Former top bureaucrats to oversee defence changes

·1-min read
Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

Former defence department boss Dennis Richardson is among past top bureaucrats appointed to independently oversee a major shake-up of Australia's military.

An external advisory panel will oversee the rollout of the Defence Strategic Review recommendations.

The panel will include Mr Richardson, former finance department secretary Rosemary Huxtable and former foreign affairs deputy secretary Richard Maude.

It will be co-chaired by the former federal minister Stephen Smith and ex-defence chief Sir Angus Houston, who wrote the review report.

"Realising the review's ambition requires major reform," Defence Minister Richard Marles said.

"It is appropriate that such significant reform is accompanied by an independent assessment of progress and challenges as we undertake this important task."

The panel will report biannually to government.

The government has also named four people to take forward another recommendation of the review - an examination of the Navy's surface combatant fleet capability.

The team will involve retired US Navy vice admiral William Hilarides, retired RAN vice admiral Stuart Mayer and Ms Huxtable, with incoming defence department deputy secretary Jim McDowell supporting the team as a strategic adviser.

Meanwhile, the finance department has revealed it set up a unit to work on commercial options for the government as it seeks to design and build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact.

Department official Andrew Jaggers told a Senate committee the team was working with defence officials on "what commercial options are open to government for the delivery of AUKUS ... and a range of areas from sustainment to infrastructure".