The powers available to military police are "outdated and not well adapted to the modern Australian Defence Force", undermining investigators' authority and the overall disciplinary system.
That is the view of the country's Judge Advocate General, who has called for broad reform to reflect the realities of modern police investigations.
Rear Admiral Michael Slattery is charged with numerous roles including oversight of the operation of laws relating to discipline in the Defence Force. In his most recently published annual report, he said civilian police powers had been "substantially expanded in the last 30 years, but little or no equivalent change" had taken place for military police.
Rear Admiral Slattery, who is also a NSW Supreme Court Justice, made particular mention of search powers, saying they had not kept pace with advancements in digital technology.
He said in equivalent situations, service police lacked the same ability as civilian police to gain access to digital information stored on suspects' devices.
"The fact that civilian investigators have these express powers, and ADF investigators do not, frustrates investigators and commanders and tends to undermine the authority of the ADF service police, and in turn undermines the effectiveness of the ADF discipline system," Rear Admiral Slattery said in the report.
He said the fact service police lacked these powers was "not the result of considered policy-making".
Programs within the Defence Force had attempted to address the challenges of criminal activity facilitated by the internet, but these did not address the issue of giving service police modern law enforcement powers.
"Defence Legal is examining the scope of the investigative powers of service police," Rear Admiral Slattery's report said.
"Broad reform is needed to ensure the powers of service police are contemporary, fit for the purpose of modern investigations and balanced by suitable limits and safeguards."
Rear Admiral Slattery said the balance between any increase in service police powers and safeguards to ensure they were appropriate would be "a matter for Parliament to consider".
He also said it was critical to update the mental health provisions of the Defence Force Discipline Act to current civilian standards.
Then-acting Director of Military Prosecutions Colonel Richard Cawte also took aim at the Act's "very dated" mental health provisions in the director's most recent published annual report.
Colonel Cawte said "certain ADF members" were reporting mental health issues while either under investigation, when charged, or after being convicted.
His report said at least seven officers, including one senior officer, had reported a previously undiagnosed mental health condition in the lead-up to their trial during the 2017-18 reporting period.
"It is difficult to determine whether the mental health problem was hidden by them and may have contributed to their offending or whether being charged has precipitated the problem," he said.
Colonel Cawte said when a Defence Force member charged with disciplinary offences reported mental health issues, the only means of dealing with the issue were by relying on the "very dated" mental health legislative provisions, or by the Director of Military Prosecutions taking the mental health issues into account when determining whether to proceed with charges.
"All cases referred to me where the ADF member presents a mental health problem are complex and require detailed and very careful consideration," his report said.
"This is an area that needs legislative reform, particularly to establish treatment plans and diversionary conferencing."