Senator questions 'interim defence force'

·2-min read

Independent senator Rex Patrick has raised concerns about the increased reliance on interim solutions within the Australian Defence Force.

Senator Patrick highlighted the growing trend after he and Labor's Penny Wong quizzed Australian Defence Force officials about a troubled battle management program.

The multibillion dollar software system allows army commanders to control units in the field.

But the major contract has been placed on hold after the software provider failed to secure accreditation for its latest version.

In the meantime, the ADF is using another product.

Senator Patrick said it was the latest in a long list of military capabilities with stop-gap solutions in place.

"We've got an interim air combat capability with the Super Hornets, we've got interim capabilities with respect to the MHR-90s (helicopters)," he told ADF officials at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

"We've got a Collins life-of-type extension to get us through to the future submarine program.

"Now we've got what is an essential battle management interim solution. It's almost like we've got this interim ADF."

Senator Patrick raised concerns about the timing of the software tangle, given rising tensions in the region.

"Maybe this is the absolute wrong time to end up in the situation we're in," he said.

Army chief Richard Burr said the situation was under control.

"I have a responsibility to ensure that an operational capability is in place, hence the interim solution has been put in place," Lieutenant General Burr told the committee.

"We will obviously continue to work with (defence officials) and the company to resolve the current circumstances with the technical and commercial reviews that are underway, and that will inform the way ahead.

"Yes, I would like a capability in place as soon as we can, for obvious reasons."

Foreign Minister Marise Payne noted the battle management program had been in place since 2009, long before the coalition came to power in 2013.

Senator Payne said the government was focused on ramping up "a very ambitious program" of defence acquisitions.

"It was a big task, senator. A very big task."

Labor defence spokesman Brendan O'Connor said the coalition liked to talk tough on defence acquisitions but after six ministers in eight years, had failed to deliver on its promises.

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