I take you back to the STaR Shots program? What I'd like you to do is elaborate in more detail on the eight different programs.

Air Cdre Gordon : That will be testing the memory.

CHAIR: If you go back to the page 39, the eight different programs are in the third paragraph down. Could you give the committee a more detailed understanding of what those eight different programs are?

Rear Adm. Hughes : I think this most probably is something the Chief Defence Scientist really needs to go to, because I don't think we'll actually do her service, or the program. We've been briefed on things like resilient multimission space and information warfare. Clearly, we're over those programs, but I am concerned that, while we could give an interpretive dance of them, it wouldn't do them justice, because they are really worth understanding and getting into. So I would caution: we're not really prepared here to provide, I think, the detail you're after without disappointing you.

CHAIR: Can you give us even a cursory glance, or are you not comfortable?

Rear Adm. Hughes : Between us, I think we could give you a high-level view, but I wouldn't want to be held totally to account for the explanation.

CHAIR: Your disclaimer is noted.

Rear Adm. Hughes : We will give it a go. If the Chief Defence Scientist is listening, I give my apologies in advance, but we'll do our best. Do you want us to kick off on space?

Air Cdre Gordon : I'll do a couple of them and other people can tidy up after me. Resilient multimission space is about maturing advanced technologies that we think have application for use in defence space capabilities. I mentioned a couple of them before, but that will include artificial intelligence in orbit. The challenge with putting something up into space is that, once it's up there, you can't go and fix it or change it in a material sense. There are a lot of digital opportunities with software defined radios and smart, upgradable software systems on satellites that would allow you to actually upgrade the capability over time, as you upgrade your iPhone over time. There are a lot of real digital smarts about how you construct and run a satellite and potentially increase the capability of that satellite over time as you update it by sending it new software. There's a lot of that kind of work, as well as, really, all aspects of how the satellite works. Some bits of satellite manufacture and control are quite mature, but DST is looking at a number of novel concepts, from the power systems and the propulsion to the electronic smarts that are in it and the sensors that are put in as well. So there's a series of satellites—small cube satellites for the most part, following on from Buccaneer—planned over the next few years to iteratively build out some of those capabilities. But very much they're looking to understand how satellites can work as a constellation, not as a single unit but network together, passing information amongst themselves autonomously so that they don't need a human to tell them what to do; they can get the job done up there and communicate in a disrupted environment. That goes, really, to that word 'resilient', which means that they can continue to communicate and get the job done in a potentially hostile environment. I might move on to—

CHAIR: Before you move on, I want to ask about the concept of the cube low-cost satellite. Obviously, we're always trying to deliver something faster, better, stronger and cheaper. Does the concept of the cube satellite come down to a matter of redundancy as well—that if we aren't putting all our eggs in one very expensive satellite we're looking at multiple, much cheaper forms of satellite?

Air Cdre Gordon : I think CubeSat, which is about the size of a shoebox, is a means to an end. It's a low cost of entry to get technology on orbit, to mature that technology. One of the key things about space is, as I mentioned: once it's up there it's up there. So you don't want to put something up for the first time in a really big, expensive satellite that's never been to space before, and then find out that it doesn't work. The use of CubeSats is a very affordable way for governments, companies and universities to put technology on orbit and give it some space heritage, see if it works and iron out the kinks before building it onto a bigger satellite. I think that's the real explosion we're seeing at the moment. It's called New Space or Space 2.0—

Ms SWANSON: That's 100,000 satellites in orbit in the next five years? That's mindboggling.

Air Cdre Gordon : That's right. So I think CubeSats are a means to an end. I think you will always be limited by space, weight and power in a CubeSat—aperture, sizes for antennas, the size of solar panels, how much power you can generate. There's only so much you can do with such a small shoebox. I think the technology that's matured on a CubeSat can then be applied to a SmallSat, maybe something the size of a fridge, or eventually to some of the much bigger satellites that we typically see up in geostationary orbit.

One of the ways to treat resilience in space is to have more than one satellite doing the job and communicating together. If we look at examples from the commercial sector, like the Starlink constellation, it's about having lots and lots and lots of satellites, and if one of them fails it kind of doesn't matter. So I think the future will be a mix of large, exquisite, purposeful satellites and larger numbers of smaller satellites, but probably not CubeSats, that can deliver that kind of resilient capability. That's the kind of experimentation and work that the Defence Science and Technology Group is doing on behalf of Defence to help us make informed decisions about how to create a resilient space architecture.

CHAIR: Is there anything else that you want to say on space? I think I cut you off.

Air Cdre Gordon : No. I'm happy to talk space all day, but I think that answered your question.

CHAIR: We won't do that!

