The Defence Department is planning an ambitious, four-year project to fit out offices for Canberra staff, budget papers reveal.
A major "future office accommodation" project was one of several local infrastructure programs the major ACT employer was planning in coming years.
Defence's budget portfolio statement released this week shows the department will undertake a major project in Canberra that would fit out new office accommodation at an as yet undisclosed location.
The statement revealed that pending parliamentary approval, construction for a "fit-for-purpose workplace environment" was due to commence in mid-2022 and was expected to finish in late 2025.
Defence has previously indicated it could vacate its Campbell Park offices, where its leases were due to expire in 2022, and was seeking up to 65,000 square metres of office space in Canberra to house its staff.
Budget papers show it will also fit out leased facilities at 50 Collie Street, Fyshwick and level 1 of the Minter Ellison building in Barton. Both of these projects are planned to be completed by mid-2021.
Defence's budget statement revealed it planned to provide an "exemplar" of the department's office accommodation use by rolling out a flexible working pilot at its Brindabella Park office, near Canberra Airport, next year.
Synergy Group executive director Stephen Oxford, who consults with government on a range of property matters, said the pilot would involve Defence trialling activity-based working at its Brindabella Park office.
If the department, on the back of a positive trial, was able to implement activity-based working more broadly across its offices it would be able to secure massive savings, Mr Oxford said.
"For example, Defence currently leases 261,000 square metres, providing 16.4 square metres for every desk," he said.
"This would be costing them about $125 million each year. An activity-based working model could see them provide something like seven desks for every 10 staff, at a density of around 10 square metres per staff member.
"If they were to achieve this, it would reduce their office footprint and could save them in the region of $70 million a year."
Budget papers flagged the office building spend as Defence secured increases in staff, and forward estimates showed enormous increases to the department's coffers in future years.
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In July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government would spend $270 billion over the next decade on defence as it looked to shore up Australia's position in a more volatile post-pandemic world.
The Defence Department received a $3 billion funding boost in the budget, rising from $39 billion in 2019-20 to $42 billion this financial year.
The increases will continue over the coming years, as the department's funding is projected to soar beyond $51 billion in the 2023-24 financial year.
Defence's workforce is also set to grow, absorbing $55.8 billion of its spending across the forward estimates and rising to $14.5 billion in annual costs for the department by 2023-24.
Its average staffing level will grow by almost 200 civilian public servants this financial year and a further 100 in 2021-22.
Between last financial year and the end of forward estimates in 2023-24, the entire Defence workforce, including military personnel, is expected to grow by about 4000 people.
Defence's program to acquire military equipment will cost $70.5 billion in the four years to 2023-2024, while maintenance will cost $56.3 billion.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said in a recent report nearly one-third of the decade's budget for maintaining military equipment would be devoted to the additional cost of supporting new acquisitions.