2022 Deputy Secretary CASG
2019-2022 Chief Executive Northrop Grumman Australia
2016-2019 OneSKY Program Executive Air Services Australia
2006-2016 DMO and CASG Program Manager on F-35A, KC-30A, Collins submarine, Wedgetail AEW&C programs, retired as Air Vice Marshal
2002-2006 Capability Development Group – Director General Aerospace
1999-2002 Air Force Headquarters – Director Capability Management
1996-1998 82 Wing Executive Officer
1995-1996 1 Squadron Executive Officer
1990-1995 F-111 Avionics Update Program
1990 ADFA Squadron Commander
1980-1990 Operational flying on F-111s
1980-1981 Navigator training
1976-1978 University of Sydney/Bachelor of Science (Pure and Applied Mathematics)
ADM: You’ve said that Deputy Secretary CASG is your dream job. Why?
Deeble: I’ve been in Defence for 37 years and I had the opportunity to work outside of Defence for the last six years before coming back to CASG. I’ve never really left the fold and I’m passionate about delivering capability. Doing this job and being able to make a difference, bringing to the table all the things that I’ve learnt and experienced over many years to deliver capability to the ADF faster, that’s what motivates me, that’s what gets me up every day and that’s why I go to work enthusiastic every day. 
ADM: You had a stellar spell in DMO and CASG heading the F-35A, Wedgetail, Multi-Role Tanker Transport and Collins-class programs. How did you make a success of those complex and contentious activities working in a CASG which apparently wasn’t fit for purpose?
Deeble: Working with complex problems and resolving complex issues is something that I’ve always enjoyed. Those projects taught me so much about the importance of relationships; how you establish those relationships and nurture them with the capability managers within CASG and, more broadly, with industry and other stakeholders, and with government. It has to be a team effort in all cases, working strategically through what the issues are and building trust and respect. It’s the same challenge for me with CASG. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater because there are some things we do so well, but we have to do things differently and business as usual will not cut the mustard. We’re in a period where the ambiguity, the contestability that exists within the region, the need to be able to respond much faster and I call that speed to capability, that is challenging for an organisation that is built on a lot of process, built on certain ways of doing business, historically built on a very transactional way of doing business with industry. Now it’s about building trust and respect with capability managers, with industry, with academia, having people aligned to the same strategic intent. They’re the hallmarks of bad programs turning into
good programs. Fitness for purpose is as true in an organisational sense as it is in a capability sense. We need to have a way of procuring, acquiring and sustaining capability that is more contemporary, that is more built on trust and respect than we’ve ever had before, otherwise we won’t be able to respond at the speed of the threat.
ADM: How will you achieve that? 
Deeble: Industry 4.0 is about digitisation. It’s about being more efficient and effective, reducing paperwork, it’s about how you interact through the supply chain, it’s about digital twins and digital engineering. I want CASG 2.0 to dovetail in with Industry 4.0. If we do business the same way we’re looking for efficiencies and we’re working in a digital sense, then that’s a starting position for being able to work together better.  The four key threads that I have for CASG include setting the organisation up for success. As a delivery manager within the One Defence Capability System, I have to be able to work throughout the continuum of that lifecycle from conception through to disposal. So, I want to make sure that CASG doesn’t come in late in the process pre-Gate 1; I want CASG to play a role in shaping the strategy pre-Gate 0.
I want us to be engaging with industry differently, and I want the executability of programs to be something that we consider all the time so that CASG can be successful.  The next part is organising for success. CASG as an organisation has grown higgledy-piggledy over time. We have much, much more capability. When I was last in CASG in the pre-2016 timeframe, the total CASG budget, including naval shipbuilding and GWEO, was about $9 billion. My budget alone is $15 billion annually for acquisition, sustainment and operating, and there’s another $5 billion or so that’s associated with naval shipbuilding and guided weapons. In that timeframe the total acquisition and sustainment budgets have increased by 100 per cent and for CASG, as we currently stand, doing land, air, space, integrated air and missile defence, and joint systems, the work that we do has grown by 50 per cent.  So, we have to be organised differently. Since I’ve been in the role I’ve established two new delivery divisions – Air Defence and Space Systems – and we’ve also established the Guided Weapons Delivery Division. 
