A Strong IT Industry for Defending Australia

Tom Worthington


For: The launch of Net Traveller at Internet World'99, 2 August 1999

Repeated as a Department of Computer Science Seminar, ANU, 1 September 1999, 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Room N101, CSIT Building [108]

Draft 1.1, 23 August 1999 : http://www.tomw.net.au/egov99/ntl.html

Exploring the Networked Nation

The support for these proposals is in my book, " Net Traveller: Exploring the Networked Nation ", published by the Australian Computer Society, this week. You can order the book from the ACS, read it free on the web and there is a brief slide show also on-line. The on-line version of this presentation contains links to the relevant chapters of the book.

An IT project to help Defend Australia

  1. Abolish the Defence Science and Technology Organisation
  2. Abandon Defence work on X.400 e-mail and other GOSIP technology
  3. Establish a small Australian Defence Research Agency (ADRA)
  4. Have ADRA fund research on robust and secure Internet networking and computing
  5. Test the products developed in rural Australia
  6. Export these products to the world

Establish the Australian Defence Research Agency

The Internet was developed with research money from the US Defence Department. The level of funding used was very modest, when compared to projects, such as the space program. If properly directed, the Australian Department of Defence has sufficient funding to invent the next Internet.

According to the Defence Annual Report 1997/98 the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), is spending $230.3 million a year on R&D and has 2,406 staff. However, DSTO research scientists are public servants and subject to secrecy provisions. This is not an environment conducive to collaboration with the private sector, or spin-offs of commercial products.

Several years ago, the US, UK, Australian and other western governments developed the Government Open System Interconnection profile (GOSIP). This was intended to provide a standardised way for government computers to communicate. But the Internet came along and overtook GOSIP. Defence is about the only part of Government still trying to get GOSIP to work. Our allies are not really taking it serious and Australian Defence should give up on GOSIP and put its efforts into making Internet technology secure and reliable.

In place of DSTO an Australian Defence Research Agency could be established. This would be modelled on the US DoD's Defence Research projects Agency (DARPA) and would work by contracting research to external R&D organisations. DSTO's current budget could be cut to return a 20% productivity bonus to Government and 10% of the remainder retained for administration (with 10% of the current staff level). The remaining 70% of budget, would provide $161 million for grants to Australian organisations to conduct research and development.

IT projects

There is a strong synergy between the needs of defence IT and that of Australia's rural community. Both need products which will operate in remote areas, a long way from service and support, away from high speed permanent network links and under demanding conditions.

Technologies developed for defence applications in Australia could have immediate spin-off application for the rural community. In addition this would be a good test ground for products for developing countries which lack a fixed IT infrastructure.

Below are some ideas for short term projects (six months to three years) which would be likely to product large benefits for the Australian Defence Force, products useful for the Australian rural community and export products.

Proposed projects:

About the author

Tom Worthington is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Australian National University. He is an electronic business consultant, author and information technology professional, with 17 years experience in information technology, including nine years on high level IT policy and five in Internet applications.
E-mail: tom.worthington@tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496 150

Further Information

Comments and corrections to: webmaster@tomw.net.au
Copyright © Tom Worthington 1999.