Air Cdre Gordon : I was going to mention the next one, agile command and control; there'll be others that want to speak to this, because it affects all of us. This is really about how we leverage artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine communication, machine learning, machine augmented human decision-making and the processes that go around that. Every capability program in Defence has a vested interest in that STaR Shot and the way it develops the concepts and the technology to help us make faster and better decisions while we're having our information disrupted or denied.

CHAIR: So the BMS fits into that category?

Air Cdre Gordon : Keeping in mind that the DSTG's remit is the future science, the looking ahead—they're not dealing with stuff that's two years away; they're trying to be in a further time horizon. I'll let Major General Stuart speak to that. It's not supporting this phase 3 of the BMS, but it would inform future requirements for what comes after that.

I'll talk about quantum assured precision navigation and timing—in fact, I think that's one of yours, Susan. You can talk about that one.

Major Gen. Coyle : The Chief of Joint Capabilities has got the liaison responsibilities for three of the eight STaR Shots—those being agile command and control, quantum assured precision navigation and timing, and information warfare. While I can tell you broadly what they are, we're doing things at a classified level to get after real-world opportunities of scenarios that we think may unfold in the future, and we're working very closely with them to achieve that. At the end of the day, it's about resilience. It's about survivability. It's about trying to understand how we may be threatened and how we can respond to make sure that our command and control, our ability to conduct precision navigation and timing—in particular the timing component. The DSTG reps that I work alongside are astrophysicists. They're the most amazing people and their ability to think so broadly and to get after opportunities for us to do some scientific research is inspiring.

CHAIR: I can hear Jim Molan saying, 'Chair, I want to ask a question!' Relax, Meryl, you're not going crazy: I'm speaking figuratively! If Jim Molan were here—and he may be listening—he'd say: 'This is all well and good, but what are we actually preparing for? What does the next war look like that you're all preparing for?'

Major Gen. Fox : I'll jump in there for a moment—

CHAIR: Hello, Major General Fox, it's very good to see you!

Major Gen. Fox : It's very good to see you again! I've just asked the department to see if we could get someone from Defence Science and Technology Group to dial in and explain the STaR Shots program, if the committee is actually interested in that.

CHAIR: I'm very interested in that, if you're able to.

Major Gen. Fox : We're just trying to sort that out at the moment—sorry to interrupt.

CHAIR: Not at all.

Major Gen. Stuart : Chair, I think the government's 2020 Defence Strategic Update provides that sort of broad publicly-digestible view of what our strategic environment looks like today and makes some attempts to look at what the trends are that will affect our future. I think that history proves we're very poor at predicting what's going to happen in the future.

Noting that our strategic circumstances are less certain and that the confluence of geopolitics, economics, connectivity, human population demographics, climate and the like really come together in the Indo Pacific region in a way that's going to be significant for the world—and also where Australia sits at the fulcrum of the Indian and the Pacific oceans—we need to be able to deal with contingencies that arise. Without going into classified levels of detail, we're very clear that we need to be able to operate across five domains—as you've heard today and that's obviously reflected in your interest in the cyber and space domains—and how those assist us to compete nationally.

There are a whole range of effects that Australia needs to produce, whether they're in cooperation, competition or, indeed, in conflict. Defence enterprise and the ADF, as part of that, form part of that whole-of-government enterprise. Whether that's how we trade with partners—there was the discussion earlier about information, what our national message is and how that helps us to interact with friends and like-mindeds in the region. I guess it's situating Defence's part in that and how we then look across that spectrum and our strategy, as outlined in the strategic update and the 2020 Force Structure Plan of 'Shape. Deter. Respond.' That provides a broad description of the effects we want to create nationally, and Defence has a key role in supporting that. It's everything in the way that we work with our regional partners and allies, whether it's in training and people-to-people relationships, the collaborative development of technology or the interaction between our industry bases. Those are all part of a very broad range of efforts.

We've just been talking about those STaR Shots and the role of the Defence Science and Technology Group. That's another vector that brings together defence, academia and industry, not just nationally but internationally, and, in that space at least, we have a range of cooperative development programs with the United States, for example, and Phil can probably talk to some of those in detail.

In terms of describing what it is we are preparing for, we are effectively preparing to provide the government with options to deal with the uncertainty we face and a range of contingencies that we think, and government thinks, might be more likely than others, and they range from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, domestically, regionally and beyond, all the way through to the ability to respond to any sort of aggressive or kinetic attacks that might occur in our region.

CHAIR: I just want to go back to General Fox. Can you just give us an understanding of how likely it is that we are going to get someone from the department to come and talk to us about the eight STaR Shots? They're on a line, are they?

Major Gen. Fox : Yes, Chair. We're trying to arrange for their dial-in at the moment.

