The Australian Army hopes documenting key decisions within an overall risk management framework will help ease major problems with Army capability.
A recently released Auditor-General's report found Army was suffering major resource shortfalls, including of ammunition and combat-ready vehicles, while its commitment to have five infantry battalions and a commando regiment on 90 days' readiness notice was not being met.
"Army documentation indicates vehicles are in varying degrees of repair, with significant proportions of the fleet either not available for use or subject to restricted-use limitations," the report says.
The ANAO notes the Army has implemented a range of strategies to improve the allocation of resources across Army; address issues associated with the introduction into service of equipment; and enhance internal reporting arrangements since 2003.
But in a report issued this month it finds Army must further refine its strategies and enhance linkages to overarching Army and Defence capability priorities to ensure remediation measures are progressively implemented effectively within available funding.
The ANAO says Army capability is being hampered by a series of factors that have emerged over many years and that will require a years-long remediation effort. And it found if Army is to improve its ability to achieve desired outcomes it will need to pay attention to: identifying personnel numbers and skill requirements; improving the availability and serviceability of existing equipment; addressing issues delaying the introduction into service of new and updated equipment; and refining processes that allocate personnel and equipment across Army units.
Army's capacity to assess and address capability issues in a structured manner has been inhibited by shortcomings in internal reporting arrangements. The ANAO found that these shortcomings contributed to an overstatement in performance measures provided against Army capability outputs in the 2002-03 Defence Annual Report.
"In the period since the White Paper 2000, Army has commenced developing responses to many of these challenges and has implemented a range of strategies to: improve the allocation of resources across Army; address issues associated with the introduction into service of equipment; and enhance internal reporting arrangements.
"Army capability directives are developed using the Military Appreciation Process which is a decision-making tool used within Defence. This incorporates risk assessment and identification processes, and is repeated at various levels of command within Army as the overarching capability directive for Army cascades through the layers of command into specific unit level directives. The ANAO identified that, at the unit level, procedures surrounding the application of the Military Appreciation Process could be improved, particularly in the area of documentation of key decisions and associated risks," the report says.
It found units apply the Military Appreciation Process - which has at its centre a series of risk identification and analysis processes that are used to inform key decisions - with varying degrees of rigour, in developing subordinate directives. There is limited documentation of key decisions made, and risks identified, in the Military Appreciation Process. It says Army needs to document these decisions adequately documented in a risk management framework, to clearly indicate capability issues identified in the planning phase, thereby providing a sounder basis for capability reporting processes.
The ANAO recommends that, in order to maintain the visibility of risks associated with the implementation of higher-level directives at the unit level, Army document key decisions made during the development of unit level directives within an overall risk management framework which should be regularly monitored and resourced.
Brad Greer, president of the Risk Management Institution of Australasia, says sound risk management is essential in the operation of any organization, be it the defence force, any other government entity or a private organization of any size.
"The best way to implement sound risk management is to use the generic framework set out in the Australian/New Zealand Standard 4360 and to adapt that to suit the specific context and environment of the organization involved," he says.
Greer says the standard details the process, which involves establishing the context, identification, analysis, evaluation, treatment, monitoring and communicating of risk. The design and implementation of the risk management system will be influenced by the varying needs of the organization, its objectives, its products and services, and the processes and specific practices employed.
"The communication aspect of the risk management process is vital, as the ANAO's report notes. No risk management program can function in a vacuum, it must be communicated to all stakeholders involved," he says.
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