Government position on opportunities for the Reserve Forces to improve ADF capability

Next >     

Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs & Minister for Defence Personnel


It is fantastic to be here today at the 2017 Defence Reserves Association Conference, to speak on the 'Government's position on opportunities for the Reserve Forces to improve capability of the ADF.'
Our Reserves are an essential part of our ADF capability. Their contribution is significant, their numbers are significant. I note we have 38,000 Reservists on the books in different capacities including 733 undertaking full-time service. For those of you in the room who have contributed to our nation in a Reserve capacity, thank you. Let’s start by acknowledging the important roles Reservists make to the ADF across all three Services. We can then talk to some exciting initiatives that will enable growth in Reserve capability.

Reserve contributions

Reservists are valuable and versatile and serve at home and overseas. They are deployed to the Middle East and across our region. I got to see this first hand when I recently travelled to Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq I met a number of reserve doctors and nurses and got to understand their roles. In Afghanistan I had a brief from a Reserve signaller on our electronic counter measures.

Another great example is our Naval Reservists deployed on border security operations. Naval Reservists supplement the crews of our patrol boats and are an integrated force alongside their permanent Navy counterparts. There are also members of the Army and Air Force Reserve who have served, and continue to serve, in the Transit Security Elements on board Naval ships undertaking these maritime security operations.

Our Reserves also contribute here at home as in response to domestic challenges where they can be quickly deployed and be first on the ground. For disaster relief we can call on our dispersed Reserve force to support the relief effort prior to reinforcements arriving. Our Reserves are also capable of contributing to major international events such as G20 Summit, APEC and Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings and our Reservists will be supporting next year’s Commonwealth Games, and the Invictus Games.

Having a well-trained and committed Reserve capacity has proven to be essential and will continue to be essential. During July, Reserve supplementation to specialist elements in our Joint Operations Command was vital during Exercise Talisman Sabre. Without Reserve supplementation specialist elements of the Headquarters could not have continued to meet their day-to-day operational function.

Reserves provide capability and without them we could not maintain our Regional Force Surveillance Units – the RFSUs– in northern Australia. RFSUs contribute to the Government’s border protection operations and are predominately manned by our capable Reserve members. The Regional Force Surveillance Units also allow us to harness indigenous capability. Our indigenous members and other Reservists are essential to maintaining our security and surveillance presence across remote northern Australia.

We cannot take our Reserve force for granted; we must invest and grow this capability. Supporting our domestic responsibilities will continue to be an important role for the Reserves.

Future opportunities – Cyber Security

I would like to talk about a great opportunity for the Reserve force of the future. The 2016 Defence White Paper articulated the growth of our Defence Cyber capability. Part of this growth is our Cyber Reserve. We are looking to engage the private sector and business to recruit Cyber specialists into the Reserves, from top universities, banks and telcos. These members will bring a wide range of skills and provide a supply of experts we can call on when needed. They will be provided with some military training, receive a tax-free Army salary and be required to work 20-100 days a year, like other Reservists.

We acknowledge Defence is competing with the private sector, so while there will be some minimum requirements an open-minded approach will be taken to elements such as fitness testing. We want those specialists to keep their highly-paid private sector positions but also have the opportunity to contribute to their nation and to the security of Australia.
I saw first-hand on my visit to London the success story of the UK Cyber Reserve program. The UK established this program in 2013 and now employs 500 specialists in a Reserve capacity. The program is working well, and we need to consider a Cyber Reserve as a valid option to supplement our Cyber capability.

The establishment of the Cyber Security Centres in addition to existing Defence Infrastructure provides a great opportunity for these Reserves to have a local place of work. Their contribution will complement the establishment of the Information Warfare Division, the full-time establishment created to defend Australia against Cyber attack.

The Total Workforce model

The Cyber Reserve fits in with another great opportunity for Reserves, a more flexible contemporary workforce model developed under Plan SUAKIN. The development of the ‘Total Work Force Model’ increases opportunities for ADF Reservists. Reservists will have more ready access to flexible employment options and potential job-sharing opportunities with permanent ADF members who are undertaking part-time work.

