Announcement of the winner of the 2018 Minister's award for achievement in Defence Science

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Senator the Hon David Fawcett

Assistant Minister for Defence

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  • Mike Banham (Senator Fawcett’s office): (02) 6277 3409
  • Defence Media: (02) 6127 1999,

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6 November 2018

Thank you for that. The CDF (*), High Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, it is good to be here with you. Now, Alex said that the film you saw earlier, they couldn't have made a few years ago. And that is true. In fact, a few years ago, recommendation 2.16 of the First Principles Review almost scotched the Minister's Prize for Defence Science because it basically put out a show cause to DSTO as to why you should still exist and what was your value proposition. And I think it's a credit to Alex, that a couple years down the track you can put together a video like that and demonstrate very clearly what that value proposition is across a whole range of areas.


In fact, if you consider the fact that science works on everything from equipment through to personal and systems, it takes into account all of the fundamental inputs to capability. So, whether you're talking about people, our organisational design and support systems and individual and collective training, the equipment itself or even the doctrine and tactics of how we utilise equipment; smart thinking goes a long way to giving that capability edge and bringing men and women safely back home. So, thank you to you and your people for doing that.


From Sun Tzu through to Clausewitz, and even manual of land warfare today, we talk about the principles of war. And one of them is surprise. Everyone tends to think of that as being: how can we surprise the enemy? The reality of life is that life often surprises us, and whether that is things like unexpected fatigue occurring in equipment or other equipment failures, or through to the development of threat weapons we weren't expecting, the ability to have innovation and rapid development of solutions is really important to giving capability edge, or importantly, force preservation.


Now, that can be from a  peer adversary, so things like supersonic sea-skimming missiles that are a threat to our surface fleet, or it can be against a non-state actor and the development of things like improvised explosive devices. And we saw in the video a bit of a discussion around the impact those IEDs have. Certainly, from Australia's perspective, a number of the servicemen who were killed in Afghanistan were killed by IEDs. Scores of people who were injured had traumatic brain injury from IEDs. If you look at our US counterparts, those with traumatic brain injuries are measured in the tens of thousands; huge numbers of people who are impacted by those kinds of threats.


The ability to respond to those threats, whether that be in a static environment - so, things, for example, here in Australia as we look at events like the Olympic Games or large international conferences - so think APEC - through to the individual men and women or vehicles in the field. DST has been at the forefront of developing countermeasures, particularly RF suppression systems that can defeat both line-of-sight type devices, or devices that are triggered using the broad range of wavelengths that different mobile devices and other transmitters have.


In Australia's case, DST has developed that technology over the last 20 years. And again, it's shown on the video there; it's got to the point now where every Australian soldier who is deployed in the theatre is protected by one of those systems, as well as US allies, as well as now tens of thousands of Afghans in the Afghan National Forces - through both Redwing and Silvershield. That work has been a life changing, lifesaving work. And the value proposition that DST and individual scientists can now offer up to the Australian taxpayer is that there are husbands and fathers and sisters and mothers who will come home, and come home well because of the work that DST, and in particular Dr Andrew Piotrowski, has done. And it's my pleasure to announce him as the winner of the Minister's Award for Defence Science in 2018.

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