CHAIR: So we're close?

Major Gen. Fox : I'm not sure how close.

Unidentified speaker : I'll have some confirmation shortly.

CHAIR: I don't want to go over those eight shots superficially with you if we're able to delve into them in a bit more detail. I think, Admiral, this may be something you can speak to, and that's the remote undersea surveillance aspect of the STaR Shots.

Rear Adm. Hughes : While I've got a naval uniform, it's actually not my area; I'm obviously intelligence capability. But I think, in terms of that STaR Shot, if we get somebody from DSTG then they'll serve that answer; I don't have any support to be able to provide you that insight.

From a naval maritime perspective—and I am a naval officer—that environment is becoming very complex. It's being used for many different reasons, from resources all the way through to surveillance in the military context. It's an area of untapped potential, in terms of giving us advantage over our adversaries while at the same time providing us freedom of manoeuvre because of, as the general said, our geostrategic location. We're keenly reliant on freedom of movement, for moving trade around, from an economic perspective, or for our military's ability to manoeuvre through our region—or for your average Joe Blow who wants to take their yacht for a sail. So the work of being able to understand how you can hide in plain sight in that environment, or get strategic advantage through that STaR Shot, is critical to us, for understanding the environment we're operating in but also how we can best use technology, whether it's a submarine or a frigate or even an Air Force air platform. That large body of water has interactions both below and above it, whether from a meteorological perspective or whatever.

That STaR Shot is focused, as I suppose all of them are, on: What is the art of the possible? Where is technology going with its artificial intelligence and robotics and ways of exploiting the movement of sound through the water? And what intelligence or understanding could you get out of that? We need to understand what I call the maritime environment. If an Army unit has to manoeuvre through that, they need to interface with that, in an amphibious role or whatever. Understanding that environment and how technology can help us get that strategic advantage is absolutely critical. And the work they're doing in that program, from my broad understanding, will help us get after a number of vectors, in terms of technology and understanding that environment, to again bring the joint force—which has to operate in the maritime environment, no matter what domain you're in—the ability to have assurance around that environment.

Mr SNOWDON: Chair, through you, I know we had an inference about it earlier. But I imagine it's going to be quite difficult for DSTG to talk to us in an unclassified way.

Major Gen. Coyle : I would highly recommend that they come and give you a brief in a secure location. The work that they're doing is remarkable. Whilst you could get an unclassified brief, you could probably get the same off the DSTG website at the moment for just the general overview. It's probably available.

Mr SNOWDON: Rear Admiral Hughes just said it was an indicator of the need for us to not have this in the public domain.

Rear Adm. Hughes : In the terms of public domain, I think there is a need for government, taxpayers and the Australian public to understand that there is an organisation, in DSTG, where the work they do in their lab coats, on their computers or in a tank of water—wherever they're doing their science and technology work—and the way DSTG have integrated Australian academia and what I call some of these innovative industry partners in Australia. In all my time doing capability for the last 15 to 20 years, on and off driving ships, I've never seen such a focussed effort by that organisation to harness ingenuity, concepts or imagination in a way that we as the capability manager can reach into that organisation and give them a wicked problem. Past have gone the days where they used to give you a thick report and it would take four years to get something back. They are far more rapid and dynamic in the way we task them and the way they talk to us now. Sometimes you'd walk into a room, and you'd just be more confused as you walk out, because they are super smart people down there. But now they've developed the art where they can translate things like quantum computing. I'm an electrical engineer, but I still struggle understanding what it is. They give you the 'so what' in the way they articulate that, and then it allows us to apply that in a concepts environment in terms of how that thing is going to lead our force design.

Ms SWANSON: In an effects environment, yes.

Rear Adm. Hughes : Yes. And how does that change the way we're thinking? For one of our programs, they did some work for us. They said, 'What do you reckon about this bright idea?' We scratched our heads, sat down and thought about it and went: 'Wow. That could fundamentally change the way we're going to do something in the future.' It might be 10 years away because of the technical readiness levels down here in what I call bright ideas. But there's the speed we're now seeing them move not because of their own resource base but because of the fact that they can go to those relationships with academia—the University of South Australia, the University of New South Wales; the network is remarkable now. But then those universities tap into their programs, as the general says, for unclassified concepts, and then our job through DSTG is to lift those into the classified space and do what I call apply the classified problem to it. For example, on artificial intelligence, we've got in the unclas a program in which I could do something simplistic: if I want to track that red handbag on that red light rail getting off at that stop at this time of the day, I can give that to a bunch of co-cadets at the grammar school and they'll sit there and work out how they can track the handbag. But what I can now do is lift that up into a more classified environment and turn it to another problem set. It's the logic and it's the smarts, the thinking, that they bring. Everything they're now doing has a purpose, and it's not a science experiment. It really is a genuine going after of the next generation of technologies that will make us safer and more effective.

