Dr Andrew Davies from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Dr Andrew Davies from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Photo: Andrew Meares

Observers quote Monty Python's Life of Brian to highlight the confusing make-up of the Defence Department's troubled equipment planning arm and argue that Defence wants to buy too many large weapons.

The management of the Defence Materiel Organisation is seeking to quell staff fears that the agency will be privatised, with the loss of up 3000 public service jobs.

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The DMO has said no decision has been made about the future of staff members.

Analysts Andrew Davies and Mark Thomson from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute have done research into changes being made in Defence.

In particular the department's capability development group (CDG), which has a close relationship with the DMO and puts proposals together on military equipment that should be bought or built.

But the two men could only sky their hands and ask ''Judean People's Front, anyone?'' when told ''the capability development reform stream governance committee handed over reform activities to the capability development and materiel reform committee''.

Dr Davies said Defence's tribal culture created confusion and lack of accountability about delivering projects within budgets and before deadlines.

''I think Defence desperately needs a headquarters and Defence needs a chief of staff,'' Dr Davies said.

''If you look at the defence capability committee and other large Defence committees, they have so many people sitting at the table, there is such a diffusion of responsibility and such a different set of perspectives coming to any given problem, that it is very hard to cut through and make those incisive decisions that are required''.

''I think there is a management problem that is bigger than CDG.''

Their reference to the fictional and fractious relations between the People's Front of Judea, the Judean People's Front and the Judean Popular People's Front was not the only criticism from the respected defence industry observers.

While the two respect the professionalism and hard work of Defence's capability development group, they were adamant its spending plan was heavily oversubscribed with large projects. ''The [plan] doesn't have just one elephant in the room, it has a herd of them,'' Dr Davies wrote.

''The future submarine, future frigate, F-35 joint strike fighter, armoured vehicles for the army and maritime patrol aircraft total, by my estimation, over $100 billion for the acquisition phase.

''To put that in perspective, the current annual acquisition budget is around $5 billion.''

He said this meant mega projects would consume two decades of current acquisition funding without room for all the other projects needed to keep the Australian Defence Force working effectively. While Defence spending was set to be increased to 2 per cent of Australia's gross domestic product by the end of the decade, Dr Davies estimated this would still not be enough money.

Their bleak view can be seen in a submission to the government inquiry into how well Defence is responding to recommendations made by the Australian National Audit Office.

A Defence spokeswoman said a report due in 2015 - supported by another report called the force structure review - will look at issues of affordability.

'The Minister for Defence has publicly stated that this process will need to balance cost and capability, not assessing the elements individually, but at a whole of capability level,'' the spokeswoman said.

Dr Davies told a committee hearing that the DMO's relationship with Defence should not be changed, despite past recommendations to that effect.

''If you took DMO further away from the Department of Defence, it would make it harder for that experience of working with industry to be fed back into the process, and I think that would be a bad thing,'' he said.