Army Individual Readiness Notice Follow-up Audit
The objective of the current audit was to assess Army's progress in implementing the ANAO recommendations and to examine and assess any developments in relation to AIRN since the 1999?2000 audit report and the 2001 JCPAA report. Army updated AIRN policy in 2001 and 2004, and the ANAO has assessed, where appropriate, the implementation of the 1999?2000 audit recommendations for these two policy reissues.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has followed up on Audit Report No.26 1999–2000 Army Individual Readiness Notice. Individual readiness (IR) is one foundation on which Army preparedness is built. The maintenance of a specified level of IR in peacetime (along with other factors such as equipment readiness and collective training) influences the speed of which Army can deploy on operations.
The objective of the 1999–2000 audit was to assess the efficiency and administrative effectiveness of Army Individual Readiness Notice (AIRN), first introduced in 1997, and to identify possible areas for improvement. The audit concluded that: there was scope for improving the effectiveness of AIRN in achieving its objective by establishing operational or deployable levels of IR for all components; and the administration of AIRN could also be more efficient by improving the recording and reporting system utilised.
The previous audit report made eight recommendations aimed at improving the efficiency and administrative effectiveness of AIRN. Defence agreed, or agreed in principle, to six of the recommendations and disagreed with two. The two disagreed recommendations related to removing the statement of availability (SOA) and making the replacement of unavailable members part of mobilisation planning and setting operational standards for IR components. The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) reviewed the 1999–2000 ANAO audit report and supported the findings and conclusions.
The objective of the current audit was to assess Ar my's progress in implementing the ANAO recommendations and to examine and assess any developments in relation to AIRN since the 1999–2000 audit report and the 2001 JCPAA report. Army updated AIRN policy in 2001 and 2004, and the ANAO has assessed, where appropriate, the implementation of the 1999–2000 audit recommendations for these two policy reissues.
Key audit findings
Implementation of AIRN
Army reviewed the AIRN objective as part of the policy releases in 2001 and 2004 and identified aspects of the IR components and policy administration that could be improved. Army undertook appropriate action to review and implement changes to enhance the effectiveness of AIRN.
In mid-2000, Army commenced actions to identify the annual cost of maintaining the AIRN policy. For the 2001 AIRN policy reissue, a number of actions were initiated to contribute to the development of a costing model, including the identification of annual and one-off costs. However, efforts to cost the administration of AIRN have been discontinued. Army has indicated that AIRN costing is not captured on a regular basis, as AIRN is considered to be the most effective approach to measure IR across Army. It is also deemed too difficult due to the variable factors involved.
For the 2001 AIRN policy, inconsistencies between AIRN and its supporting policies were observed by the ANAO for dental and medical fitness requirements. The ANAO found at the time of reporting that dental policy was still inconsistent under the 2004 AIRN policy, but Defence advised the ANAO in February 2004 that full alignment would be concluded by December 2004. AIRN policy oversight was provided by a number of senior Army corporate bodies to make sure the findings of the 1999–2000 audit report and Army review of AIRN in 2000 were considered. Communication with Army units on the changes to the 2001 AIRN policy was of varying standards, as reflected by the inconsistent application by units.
Individual Readiness Components
Dental Health Services Branch considered there was no operational requirement for most part time members (or Reserves) to be at Dental Class 2.1 The decision to change dental policy for part time members appears to be predicated on a common sense approach, which suggested the cost of maintaining them at Dental Class 2 was disproportionate to their likely level of operational contribution. Actions were undertaken in 2003 to determine the cost of dental treatment for part time members and the cost implications of increased usage of civilian dentists.
The annual SOA has been retained as an indicator of a member's availability for deployment. Army has supplemented the use of the SOA with a greater onus on members to report changes in their availability when they arise. The approach to mobilisation planning to replace members who become unavailable at the time of deployment is currently in the process of being formalised in the Chief of Army's Capability Directive (CACD).
The support measures attachment is no longer part of the SOA under the 2001 and 2004 AIRN policies. Army now employs a different approach to assessing deployment support—via a support network involving a member's unit, the National Welfare Coordination Centre (NWCC) and the Defence Community Organisation (DCO). Although the network of support personnel and organisations is extensive, there was some variation in approach taken by units.
For the 2001 AIRN policy, Army undertook action to develop the construct for the two levels of IR and links between some IR component standards and unit readiness notice (RN).2 The ANAO considers that more appropriate standards were needed for some components for the policy to be useful. Army addressed this recommendation to a greater extent in the 2004 policy by directing unit commanding officers (CO) to determine, from the Brigade Preparedness Directive, the IR requirements for members of the unit to ensure that the unit's preparedness requirements can be achieved within the unit's RN.
Recording and Reporting of AIRN Information
A number of users experienced significant difficulties in operating Personnel Management Key Solutions (PMKeyS) when it was first introduced, as the training programs were perceived to be inadequate. In June 2003, Army initiated a new training program to retrain users of PMKeyS, which has made progress in increasing users' working knowledge and understanding of PMKeyS. This has coincided with functional upgrades of PMKeyS. Users have advised the ANAO that training and system improvements have assisted in reducing the administrative burden imposed on units in the recording and reporting of IR data, and have also increased their ability to interrogate the system.
Changes in IR policy and PMKeyS business processes and training now permit continuous reporting of IR. The previous arrangement only allowed reporting of IR at six monthly intervals. However, PMKeyS business processes require further improvements to make sure that accurate AIRN data can be generated to populate IR reporting and meet user needs.
Overall audit conclusion
Army has made significant progress in implementing the ANAO's 1999–2000 audit report recommendations, but data integrity issues still exist in the IR reporting produced by PMKeyS. For example, comparing PMKeyS reporting with the 2003 Army manual IR audit revealed substantial data inaccuracies understating the level of IR by half. This lack of data integrity compromises AIRN's usefulness as a reporting tool for IR across Army and will require ongoing monitoring. Recent improvements in the functionality of PMKeyS and the introduction of a revised training program have eased some of the administrative burden of recording AIRN data.
Progress has been made on the revision of dental policy for part time members and the costing of dental support options; the assessment of support to deploying members and their families; and the development of IR standards to interrelate with operational readiness. The ANAO supports the actions undertaken to strengthen the link between IR and unit's directed preparedness requirements outlined in the 2003 CACD. The effectiveness of AIRN could also be improved by resolving the inconsistency that remains between AIRN and the dental support policy for the 2004 policy reissue.
The ANAO made one recommendation, to improve the accuracy of individual readiness reporting by PMKeyS, which was agreed to by Defence.
Defence response to the report
Defence advised the ANAO of its response to the audit as follows:
Defence agrees with the proposed recommendation. Defence is aware of the problems with regards to the management and reporting of Individual Readiness via PMKeyS. It is anticipated that the PMKeyS system upgrade, which is planned for initial approval in May 2004, will address these problems.
1 Dental Class 2 is defined as a level of dental fitness where a member need not be fully dentally fit, but is not expected to become a dental casualty in the next 12 months.
2 Readiness notice (RN) is the time a force element requires to move from one specified level of capability to another.