National

Defence continue to shed middle management as graduates begin work

The Department of Defence is expected to farewell hundreds of middle management public servants in coming weeks, as a large cohort of graduates begin work. 

More than 1000 executive-level staff applied for voluntary redundancy last year although the department accepted only 575 applications. 

A former public servant has been charged with fraud.
A former public servant has been charged with fraud. Photo: Tanya Lake

Close to half of those granted redundancy departed before Christmas with the the Community and Public Sector Union expecting the remainder to leave by March.  

The redundancy program will slash the executive level workforce by 10 per cent as the department seeks to increase the number of junior staff under each manager.

APS graduate intake, 2001 to 2015. grads, graduates, grad, intake, public servants, public service
APS graduate intake, 2001 to 2015. grads, graduates, grad, intake, public servants, public service 

A defence spokesman said there were no plans to establish a further redundancy program, although organisational change would still be required "as part of normal business improvements".

Last year, the department also announced job cuts for senior executive staff with 150 public servants expected to leave before Christmas.

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The SES and EL bands at the department have remained largely unchanged for the last three years despite more than 4000 public servants leaving the 18,200 strong workforce.

"The voluntary redundancy program is about re-balancing and reshaping the defence workforce," a department spokesman said.

"Defence has focused on ensuring capability is maintained and offers were made only where it was consistent with organisational needs and requirements."

Defence intended to complete the redundancy program last year although progress was slowed due to the volume of staff departing the workforce.

Around 80 redundancies can be processed each pay cycle although offers would need to be made and responses received before they can be finalised.

The redundancies come after a first principles review recommended the department thin executive ranks, with many supervising fewer than three staff and in some instances, none.

The review headed by former Rio Tinto Australia managing director David Peever​ also called for the Defence Materiel Organisation to be abolished as a standalone agency.

The DMO was integrated into the Defence Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group last year and a number of vacancies were created by earlier redundancies.

Department secretary Dennis Richardson told a senate estimates hearing late last year a recruitment drive would be launched in early 2016 with staff numbers set to stabilise by mid-2016.

The department has nearly doubled its intake of graduates this year with 250 positions offered, despite only 160 graduates accepting roles last year. 

The 2015 graduate intake dropped to the lowest level in a decade, although almost all of the Australian Public Service's 10 biggest employers have hired more graduates for the coming year

Among those accepting redundancies are middle management staff working on the joint strike fighter and submarine acquisition programs.

The breakdown of voluntary redundancies from Defence include 214 from the capability acquisition and sustainment group [formerly the Defence Materiel Organisation], 42 from the science and technology group, 29 from the vice-chief of the defence force group, 19 from the air force and five from the navy.

Among those taking redundancies are 60 project managers, 55 engineers, 34 scientists and 40 information technology professionals.

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