Advising Ministers - The Special Problem of Defence
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Successive Australian Defence Ministers have been frustrated and occasionally embarrassed by the quality of advice and information provided to them by the Defence organisation. Decades of reviews and reorganisations have failed to find solutions to the special difficulties that Defence faces in providing accurate, timely information and advice to ministers across the broad spectrum of their responsibilities. This article argues that there are multiple explanations for the concerns that are frequently expressed about its policy advisory capacity - most of which are inherent to Defence organisations around the world. While the Defence culture of secrecy is partly responsible, other factors such as the scale of Defence's operations, the multiple cultures that exist within it (military, civilian, and intelligence) that make coherence harder than in more homogenous departments, the long-time horizons of defence planning as well as the high costs of procurement, must also be considered. The erosion of trust between the organisation and minister has been exacerbated by the intense scrutiny of the media that overburdens ministers and adds another layer of complexity to their role. As history shows, there are push and pull factors that continue to embroil ministers in the minutiae of defence difficulties, while the complexity and scale of operations will undoubtedly continue to impact on the timeliness of advice.
Australian Journal of Public Administration