We learned what a SNAFU is yesterday. There
are also SAMFUs – Self Adjusting Military F*ck Ups. The British Parachute
Regiment have their own version, TBFUSAR – for The Biggest F*ck Ups Since Arnhem.

But if we’re looking for le mot juste to
describe the Defence Department, then it’s hard to beat another army acronym, FUBAR – F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition.

Dennis Jensen, the former defence analyst
who is now the Liberal Member for Tangey, may well agree. He told the ABC yesterday that the Defence Department should have changed long ago, that
problems went beyond the botched Kovco repatriation:

This can be seen
with the litany of errors that have been made, mistakes that have been made
with defence acquisition for example, but it actually goes a lot deeper than
that, the whole military justice system will have to be reformed as well.

It’s going to be
a tough job because obviously there’s going to be a lot of resistance to that, I
mean people are obviously very comfortable with what they know, however it is
something that is desperately needed.

Neil James from the Australia Defence
Association weighs in with some comments in The Canberra Times today:

We risk public
confidence in the defence force being lost because no matter what goes wrong
anywhere in the Department of Defence, in the public’s view it’s a problem in
the defence force. While the front
end of the defence force is working very well operationally, the rear end here
in Australia has had some problems and certainly the wider Department of Defence
has had serious problems.

Perhaps one of
the underlying reasons for this that requires a pretty solid look at, is the
structure itself. It is after all
the only organisation in the federal bureaucracy that has two bosses, and maybe
we should look much more closely at the New Zealand model.

James says the secretary of the Kiwi Department
of Defence only controls a small policy-oriented group:

You don’t get
the bureaucratic interference with military and professional matters that’s
caused us so many problems, with children overboard, Abu Ghraib and the bungle
with the Kovco body.

And he says that the current structure of
Defence has not been changed despite multiple reviews over the past three decades:

None of them
has actually gone back on a first principles basis and examined whether the
underlying structure is actually sensible, and there is a very solid argument
that it’s not. With the
two-boss model, you get this continual tension between bureaucratic
considerations and policy imperatives interfering in military professional
matters.

Russell Hill, the Defence Department
headquarters, is sometimes called Fort Fumble. Perhaps it’s time to sort it out before the
ADF becomes the ADFUBAR.

Fubar fables

A defence insider writes:

The only
surprise about the appalling state of the ADF is how long it has gone on. I
know of one company awarded a contract to do psych testing in 2002, then being
shafted in a shameless cost cutting stunt, with the contract given to Manpower
– despite the fact that they had neither the resources or knowledge to perform
such a role. It ended in financial disaster but no one in Canberra, including
the defence minister, was interested.

Send your fubar fables to
[email protected]

Peter Fray

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