Mr SNOWDON: And sadly, the world doesn't know enough about them. That's, I think, a real issue.

Rear Adm. Hughes : To be honest, I would rather talk in a positive sense like this about what they're doing and how they're helping and let people have that bit of mystery but with the assurance that they know they are doing good work.

CHAIR: That's a very good point. Taking on board your point, of which I'm very mindful, equally, I think this goes to what we have done very poorly in Defence for eons. If you look at what we're spending over the next ten years, it's $270 billion dollars on procurement and double that for the actual operational costs of Defence; it's over half a billion dollars over the next ten years. The Australian public have a right to understand why we're doing certain things when we're spending that half a trillion dollars, yet there's this propensity in Defence to say, 'Well, you know, we can't answer that.' I get why in some instances they can't answer that, but we should also understand that when we get Defence saying, 'We can't answer that,' you will get questions on the part of the public and the media saying: 'Well, why are we spending $50 billion on submarines? Why are we spending this on that platform? What's the risk? What are we actually doing here?' If we're not more open with the Australian people as to why we are where we are and why we're spending this money, we're going to be criticised.

Mr SNOWDON: I don't think that's at issue.

CHAIR: Well, it is an issue.

Mr SNOWDON: Well, I don't think it is. I think what's at issue is us being prepared to understand that there is a space around information which is in the public domain and ought to be publicised, and we need to tell the world about our success and the benefits of having the Defence Science and Technology Group and their interaction with the broader community. That's all terrific, and we need to highlight it, absolutely. But, having had the experience, we know there is some stuff that you can't actually canvass.

CHAIR: Clearly.

Mr SNOWDON: So don't be shy about it. We get some from DSTG. They can tell us all they can about this stuff, but we need to be aware that at some point we need to go behind the shield a bit so we have a better understanding so we can inform the public, in a discreet way, and be confident about what's happening so that, with the budget elements you talked about, we can say from our point of view, in a bipartisan way, that we're very, very confident about the way in which these funds are being spent and the purpose for which they're being spent.

Major Gen. Coyle : If I may, I think one of the best things going at the moment is the ADF Parliamentary Program. The opportunity to go to pretty much anywhere across Defence, receive briefings and meet some of the people who are doing this work is remarkable, and I strongly encourage anyone, if they haven't had the opportunity, to do so, because we absolutely welcome the opportunity to showcase what we're doing.

Rear Adm. Hughes : The other thing is that I think there are a number of public announcements around the goodness. I use the Defence Innovation Hub as an example.

Ms SWANSON: I was just about to ask about that.

Rear Adm. Hughes : I can't remember how long it's been running now, but it's probably six years. I think it came very much out of that first-principles work. It's amazing how time flies. Every day, I read something in the paper or in the shortcuts about industry: 'Company X has been given a few million dollars to go and hunt a problem' Then, I must admit, I always think, 'How are we going to convert that investment into capability?' I think about what's happened now, and it applies to DSTG. They come up with some clever widget, and you've got to sit there and work out, 'How the hell am I going to use this?' But we know it's really clever. So I think now, with the science and technology funds, the Defence Innovation Hub and the way we then do that force development thing, we are seeing a lot more pull-through now, and it's reflected in a lot of those public announcements of those companies. What is it—Loyal Wingman? There's a real example of somebody who had a bright idea, and now it's a capability. It's a program.

Ms SWANSON: The Whiskey Project is another one.

Rear Adm. Hughes : I was just about to say that, being a naval guy and having seen that. I spent a lot of time on their Whiskey boat up in Sydney, my previous posting, and saw how they were interactive with the user. When we said, 'Well, that's not going to work, because we bounce these things off large ships; you've got to build some structural strength,' then they demonstrated through their technology how they built the resilience in the platform. So they're working with us to invest and develop, but the good thing is that no longer is Defence, I believe, just paying lip service to that investment. We're now consciously, before we invest, making a decision: 'Where could this end state take us?' There's a lot of work going on in the robotics unmanned systems, with the UAV water systems and with on-water systems. There's a lot of thinking now going into what we are really investing in. I'll be frank, there are companies who come to us with ideas, and we go, 'No, we do not see the vision.' I know they're disappointed, but what I have had is them coming back with, 'Well, what about this idea?' and we say, 'Now, that's getting closer to the mark.'