The Total Work Force Model enhances opportunities for Reservists to serve in a range of capacities. By offering flexibility for Reservists to serve and move between full-time and part-time service we can better retain their experience. The flexibility of this model also empowers our Reserve force and it reinforces the value Reserves hold - providing more opportunities to serve allows Reserves to enhance their contribution to ADF capability.

For Navy the investment in capital acquisition and the associated generation and sustainment of future capability presents opportunities for Reservists. Defence requires a highly capable and competent workforce as new capabilities come on line. This includes the Reservist as a critical component of Navy’s total workforce. This Reserve workforce capability is being aligned to Navy’s Plan PELORUS, meeting Navy's expanding commitments under the 2016 Defence White Paper and the associated Integrated Investment Plan.

It is wonderful that Chief of Army is a proponent of an integrated ‘total’ force. I note he recently directed that, ‘some positions on all operations will be made available to Army Reserve soldiers’ and that numbers of Reservists on sustained operational deployments is expected to rise significantly. Army Reservists provide capabilities not able to be covered by the Regular force. Medical and legal professionals are specific examples. These individuals provide service to their country by foregoing high salaries for periods in order to provide professional skills to their nation.

A new opportunity in Army for Reservists is Army’s establishment of a Reserve Veterinary capability. Twelve Veterinary positions will provide military veterinary services in support of ADF operations.

Air Force also recognises that the future Australian workforce expects every employer to offer greater flexibility across working life. The Total Work Force Model offers Air Force a means to give this flexibility and Air Force are now using the model to lead a redesign of work. Reserves provide essential capability to Air Force. Air Base Protection is a great example as it is primarily a Reserve employment group. When required to deploy at short notice, the Reserve Airmen Air Base Protection elements can be used to release or replace permanent force members, who can then deploy elsewhere.

Each of the three services use Reservists in different ways and they are all part of the essential ADF capability.

Defence Reserve Service Protection Act

I am proud of the enhancements we have introduced to the Defence Reserve Service Protection Act as these enhancements contribute to the Reserve capability. The Defence Reserve Service Protection Act provides for the protections for Reserve members in their employment and education and facilitates their return to civilian life after Defence service.

A review of the Act in 2008 indicated that, while the Act was working well and achieving its objectives, a number of enhancements to the Act were recommended. We have worked hard to ensure these recommendations were implemented. We have already introduced these enhancements into Parliament, and are anticipating the changes will soon become law.

An example of the enhancement is an extension of the employment, partnership and education protections in the Act so that they apply to all types of Reserve service. This means that in the future all Reserve service will be protected which will provide certainty for Reservists as they resume their civilian employment.

Veterans’ Employment Program

I wish to mention briefly another portfolio-related matter, the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program. The key aim of this initiative is to raise awareness in the private sector of the unique skills and experience our former ADF personnel, including Reservists, can bring to business. We want to encourage businesses, large and small, to take a closer look at our veterans and realise their skills can help a business grow and succeed.

As a result of this initiative, we have seen an excellent response from Australian businesses and ex-Service organisations wanting to help our veterans find meaningful jobs that utilise their unique skills, and I encourage more business leaders to register their interest in the program.

A key feature of this program is the Industry Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment which will develop and provide advice on practical measures to embed veterans’ employment strategies into the recruitment practices of Australian business.


Reservists are an integral part of the capability that the ADF delivers to Government, and will continue to be so. They contribute to maintaining capabilities the permanent force is not capable of providing, they allow us to access private sector expertise such as cyber and they supplement the Permanent force in managing operational and exercise commitment both here at home and overseas. Reserves are critical to our ADF capability and the criticality of Reservists will only increase. Today’s ADF Reserves are unquestionably an operational Reserve. They, you, we, are all part of the same highly capable team, and we could not achieve what we do, without each other.

Share this with your friends