The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) is an indispensable asset of the Australian Department of Defence, supporting and transforming the country’'s security capabilities while also contributing to national wealth. With an annual budget of approximately $408 million, it has a team of more than 2,100 staff working predominantly in scientific, engineering, and technical fields to come up with valuable ideas and solutions.

The man leading DSTO is Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky. Alex has an extensive and diverse repertoire of experience in the advanced technology and innovation fields. He has worked in Australia and overseas with a variety of companies, including a multinational, an SME, two universities, and two national science organisations. Rather than seeking to change jobs regularly, he says he has always sought out challenging projects which had the best people working on them.

Alex joined DSTO in March 2012, and his approach has been to encourage staff to solve problems comprehensively and in a timely manner, keeping in mind three steps: think big, start small, and move quickly. To gain an insight into what DSTO is all about and to find out how it is helping to keep Australia safe, The CEO Magazine had a chat with Alex.

The CEO Magazine: How important do you believe the role of DSTO is in applying science and technology to safeguard Australia?

Alex: A modern defence force is increasingly reliant on advances in technology. The Australian Defence Force is no different. Maintaining our capability advantage requires investment in science and technology. Our nation needs a high-technology edge to offset the size of our defence force, which is smaller compared to that of our allies’ defence forces.

DSTO also has an important role in advising the Australian Government on acquisition to ensure that new capabilities that are acquired offer best performance and value for money. For example, DSTO’s advice is critical in addressing the technical and integration challenges for new capabilities such as the Joint Strike Fighter and the Air Warfare Destroyer. DSTO assessments ensure that the technical risks of acquiring new capability are fully understood and are appropriately managed.

DSTO expert advice also helps to reduce the cost of operating and maintaining defence equipment, and to extend their safe service life thereby delaying replacement costs. DSTO’s technical expertise has saved defence many millions of dollars by extending the life of fighter aircraft long after their use-by date. DSTO creates new defence capabilities that make a difference.