I think the other thing is making industry a fundamental input to capability. I know it's a term, but it's important. Why? They're having a conversation with industry—I'm not talking about the big primes. Army had their Innovation Day a little while ago; I think Navy has one, and I know Air Force does one. They are opportunities where we are now interacting with industry and academia, with DSTG providing that academia foot in. Those networks are growing. I think the more we push out the Defence Strategic Update Force Structure Plan documents and what's in the PBS [inaudible], the more it actually allows industry and academia—because I think we're communicating better—to see what Defence is interested in, rather than poking around in the dark, hoping the tail will land on the donkey somewhere.

Ms SWANSON: In respect of the Defence Innovation Hub, I have:

In 2019-20 the Defence Innovation Hub continued to invest in developing Australian technologies, awarding 51 innovation contracts.

Are you able to drill down into some examples of what they were?

Major Gen. Coyle : We can certainly organise that, if we could take that one on notice.

Ms SWANSON: Yes, that would be great.

Major Gen. Stuart : Each of the services has an innovation ecosystem and they work together at various levels. Certainly from an army perspective, we ran our eighth Army Innovation Day this year. We partner with the Defence Innovation Hub using the special notice mechanism. We put out some operational problems that we need to solve and asked those that have what they think is a potential solution to participate. The degree of innovation and commitment is remarkable. Last year's challenge was around integrated logistics and being able to track inventory. We awarded a number of contracts to small and medium enterprises to develop ideas and applications that would be useful in doing that.

Ms SWANSON: Can I just interject for a moment, General. We heard the other night from Katherine Jones and Steve Pearson with regard to enterprise resource planning. Is there an interface between what you're talking about and that? It seemed very relevant.

Major Gen. Stuart : Yes, absolutely. One of the features of the quality of the contenders in that space was that they understood the environment. The proposals and the applications that they had brought forward were all presented in the context of integrating with the ERP program and the SAP architecture that underpins that. They had a really good understanding, and that's a really important point, because one of the key aims of our collaboration with industry is to provide them with a really clear understanding of our requirements much earlier in the process. In my view, that has reached a pretty impressive degree of sophistication very, very quickly, in 12 to 18 months. By that I mean not only are we expressing what we think our requirements are, we're actively engaging with industry to talk to us about what they think the art of the possible is. It's then refining those requirements as a collaborative piece of work so that when we do put an RFT, or whatever, out with those requirements, we know that industry can support them and they already have a run-up in terms of how they're going to arrange themselves and their proposals to compete in those RFTs. In the innovation space, along with that innovation day, we ran into a couple of experiments, basically—the inaugural Army Robotics Exposition and the Integral Quantum Technology Challenge. We had 55 small and medium enterprises and some micro enterprises.

Ms SWANSON: So Fred and a shed?

Major Gen. Stuart : That is exactly right.

Ms SWANSON: That's good.

Major Gen. Stuart : We democratise the price of entry. We funded the hall space. Everyone got 1.5 metres squared. Everyone got the same ability to advertise and put their name on things, so it was really democratising. It ensured that the good ideas and the innovation were the things we were focused on and around a range of operational problems. It was the same in the quantum technology challenge. How can you use quantum technology to solve some of these operational problems?

Ms SWANSON: So this probably ties back to the chair's point a moment ago. I know this is the sixty-four thousand dollar question, I know that you have something that you need to do and you just want the kit to do it. As government, we have to come up with the money. We're always worried about the money and how we spend it. The other thing that really worries me, though, and you've absolutely nailed it here talking about innovation interfacing with industry, is how do we build capability within the Australian people—by that, I mean industry—so that we're actually becoming a smarter nation and we're not just using Australian companies that might be, with all due respect, international companies that have sort of slapped 'Australia' on the front and rebadged themselves locally. Look, that's good too. We need investment. I don't want to sort of sound jingoistic about that; I'm not suggesting that for a moment. But how do we build the capability, the innovation, the thinking of the Australian people to get them to form companies—and industry? In that realm, what's the value proposition on sovereignty? I know that's probably not a fair question; it's a very broad question. But what's the value of that as opposed to, 'This piece of kit cost this. It will perform this capability, this effect. Someone's got to pay for it.' My sense is that we're moving from the best and the cheapest to also, perhaps sovereignty, innovation. Am I wrong in detecting that?

Major Gen. Stuart : No.

Ms SWANSON: I just think it's so important. I'm sorry, I'm making a hash of verbalising what I'm thinking. It's funny that you talk about really brainy people. I've spent six months on this inquiry. You might come away and say, 'Oh, he or she wasn't a rocket scientist.' These people literally were. I totally understand what you're saying about the science types. They are so intelligent. You spend all this time with them thinking, 'Gee, I hope by osmosis this works and rubs off.' But what's the sovereign piece?

