Operations in the Pacific reflect strategic change

This article has photo gallery Published on SGT Dave Morley (author), SGT Dave Morley (photographer)

Location(s): Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), Patrol Vessels (PB)

Royal Australian Navy Maritime Surveillance Advisers (MSAs) and Technical Advisers (TAs) from across the Pacific came to Canberra for an annual five-day conference from November 21-25, 2016. (photo: SGT Dave Morley)
Royal Australian Navy Maritime Surveillance Advisers (MSAs) and Technical Advisers (TAs) from across the Pacific came to Canberra for an annual five-day conference from November 21-25, 2016.

Maritime Surveillance Advisers and Technical Advisers spread across 12 Pacific Island countries, in direct support of Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat Program, converged on Canberra in late November for their annual conference.
During the meeting of minds, the advisers were updated on Defence engagement priorities for each of the Pacific Island countries over the next 12 months, as well as the strategic direction of the Program and wider Navy and Department of Defence strategic priorities.
Australian Defence Attachès resident in the region, as well as representatives from key regional partners New Zealand, France and the United States, also attended.
Opening the conference, Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin focused on the strategic importance of the South-West Pacific, the White Paper development process, and the various reform and review processes underway in Defence.
Assistant Secretary Pacific and Timor-Leste, Commodore Stephen Woodall said the Pacific Maritime Surveillance Program – a $2 billion investment over 30 years – was the centrepiece of the Australian Defence Force’s engagement in the Pacific.
“Training our staff across the Pacific is integral to its success,” he said.
Commodore Woodall said given the importance of the Pacific Patrol Boat Program it was essential the advisers and the Canberra team came together yearly to discuss the initiatives and challenges in the implementation and support provided to the program.
Head of Navy Engineering, Rear Admiral Mick Uzzell, representing Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, focused on Navy’s strategic priorities, including recruitment and retention, cultural change, new capability procurements, and future direction.
He also acknowledged the important role of the advisers and promoted the exciting and diverse positions available for Commanders, Lieutenant Commanders and Chief Petty Officers in the Defence Cooperation Program.
Rear Admiral Uzzell said Navy was on the cusp of strategic change.
“Our modern Navy needs to be increasingly a national enterprise, bringing together the private and public sectors of the economy to deliver a fundamental national objective – security above, on and under the sea,” he said.
“Continuous ship building announced in August 2015 as government’s policy approach to recapitalizing the Navy, is the strategic capability by which this objective will be achieved and maintained into the future."
“It is not just a change of pace for the creation of the future fleet, but a change of paradigm, contributing to a whole Australian Defence Force fighting system,” Rear Admiral Uzzell said.
Rear Admiral Uzzell said Navy was undertaking a prolonged period of significant growth with the Defence White Paper indicating the Australian Defence Force would grow from 58,000 personnel to about 62,400 in 10 years. 
“Navy is currently in a dynamic state of change and development with all of our ships and submarines between now and 2030,” he said. 
“This means we are going to need more sailors and officers for the surface fleet and a lot more submariners now and into the future."
“There are also a range of other emerging capabilities, such as cyber warfare, that will need innovative ways to recruit and retain people to meet these skills requirements."
“We can’t get the job done just by doing what we did before,” Rear Admiral Uzzell said.