ADM: When did you do that?
Deeble: We had planned to set up Air Defence and Space Systems in January and we moved last November. We had
planned to set up the GWEO delivery early this calendar year, and we did that last December. I’ve already repurposed our Integration Division to a Strategy, Planning and Independent Assurance Division. So, we’re reporting now across Defence, not just for CASG but for Naval Shipbuilding and Sustainment Group, GWEO, Chief Information Officer Group, Security and Estate Group, and Defence Science and Technology. In October last year we announced six reforms required for project performance and, in particular, around projects of concern and projects of interest, and since then we’ve been reporting on a monthly basis across that full spectrum.  I intend to set up a new industry engagement division so that we can do business differently with industry, and inherent in that is having an industrial intelligence function that allows us to better understand the marketplace and how to engage with industry. I’m also going to be setting up a new engineering, technology and material logistics integrated product support Division. That will be looking at new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, how we specify them, how we accredit them. 
ADM: When will that occur?
Deeble: That will occur hopefully in Quarter Three but definitely by the end of the year. It’s a matter of recruiting the right
people and getting the right resources in places. So that’s the second key thread, organising for success and making sure that we’re an integrated organisation, not a stove-piped or federated organisation. That work is already underway. The third strategic thread is partnering with industry for success. I don’t want to wait 12 months before we engage with industry. So, we’re going to look differently at how we engage across the full spectrum of primes, the small to medium enterprises, the peak bodies of state advocacy, of universities and other areas. The Defence Industrial and Development Strategy is due out towards the end of this year and that will be an important way in which Defence can articulate our expectations of industry and how we’re going to do business differently. And the fourth thread is speed to capability. We have to provide the ADF with relevant capability that can over-match the threat and that means that we have to change the way in which we do industry solicitation, the way in which the One Defence Capability System works when we go to committees, and how we engage with government.
Vested within that is procurement and my commitment to government will be a target of a 50 per cent reduction in time and money that it takes when we go to market. So, if it takes us a year to develop an RFT, I want that down to six months. If it takes industry six months to respond to our RFT, I want that cut to three months. I also want us to be far more cost-conscious. My intent is to reduce the weight and the volume of the paperwork by at least 50 per cent, and work much more in a digital fashion.  The fourth strategic thread is minimal viable capability.  In one dimension it would be Defence seeking something that can be delivered quickly and represents the baseline capability that provides the war fighting effect. We’re not going to seek a development program that requires multiple bells and whistles to be implemented over time. With every one of those comes risk, both in cost and schedule. The other way of doing
it, and integrated air and missile defence would be an example, is basically saying I know I can’t answer the problem today but the threat’s evolving very rapidly, but how do I get the architecture, the C2, the core of that system into service quickly with the initial sensors, the initial effectors. I want that in service in three years, not 8-10 years. And if I have to integrate a new sensor or a new effector to respond to the threat, I want that to be integrated within three weeks, four weeks, not in 3-4 months, not four years. So, it’s the notion of how you take fixed cost, fixed schedule and have capability as the independent variable, where we set that at a threshold level, minimal viable capability, and then we iterate that over time using an agile framework to be able to deliver that faster for the war fighter.  So that’s the goal; setting CASG up for success, organising for success, partnering with industry for success, and speed to capability.
ADM: What’s the schedule for that?
Deeble: It will take, I think, about two years to get to the point where this system is humming and we’re delivering outcomes.
ADM: What are the things you intend doing for the rest of the year?