Major Gen. Stuart : What you've actually described really reflects the principles in government policy. Minister Price is certainly very clear with us on that and we've been working very hard on it. National security is a national endeavour. If we're to be successful in the strategic environment that we face then we need to have a coordinated national effort. And so, as Steve said, industry is a fundamental input to capability, along with people. Capability is the facilities and resources and all those other things that all come together to ensure that the young Australian women and men that we send off to do things have the best chance of succeeding. Industry is part of that team and, more and more in a very meaningful and better integrated way. The skill base that you refer to, General Fox is probably better able to talk to that than me. Just as these eight star shots are a distillation or a prioritisation of the areas where taxpayers' money and the departments, industry's and academia's efforts are best going to return on investment, the things we need, it's understanding what skills do we need to have in the Australian defence industry that will provide the best return on investment. Where is our value proposition relative to the global market? What do we need to grow in order to enhance sovereign resilience? What really matters? We learn a lot out of the global pandemic last year. So it's applying that thinking across Defence. And of course, it applies more broadly than Defence.

CHAIR: I just want to zoom out for a moment. Can you give us some greater understanding of what your particular units in the ADF are doing to assist critical industries like water, like sewerage, like electricity?

Major Gen. Fox : Steve Grzeskowiak is coming in this afternoon in relation to industry around those items. He's not here at this point, but he'll be here after 11:45 in terms of specific items you just mentioned.

CHAIR: Good. Okay. Thank you.      

Ms SWANSON: General Croyle wanted to add something a moment ago. You were looking as though you wanted to add something, but now the thought might have leapt out of your head. Sorry to put you on the spot.

Major Gen. Coyle : I was going to say that I think bottom-up innovation has never been more real than it is now. That's across our nation and equally apparent for us inside the military. I think that COVID last year, because of our inability to get things brought from other nations or companies and stuff, allowed that to blossom here in Australia. We're really keen to let it continue to blossom because there are some really good capabilities that are being suggested which are enabling us to get after technologies that are not even known at this stage. We will provide you some examples through the Defence innovation Hub.

Rear Adm. Hughes : I just want to make an advertisement for people who are listening who are small, medium industries with lots of bright ideas. If you don't use the Defence Innovation Hub or the Defence Science Next Generation Technology Fund—there are portals on the web; you just have to google them. If you don't come through there, I will guarantee you'll be lost in the Defence system. We purposely built those two portals for people who think they have a good idea. Now, I'm not promising everybody is going to get up because we do have requirements. But if you go through those portals and make connection with the people that sit behind them, there's a process in Defence where we as two-stars—the senior leadership—come together, go through all of those and we value them; we try and think through hard. There are other mechanisms when Army does an innovation day or whatever, but if you use those mechanisms, I will guarantee you will be heard and you'll be looked at. I can't guarantee you'll be picked up because, as I said, we have things we want to get after. But if you come in directly because you know somebody, there's a good chance in a busy person's email in-tray, it'll get lost; you'll get frustrated. And in fact, recently I've just gone back to an individual and said, 'Look, I get it, but please come through that gate because then it gets captured formally. We have a record of that.' It may not be this week we need it. It might pop up in a couple of weeks ago and we go 'wow'. We have a record now. Also, as part of our accountability to the Australian people, we can actually give the data around. When people say, 'We've got no innovation in Australia,' we say 'Well, actually, you're wrong. We've received so many thousands and, out of those, we have executed this and this is how many million dollars have gone out the door to help that. And by the way, this is what we've converted into technology.' I know it's a bit of an advertisement for Defence Innovation Hub and the Next Generation Technology Fund.

CHAIR: We will go to Dr David Kershaw. We were talking earlier about the eight STaR Shots, which are part of Defence's remit under the 2030 Defence Science and Technology Strategy. The various members of the ADF who are here before the committee today gave us the disclaimer that they were able to give us a superficial overview of the eight STaR Shots. I'm going to encourage you—to the extent that you are able to, given that this is a public hearing—to give us a bit more of an in-depth understanding of those eight STaR Shots.

Dr Kershaw : The eight STaR Shots are our work on the challenging problems that face Defence over the coming period of time. They've very much been developed as scientific challenges, not specific technologies. As you said, there are eight. The resilient multi-mission space STaR Shot is around how we actually provide resilient global communications, position navigation and timing, and geospatial intelligence capabilities, which are critical to everything we do in the military, direct to ADF users. We're looking at low-earth orbit SmartSat constellations. To kick into this STaR Shot a little bit more, four launch events over the coming decade have been identified in which we can put more and more capable small satellites into orbit and use them to look at existing and future Defence missions. When we say small satellites, these are satellites the size of a small washing machine. That STaR Shot is currently in its exploration phase.

