Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has warned the Australian Defence Force it must be more transparent to maintain public trust, amid the fallout of the Afghanistan inquiry.
Outlining the Defence Transformation Strategy on Friday, Senator Reynolds did not directly address the Brereton report - which found Australia special forces soldiers were involved in the unlawful killings of 39 Afghan civilians - except to acknowledge it had been a "difficult" few weeks for the Defence community.
"There are still some very challenging times ahead for us all," Senator Reynolds said.
"I don't wish to say anything more about it here this morning, other than to reinforce a simple message. A strong and resilient Defence organisation can and will continue to deal with big challenges and be better for it."
However she said Defence needed to lift its game when it came to explaining its activities.
"Last year, the Prime Minister stated that ... that all public servants must have a clear line of sight between what they're doing and the Australian people," Senator Reynolds said.
"Transparent communication about Defence's activities is essential for maintaining Australians trust and that is never more truer than it is today. And Defence must also get better, much better, at explaining why and how Defence is acquiring, how it is developing, how it is sustaining, and how it is employing our capabilities."
It comes nine months after the Australian National Audit Office sandblasted Defence over its ineffective media strategy.
Defence employs nearly 170 people in communications and marketing roles, approximately 1 per cent of its 16,000-strong workforce, yet it focused too much on how quickly it could respond to media requests, not whether it actually answered questions, the audit found.
However Senator Reynolds' call may rankle some, given she has not fronted the press since the damning findings were released.
Instead she appeared at a business breakfast the day after the report was released, saying accountability for the Defence response was "critically important".
Defence will also conduct a leadership review as part of the transformation strategy, Senator Reynolds said.
"It is timely now to update and clarify accountabilities to support decision making, problem solving, and risk management by all of you as our senior leaders. A baseline review of all SES and star rank accountabilities will be undertaken to examine responsibilities, authorities performance measures, and also allocated resources," she said.
It comes as Defence cops heat over the lack of consequences for those higher up the chain over the Afghanistan killings.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told radio station 4BC on Friday senior leaders should also be held to account.
"So we've tried to set up the most robust, transparent and good governance processes to see how we can deal with this issue the best we can," Mr Morrison said.
"But in each case, it's important that not only is there accountability in the defence forces for individual alleged acts, but also in the chain of command about those who had responsibilities and accountabilities in that chain of command. And that's what I expect to be done."
Senator Reynolds also flagged changes to how Defence would procure military assets.
She said there would be a "clearer and more streamlined acquisitions process" that would "better demonstrate to Australian taxpayers that [Defence] is effectively managing its assets in service".
Another Australian National Audit Office report last year showed billions of dollars' worth of defence projects are now running a collective 57 years behind schedule.
Defence would also procure equipment from more Australian companies under the strategy.
"The government is committed to seeing more Australian companies delivering and sustaining world class capabilities for the ADF. To do this, we have to further develop our sovereign industrial base," Senator Reynolds said.
"We must work to make it more robust and more resilient with greater international competitiveness and export potential. Innovation and Australian science and technology are of course integral to this.
"In conclusion, I say to all of you here today, embracing and implementing the defence transformation strategy is each of your responsibilities, no matter your location, no matter your position, no matter your rank."
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