“At the start of the year, we released Plan Pelorus with a vision of shifting our mindset from routinely deploying Task Groups to being ready to conduct sustained combat operations as part of the Joint Force.
Achieving this, while continuing to meet our commitment to Government was always going to be a significant undertaking; and 2019 has been a very successful year for each of us. The focus of this year has been on renewal and setting the pre-conditions for our ultimate success. I am conscious that we have been asking much from our Navy People for many years and as such, the highest priority has been our workforce reconstitution and developing resilience in our workforce.
I am delighted to report that on 31 October, we achieved a workforce strength of 14745, which is the largest workforce we have had since 1996. This is not only the result of some exceptional work by our teams in Navy People and Navy Future Workforce, but by each one of you that has: made a decision to stay in our Navy, stopped someone from resigning, persuaded a new entry to join, or convinced someone to re-join our Navy.
As a result of your efforts, our Navy separation rate has reduced from 10.3% in 2018 to 7.4% in November 2019. This is an outstanding achievement, and validates the positive culture we continue to develop through our Next Generation Navy initiatives.
However, there is still more to do if we are to build the future workforce that will enable us to sustainably meet the growing demand, while continuously introducing new capability into service. We are all recruiters; the more you communicate your positive experiences in our Navy, the greater influence it has on recruiting our future workforce, and the greater influence it has on retaining those around you. Remember your role to Train and Retain your relief. With your help, we can further reduce the hollowness at mid-career ranks of LS/PO/LEUT/LCDR to 445 by mid next year.
As 2019 draws to a close, I would like each of us to reflect on what we have achieved as a Team this year.
- We have grown our overall numbers in Navy by more than 1000 people. We have implemented a number of retention initiatives, we have launched Next Generation Navy and we continue to develop our culture and leadership programs, including the delivery of nine Navy Emerging Leaders Forums across the country. Looking to the future, we have also established the Navy Future Workforce Branch to plan for our workforce success.
- We have surged to provide significant input to the Force Structure Plan to argue for the resources - the money, but more importantly, the people - that Navy needs to meet our future challenges. Continuous Naval Shipbuilding has commenced on schedule with the keel laying of our first OPV, Arafura, in May and we have seen unprecedented levels of infrastructure works in our establishments across the country. We also launched NUSHIP Stalwart and decommissioned HMA Ships Newcastle, Success and Melbourne.
- We continue to introduce new capabilities, with HMAS Brisbane achieving operational release this year, and build on existing ones, with HMAS Hobart undertaking an operational deployment, and Final Operational Capability declaration of the Canberra class LHDs in November. Our Teams are also working hard to continue to progress our Attack class submarines, while continuing to achieve record days of availability for our Collins class.
- Navy engineering is fully embedded across the Capability Life Cycle, the Naval Materiel Seaworthiness Assurance Agency (NMSwAA) is now well established, and N4 library is the authoritative source of Navy engineering and logistics policy.
- We have continued to evolve our Governance framework and Navy is considered best practice across the One Defence Enterprise, which is providing Defence Senior Leadership with enhanced confidence in our risk-based decision making.
- In recognition of the need for robust regional partnerships, we have significantly stepped up our International Engagement activities. Our flagship event, the Sea Power Conference, exceeded all my expectations in terms of relationship-building at navy-to-navy, industry, government and people-to-people level. It gave us an opportunity to talk about how we are working together to reaffirm our shared commitment to security and prosperity across our region.
The achievements and level of activity detailed above have been nothing short of impressive in their own right. However, in parallel this year, we have seen a marked shift towards deployed activities. Our ships are spending one in every three days deployed off the Australian station, supporting exercises and operations across the globe. The focus of these deployments has been high-end warfighting and enhanced regional engagement; areas in which our people have excelled.
Our people have supported 17 major exercises and multiple operations across the globe. At its peak, we had 29 ships at sea and 2837 people, of which 20 ships and 2124 people were force assigned to Commander Joint Operations (CJOPS). Navy contribution to CJOPS is greater than the rest of the ADF combined. An astonishing commitment with tangible benefits to the security and prosperity of our Nation.
Amidst these impressive achievements, there has also been tragedy. We have lost members of our Navy family this year, whose memories will stay with us forever. The contributions made by these members, and the loss felt by their families and the Navy community, remind us to make the most of every day we have. As we head into the holiday season and you head overseas or on long car trips, be careful, look after yourself and your family.
I wish to thank all our families and friends who support us in all that we do. No words can truly say how important you are to us; our Navy could not do what it needs without your unwavering support. To those who will remain on watch or deployed over this festive season, at sea and ashore, and to those who remain at short notice to respond, I thank you for your devotion to duty and for your service.
My thanks go to all our Navy people for your continued contribution to the outcomes of our Navy and our progress towards our headmark. I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable Christmas break, and I look forward to seeing you back on deck in 2020.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.”
Vice Admiral Mike Noonan
Chief of Navy