To take a step back for the committee, we have a number of phases for these StaR Shots. The initial one is formation, where we start to get some ideas together. The second stage is exploration. Seven of the eight StaR Shots are in this stage, during which we work very closely with our military colleagues to help shape where the StaR Shots need to go. Progressively over the next year, each of the StaR Shots will move into what we call the voyage phase, where we will have some clear plans identified and will really start to ramp up the science investigation and innovation for each of the StaR Shots.

I'll continue with the StaR Shots for the moment. After resilient multi-mission space, we have information warfare, which is really about the key issue we are facing today—that being, how we deliver:

… blended awareness and resilient effects across the human, information and physical realms through a contested information environment.

This StaR Shot is progressing quite well and is working very closely with a number of the people who are in the room with you at the moment.

The next StaR Shot we have is agile command and control. It is fair to say that, in all areas today, human operators are being inundated with information and data. They need to make decisions in that environment. Agile command and control is about looking at the command and control of the future. How do we make sure that it is fit for purpose in this world, which is constantly adapting and overloading human operators? If you like, it's about how the ADF will fight tomorrow—how can we get the maximum out of the technology that is available to us and enable the human to make the right decisions? This is about developing concepts for what tomorrow's command centre might look like, and the artificial intelligence, machine learning and human-machine interfaces that will really help make those decisions into the future. This StaR Shot is one that actually follows a classic innovation adage: build a little, test a little. It has a number of activities underway already that will be regularly tested, on about a two-year cycle, to really evolve what command and control looks like into the future. This will give lots of opportunities for ideas to be fed into the research stage and then demonstrated in a controlled environment. That one is working quite well.

The next STaR Shot I'll talk about is our quantum assured position, navigation and timing STaR Shot. This is about assuring position, navigation and timing in a contested environment. On what I mean by 'contested environment': think about an environment in which the global positioning system is turned off or is interfered with so that we can't use it. The key technology we're looking at here is in using quantum technologies. There are two demonstration events planned of actually demonstrating candidate quantum position, navigation and timing systems at sea; I'm not going to give the date, because I don't have it at my fingertips. But there are two events coming up in the next five years to progressively demonstrate how well a quantum PNT system can be operated. This is using very capable and novel Australian technology, as the example technologies that are being chased.

The fifth STaR Shot I would like to talk about is our disruptive weapon effects STaR Shot. This is looking at how we create weapon effects in forms other than we do today. A key technology in here is looking at swarms—that is, lots of small uninhabited vehicles that create effect—and how we counter them. This STaR Shot has just entered its exploration phase and is still very much getting its thinking through about the exact problem we are trying to chase.

The sixth STaR Shot I will talk about is operating in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear—CBRN—environments. This STaR Shot is about how we enable the joint force to operate safely and effectively in contested chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threat environments. It is true today that access to CBRN, especially chemical and biological agents, is more and more widely available, and the likelihood of us having to operate in such an environment at some point in the future is increasing. This STaR Shot is going: 'How do I know that I have a problem? How do I sense the agents?' Some novel technology that's being looked at there is, 'How do I have small sensors that the soldier, sailor or air crew can wear to detect that they've got agents we need to respond to?' and: 'How I do then safely operate? How do I protect the equipment and the humans? How do I clean down after being exposed in a CBRN environment?' This STaR Shot is already building up consultative panels that it's working with to really look at what technology is available.

The next STaR Shot I'd like to talk about is battle-ready platforms. This is the one STaR Shot that is still in the formation stage, as we really work closely with our military colleagues to look and see, 'What is the key problem we're trying to get after here?' This STaR Shot is built around the Industry 4.0 concepts—working into a digital environment. It's looking at how we use next-generation data analytics and the modern engineering approach of digital twin systems to predict what our naval platforms, air platforms and land platforms in the future are being used for and how they are operating, and how we actually use the data there to optimise the maintenance of the platforms, the status of how they are, and understand what they can do over the coming mission, and, in doing so, use science and technology to drive down the cost of sustainment and increase the availability of the platforms. It's a big problem, and that's why we're still working through what the key problems are that we're going to work with.

The last STaR Shot I'll talk about—I understand there's already been some discussion on it—is remote undersea surveillance, which is around: 'How do I, in a part of the world where we have lots of ocean and very few assets with humans on, use the advances in autonomous systems, smart technology, smart sensing and artificial intelligence to help understand what is operating in our underwater environment into the future?' Again, it is another big challenge and a key challenge for Australia, with the water we have around us. Hopefully, that is a start to answering the questions you were asking.

CHAIR: Thanks very much, Dr Kershaw. Can I take you to section 3.1b of the annual report, to the fourth paragraph from the bottom, which starts with, 'Physics-based models,' on page 39? Are you with me there?

Dr Kershaw : I can pull it up quickly. Yes, I have it.

