We have used two key external reviews into fleet maintenance and sustainment as catalysts for real change in the way we conduct those crucial programs. That has included a “back-to-basics” approach with our people, making the technical integrity of our platforms and systems a key focus of all sailors and officers. It is essential for us to understand a platform’s design and operating intent so that operations are planned within that intent. It is also important to understand that when we ask our people to operate equipment outside of that intent we know the reason for doing so, as well as what risk mitigation is needed to allow it to be done as safely as possible.
We have recently introduced a Seaworthiness Management System to govern the operational effectiveness, safety, and environmental protection of the force. The system is intended to unify management of activity to deliver operational effects; to inform actions and decisions by the chain of command; and to assure me—as the Defence Seaworthiness Authority—that those systems are in a suitable state to safely achieve their mission. The system makes a holistic and informed recommendation to me about the state of all RAN platforms, including their physical structure, people, procedures, and systems.
For all that, our greatest challenge to force readiness remains retaining a fit, healthy, skilled, and tech-savvy workforce. In Australia there is intense external competition for our well-trained personnel, particularly technical sailors. We have invested heavily in reinvigorating that workforce through targeted incentives to remain in service: better career planning; providing more industry outplacements to give our people a different perspective; and building on the esprit de corps through a range of challenges and awards. Our cultural-change program—New Generation Navy—is key to retaining people. It builds a culture around a people-centered leadership approach, but also supports our warfighting mission, reinforces the importance of seaworthiness, and values performance and a willingness to accept both personal and organizational accountability. At the end of the day, all of that builds force readiness.