Deeble: In the immediate future we will be working to develop a digital engineering strategy. One of the real risks we have is workforce. While I think our engineering skillset is good, it’s our capacity there that needs to be looked at, and also our material logistics integrated product support areas. Some of those skills have atrophied. So, I will be going to the market in the near future with this notion of lifelong learning; that when you come to CASG we’ll give you broad experience, and we will give you training and education opportunities through your time in CASG, from Cert IV all the way through to Bachelors, through to Masters if you stay in the organisation. You will continue to learn and grow. So, this quarter we will go to the market. I don’t think there is any one company or one university that can support us, it’s going to be a consortium approach.  We’re also looking at setting up new technologies associated with industrial intelligence. So, I’ll be going to the market looking for the best way to glean, using artificial intelligence and other aspects, a better understanding of the marketplace, both internally using the data that we currently have and externally in terms of what’s available in open source. 
ADM: Where are you going to find the necessary resources?
Deeble: We’re starting to recruit back into the APS and I want to build our internal capability. That will probably have a longer lead time than the two years I talked about but I’m up for the journey. We’re still going to have to work with contractors but I’m going to be far more selective about the way in which we contract for this work.  Another thing that I’m looking at doing, I hope within the next six months, is to establish a protected-level cloud environment to support collaboration with industry. I’m already starting to think about how we would then take that to a secret cloud environment that is secure and cyber worthy.
ADM: You’re changing structure but how are you going to change culture? Obviously, that’s required? 
Deeble: In my experience it’s always all about people and unless you can bring people on the journey, unless they feel that they understand the context and can play a role and are empowered to get on and do business, there is no change. And that takes leadership right from the top down and throughout the organisation, and as we’re making internal change people will feel uneasy – what’s my role, do I still have a job? I acknowledge fully that I’ve got a lot of work to do within CASG around culture change and I have a lot of work to do within NSSG and GWEO because we want to stay tied at the hip as we’re moving forward. We don’t want to duplicate effort, we want to leverage the initiatives that might be occurring in each of those groups. Changing our risk appetite is a real cultural issue and that needs to be done within CASG, within Defence, within the central agencies that are looking at
our programs and providing advice to government about our programs, and in government proper where we may not be able to have all the bells and whistles, and actually we may not necessarily have full tender quality pricing but we need to move fast. We have to be prepared to work with higher degrees of ambiguity where it’s appropriate to do so. So that will change people’s approach to process, it will change people’s approach to decision making, it will change our approach to what risks are acceptable and we have to be prepared to accept failure as we move faster in these areas. 
ADM: Obviously you have people coming in, but presumably people are leaving as well?
Deeble: Within Defence the exit rates are very high both for uniformed and public servants, I think in the order of 11-12 per cent. Within Defence there’s also a degree of churn, so organisations like CASG are turning over a lot of people. My aim is to work with the other groups appropriately, not stealing from each other to stop the churn but to provide opportunities for our people to move across the various groups, to experience different opportunities and keep them in Defence indefinitely. Even if they choose to leave Defence, to keep them in the defence industry. 
ADM: Do you feel you’ve got the backing of Defence leadership and government to do what’s necessary, because there are going to be a few rice bowls broken?
Deeble: I don’t think I could get better support from my peers and other delivery groups and the capability managers and the senior levels, it’s as good as it gets. I work very closely across Defence with the capability managers, we have to have a close relationship with the Vice Chief of Defence Group and the Joint Force Authority. The One Defence Capability System is of course sponsored by VCDF, but we provide a lot of input into that. We’re changing the Smart Buyer process already to realign with a different way of doing business. Within Defence I think, with the capability managers and with VCDF, there’s more work to be done but we are up for the challenge, there’s no doubt about that.  I think the engagement with central agencies has improved substantively from when I was previously in Defence, and that level of engagement is improving as well. So, I’m confident that as we look at our risk appetite we can work with those central agencies. As we go through change the challenge will be the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). The issue is that they rightly hold us accountable for what we say we’re going to do. So, engaging with them, understanding their very important role, working with them and helping them understand the journey that we’re on is something that I’ll have to work on.
This interview first appeared in the September 2023 edition of Australian Defence Magazine.
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