CHAIR: On page 39 it talks about:

Physics-based models of ocean circulation processes affecting acoustic propagation …

Can you just talk a little more about that paragraph, please?

Dr Kershaw : Okay. This is something that we have been working on for a long time. The physics of the ocean are really critical for how we can operate underwater with sonar. Underwater, sound is subject to variations in temperature as it goes through water and it's also subject to the currents in the water.

I will try to paint a mental picture. When you look at an image of yourself in a window, occasionally you see distortions in that image. When we're underwater, the complexity of the underwater environment is such that in the way sound travels through the ocean it's always distorted. Depending on the conditions, you might have a surface ship sonar which on some days can see a long way out in front of it and then at other times of the year the environmental conditions are such that that sonar can only see a very short distance. And we have other circumstances where we can see a long way in the shallow just below the surface of the water but we can't see down below because of the acoustic environment.

These conditions can actually be predicted and modelled once we start to measure the temperature profile of the ocean and if we know the conditions of the current. Using wave physics, we can very accurately model the environment and thus predict how our sonars will operate. That's what we mean by 'physics-based modelling'. It's very closely hooked to what the Bureau of Meteorology does. It's that key part about measuring and predicting the ocean and predicting the performance of our systems. It's absolutely fundamental to modern undersea warfare.

CHAIR: I'm getting a lot of nodding from your colleagues in uniform here across the table, saying that that's exactly right. Deputy Chair.

Ms SWANSON: Thank you very much for your time today. I just want to pick up on that explanation. Are you doing very much stuff out of Learmonth for this? Or is this one of those things where you just work with whatever ocean environments you can get your hands on?

Dr Kershaw : We work with a range of people on this. For the operational data, we have strong links into the AGAO, the operational Navy and the meteorological centres. It's also an area where a few universities in Australia are quite strong. They've done measurements of relative environment for many, many years. One of our key relationships for a long time has been with Curtin University's Centre for Marine Science and Technology. They do a lot of measuring of the ocean and a lot of the prediction work. Those are just a couple of examples of where we operate. It's one where we leverage heavily off the civilian environment, because the physics of the ocean are the same whether we're doing civilian applications or military applications.

Ms SWANSON: This is potentially a question to people in the room. Is it right to assume that if all communications went down—I'm talking about satellites and things—that we're still able to communicate via that eight words a minute with submarines, via email? I know this is very general now, but am I correct in that assumption?

Major Gen. Coyle : From a communications perspective, we have a system called PACE—primary alternate contingency and emergency.


Major Gen. Coyle : Everything that we do has multiple paths in case something goes down, whether it's submarines, radios or satellites. So, yes, we have redundancy in what we do not to have redundancy. It would be quite disastrous for us.

Ms SWANSON: But am I still right that the thing which goes on at Learmonth, where they can send the really long sine waves—

Rear Adm. Hughes : I'm not a submariner, so I'll leave that to the submariners.

Major Gen. Coyle : It's a very low frequency—

Ms SWANSON: That's what I—

Rear Adm. Hughes : Yes, a very low frequency. That technology is still used; it's not just satellite.

Ms SWANSON: It's older technology, isn't it?

Rear Adm. Hughes : Yes, but it's things like HF—high-frequency comms. In the film Independence Day they went back to HF to defeat the aliens, so it's still something we teach our people!

CHAIR: Dr Kershaw, in the penultimate paragraph on page 39 of the annual report there's a discussion about the EpiFX influenza forecast tool. Have we been using that in relation to COVID and, if so, how?

Dr Kershaw : Within our Land Division, in the CBRN branch, there's a small team that does that epidemiological modelling. That team has been working very carefully with university colleagues and it has been a key part of doing pandemic modelling for COVID from very early last year. It was the case that the capability being developed was able to be pivoted very rapidly into that civilian application that's so critical to us all.

CHAIR: So we are using it in relation to forecasting the impacts of COVID?

Dr Kershaw : We've been using the tools developed in that program to assist with all the COVID work, yes.

CHAIR: Alright. Are there any last questions from colleagues? No? Thank you very much, Dr Kershaw—

Dr Kershaw : Thank you.

Mr SNOWDON: Sorry, Chair, before we do that I have something on the subject of having other briefings at a later point. We'll take that up with Major General Coyle?

Rear Adm. Hughes : Yes.

CHAIR: Thank you for your attendance today. You will be sent a copy of the draft transcript of your evidence when it becomes available and you'll have an opportunity to request corrections to any transcription errors. I'll just put you on notice, as I indicated at the opening, that if you've been asked to provide any additional information—and you have—to please provide it to the secretariat by 9 July. If you need longer, please let us know.

Proceedings suspended from 11 : 27 to 11 : 45