Defence's executive clear-out after Defence Materiel Organisation abolished

Defence's executive clear-out after Defence Materiel Organisation abolished

The Defence Department is moving to clear out the men and women who have led the nation's military procurement effort in recent years.

The remaining senior executives from the abolished Defence Materiel Organisation have failed to make the shortlist for the top job at its new incarnation, the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group.

Former DMO General of Australia's submarines David Gould.

Former DMO General of Australia's submarines David Gould.Credit:Jay Cronan

As part of its "first principles" shake-up, Defence will clear out the band three senior executives from the DMO replacing them with just one senior public servant, leading the new group.


The high ranking bureaucrats occupying the positions have been left with the choice of moving on or accepting a big drop in pay and seniority to stay with the Sustainment Group.

Former DMO boss and its staunch public defender Warren King has already moved on from the top job although he remains with the department, doing "good work" according to insiders.

The man who led the much-maligned submarine program for three years set sail back to England in recent weeks with a parting shot across the bows for Australia's approach to big Defence decisions. David Gould described the intensity of the ­political debate around sub­marines as "extraordinary" and said it stifled the decision-making process.

The executive acting in Mr King's spot at the top of the group, Harry Dunstall, who has served with DMO since 2007, is understood to have failed to make the shortlist for the top jobs at the new CASG.

Shireane McKinnie, who was DMO's general manager systems, joint and air and was responsible for overseeing the delivery of the joint strike fighter, is also not being considered for a senior role at the new capability group.

Colin Thorne, the DMO's general manager of land and maritime projects, is another who failed to make the shortlist, according to sources close to the portfolio.

The First Principles review called for 3000 civilian jobs to be culled with another 1000 sailors, soldiers and air force personnel moved from their office jobs back into the armed forces in an effort to clear lines of control in the sprawling Defence Department.

In some cases, the review found an administrative structure of 12 layers between top bosses and front line staff.

But not everybody thinks the potential loss of senior leadership and ability from the procurement effort is a good thing.

"When you strip out the entire senior tier of management and leadership and don't replace it with anything, does that make the task easier or more difficult?" asked one Defence source.

The Defence Department's media unit refused to answer questions about the future of the former DMO executives.

"Defence does not comment on such matters for obvious reasons," a spokesman said.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story referred to the "late and over-budget joint strike fighter". A Defence Department spokesman said on Monday that the Australian component of the international JSF program remains on schedule and within cost estimates. The spokesman added that Harry Dunstall had not applied for the job of chief executive at the new Capability, Acquisition and Sustainment Group.

Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age

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