Exploring the Untapped Element of the Ninth Fundamental Input to Capability

by Matthew Graham and John Smith

The 2016 Defence White Paper highlights the recognition of industry into Defence capability development.

This article explores the untapped element of the Ninth Fundamental Input to Capability (FIC), industry as a FIC, detailing innovative partnering with Defence in supporting the design, delivery and analysis of Joint Experimentation.


Since the recognition of industry as one of the Fundamental Inputs to Capability (FIC) in 2016, Defence has been more engaging with industry providers as part of its capability development process. This was not always the case. There was often a hesitancy by Defence to engage in a true partnership arrangement with industry. With the recognition of the importance of industry, there has been closer engagement to identify areas where industry can add value to Defence in delivering its outcomes.

However, the lens that Defence (and industry primes) primarily see industry fulfilling is largely centred around major platform and asset delivery; the provision of military hardware, and the supporting systems, infrastructure and information technology.

This lens masks a critical aspect of industry as an intellectual enabler, which arguably delivers greater return on investment in shaping the future of the ADF. This intellectual component is the untapped element of the ninth FIC.

Select service providers, including Noetic Group, are demonstrating how this critical enabler can significantly influence and shape Defence thinking, force structures and preparedness; if adequately supported and embraced.

Across the Defence industry spectrum, the vast majority of companies provide ‘things’; from complete combat systems to rivets for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Companies are focused on the business of delivering capability and Defence is structured and positioned to receive these platforms and systems; from CASG and Capability Managers, to the unit and the individual warfighter. This focus on equipment as capability, in turn drives a transactional, project schedule driven relationship of ‘gates’, ‘milestones’ and ‘deliverables’. It is all critical and necessary, yet it hides a side of industry that works in the intellectual domain, that is by its nature, hard to quantify.

What value does the intellectual component bring to Defence?

We know that across Defence there are select, intellectually and experiential based skill sets required in relatively small numbers, that are not easily generated or maintained and are quickly degraded by the routine posting cycle. Where Defence struggles to generate the specialist workforce to deliver these skill sets, there is a role for industry to maintain these individuals through flexible engagement arrangements.

Across Australia, there is a workforce of highly capable individuals (often ex-military) that have unique skills the ADF has long been challenged to maintain and replicate. This intellectual element of the workforce is invariably underutilised, often due to Defence’s inflexible procurement arrangements and an insistence that workforces need to be centrally located.

There has long been a natural reluctance (and sometimes suspicion), to allow industry to deliver a critical intellectual capability, that Defence views as a core skillset and should not be outsourced.

Some will counter that contractors are too expensive, and that Defence can fill these critical roles with a flexible assortment of reservists. Our experience is that this rarely delivers the sustained results Defence is seeking, and invariably results in greater costs, as half completed projects are ultimately contracted out. Others will posit that some capabilities are simply too important to outsource – that they must be performed by the Commonwealth, and that every capability role must have a Defence uniform or Public Servant in charge. The consequence is that these critical functions are often inadequately filled or they lack continuity in the position. Surely this is exactly the type of scenario where industry can step in, as a concrete example of the ninth FIC?

There are some important examples of specialist companies providing unique skills that cannot be generated within Defence. The provision of major Joint and Combined collective training to Headquarters Joint Operations Command through exercise planning, scenario generation and simulation support provided by Calytrix and Cubic is a world class and near impossible to replicate by uniformed or Defence civilian personnel. The embedded support provided by Cubic to the Land Combat Training Centre is another example of a unique service provided by industry.

Equally, there is a strong international precedent for embracing contractors into the intellectual Defence sphere. The US military is a case in point. Contractors and consultants are truly considered an extension of military capability. They are instrumental in the development of US military concepts and doctrine and provide a critical contribution to areas such as defence experimentation. Recognised as the memory and continuity to ensure successive military leaderships, they understand military logic and context for capability decisions.

It is worth revisiting the often misunderstood distinction between contractors and consultants in this construct. Contractors generally provide capacity support, often filling numerous individual positions as part of a broader Defence team or specific roles such as, project management on a time and materials basis. Consultants bring Defence specific, collective intellectual capital, adopting a deliverables based approach to provide outcomes, whether this be an individual or small team developing an important future concept paper or a larger team delivering Joint Experimentation over a prolonged period.

Noetic generates the provision of this intellectual component in two broad areas: adhoc or shorter duration tasks such as strategy, concept and doctrine development; and long term tasks requiring enduring skills that are hard to maintain, such as simulation and experimentation. A more agile and flexible approach to engaging industry in these areas reaps dividends in terms of delivery output. Noetic was engaged in developing the future organisation strategy for the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) and a comprehensive study of the ADF’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability. An internal workforce simply could not generate the sustained effort and availability to undertake this work. Noetic provided highly specialised subject matter expertise (SME) to deliver both these challenging reviews, whilst maintaining a large pool of highly qualified ex-defence civilian and uniform personnel who routinely support Defence’s Joint concept and doctrine development tasks. There can often be some reticence within the Department about outsourcing these key documents. Yet the converse is, these positions are often filled by staff on temporary assignment, and ultimately it is the output that suffers.

A critical skillset that Defence requires is the provision of Joint Experimentation. Defence recognised this gap existed but was unable to generate the suitable workforce to re-establish the capability. Noetic has a strong history of involvement in experimentation. A number of our staff were instrumental in the early experimentation efforts in Defence. Noetic has sought to support Defence experimentation efforts since 2005 and in 2016, the Joint Experimentation Directorate (JED) engaged Noetic to help build its capability. Since then, Noetic has been an integral element of Defence’s experimentation capability. This Defence and Industry partnership has made it possible for a revitalised Joint Experimentation capability to directly support the update of the Force Structure Plan. This has involved 16 of Noetic’s staff working in five experimentation teams, supported by a scenario development team and a scientific design element. Noetic’s partnership with JED has allowed the re-establishment of an important internal link to Defence capability to be accelerated and expanded. It is unlikely this would have occurred without industry support.

Another example is Noetic’s support to DST Group’s Technology Future Forecasting. Since 2015, Noetic has partnered with DST to deliver the internationally acclaimed future technology forecasting program of Emerging Disruptive Technology Assessment Symposiums (EDTAS). Noetic brings a technology research capability along with futures thinking design and foresighting skills. These are skillsets that are hard to consistently generate and sustain. Noetic takes a genuine partnership approach with DST and is contracted into 2021 to continue to provide the EDTAS program. There are potentially many opportunities for industry to expand this support to the intellectual component of Defence capability. Industry provides a mechanism to access former Defence employees with unique skills, knowledge and experience. These skills are often rare within Defence and where they do exist, they are difficult to sustain for long periods of time in one place.

But to truly maximise this intellectual enabler, Defence must subtly shift its preoccupation on associating industry with the delivery of ‘stuff’ and plan for the ongoing integration of the intellectual element industry can provide. Industry can exponentially value add through the provision of a knowledge edge. To enable this, Defence needs to embrace this potential, budget and plan for the use of the untapped element of the ninth FIC.

This article first appeared in Defence Connect.