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Media Release 16/99, 3 August 1999
Defence Science and Technology Organisation

Research funding proposal "in the realm of the bizarre"

A widely reported proposal* by a retired Defence Department employee to abolish the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in order to set up a research fund to test and export Internet networking and computing products for rural Australia is "in the realm of the bizarre", according to a DSTO spokesman.

DSTO's Manager Corporate Communications, Brian Humphreys, said that the former Defence Department employee, Mr Tom Worthington, is not - as reported in some media - an expert on defence research. Mr Worthington's proposal is contained in a paper entitled "Information Technology and the Rural Sector", which he presented to a seminar on 31 July.

"Mr Worthington's concept of abolishing DSTO in order to set up a research fund to test and export Internet networking and computing products for rural Australia is in the realm of the bizarre," Mr Humphreys said.

"The proposals contained in his paper disclose no understanding that the purpose of Defence spending, including on DSTO, is the defence of Australia.

"The paper conveys the incorrect impression that DSTO exists and is funded principally for research and development into information technology and the Internet.

"Mr Worthington's former role in the Department of Defence was concerned principally with office automation aspects of the Internet.

"He has not worked in DSTO and has not been in a position in which he was able to make an informed assessment of DSTO - either in its information technology area, or any other area."

Mr Humphreys said that DSTO research covers a very broad range, from submarine warfare, air defence, and land and sea mine detection to the nutrition and protection of Defence Force personnel. This reflects Australia's reliance on advanced technology for its defence and security.

"DSTO and the Australian Defence Force have a close and highly interactive relationship, and the Defence Organisation receives immense value from having an integral DSTO," he said.

DSTO is organised under two laboratories comprising 10 research divisions, only one of which is devoted to information technology.

Contrary to Mr Worthington's claims, DSTO's Information Technology Division not only has very extensive collaboration with the private sector, with counterpart international organisations and with universities and Cooperative Research Centres, but also is the source of commercial spin-offs such as the Starlight family of computer security products.

DSTO's highly advanced scientific work program extends far beyond matters such as Defence use of the Internet.

"For example, the recent McIntosh-Prescott report on the Collins submarine recommended DSTO involvement in numerous areas to ensure fixes and through-life support for the Collins class," Mr Humphreys said.

"The report noted DSTO's 'great deal of expertise in relevant areas'.

"And DSTO has saved the taxpayer vast sums through research enabling life extension of the F-111, F/A-18 and other aircraft."

Mr Humphreys said that DSTO's extensive external interaction includes:

  • 20 Industry Alliances;
  • involvement in nine Cooperative Research Centres;
  • 23 Collaborative Research Agreements;
  • involvement in five Centres of Expertise;
  • research and development and technical support contracts from which industry and other external agencies received $20.4 million funding in 1998-99
  • 65 Licence Agreements for technology or intellectual property;
  • a range of other interaction, including collaborative research with several universities, professional consultancy to industry, and access to DSTO infrastructure and support for procurement contracts.

* Reports:

  • "Information Technology and the Rural Sector", by Tom Worthington, paper presented at 31 July seminar, "The Bush Telegraph for the 21st Century". On the Internet at http://www.tomw.net.au/papers/itr.html
  • AAP, "Secret Defence organisation should be scrapped - expert", 1 August
  • The Sunday Times [Canberra], page 2, 1 August
  • ABC Radio, Adelaide and Perth, 2 August
  • The Australian Financial Review, page 45, 3 August

DSTO is part of the Department of Defence. It gives professional, impartial and informed advice on science and technology best suited to Australia's defence and security needs.

DSTO Canberra media contacts:

Brian Humphreys, 02-6265 6541 or 0418 103 770 (mobile)
Grant Thompson, 02-6265 7947 or 0412 265 516 (mobile)

DSTO is part of the Department of Defence. It gives professional, impartial and informed advice on science and technology best suited to Australia’s defence and security needs.

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