Recruitment efforts by defence to boost ICT numbers costing billions

Private sector offered cash bonuses to share tech staff

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has spent $3.8 billion since 2001 trying to boost recruitment and retention through a range of new initiatives.

According to a report released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) this week, the ADF enlisted 8924 new staff last financial year, one of the best results in 30 years and 1125 more than the previous year.

However, its ICT skills that are in serious shortage which is why the ADF will spend $215 million in training and support over the next decade.

The department will need 12,000 new employees during this time with 25 percent coming from an engineering background.

Last year the department spent more than $300 million on research and development to nurture innovation, this will continue and be supported by a closer working relationship with universities and industry.

The most recent initiative is a joint defence-industry training taskforce established to pool resources with the private sector.

Speaking in Adelaide this week, parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Defence, Peter Lindsay, said there is no point in the private and public sectors competing for staff.

"We can both benefit from sharing the finite supply of skilled personnel; we are all finding it difficult to attract staff from engineering and technical trades," he said.

"As the defence force continues to be deployed in a variety of ways and lcoations, we need Reservists with specific technical skills.

"Employees who volunteer for defence service can develop their existing skills while earning extra money. In return, employers can receive significant cash payments to offset the temporary absence of their staff."

The government is also establishing a Defence Future Capability Technology Centre to drive innovation in defence technology.

Applications for participation in the centre opened last week with a final decision to be announced at the end of the year.

The goal is to pool the resources of industry, universities and publicly funded research agencies to develop defence technology that will enhance the capability of the ADF.

Applications cover robotics, electronic warfare self-protection, high-energy electromagnetics and integrated battlespace and systems integration.

Figures from the ASPI show that since the Coalition government came to office in 1996 the defence budget has increased from $10.6 billion in 1995-96 to $22 billion in 2007-08, which is an increase of 47 percent during this period.

The government is also committed to three percent real growth per annum in defence spending until 2015-16.

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