The annual Defence Engineering, Science and Technology Conference (DESTC) 2020 held last month in Thaba Tshwane saw members from all South African National Defence Force (SANDF) services and divisions explore the challenges that hinder their operational functionality and share ideas on how better to manage the SANDF’s science and technology infrastructure.
The two-day annual event at the SA Military Health Service’s (SAMHS) Training Formation sought to find solutions to problems that engineers, technologists, technicians and artisans are experiencing in the SANDF.
“Attendees saw it as an opportunity to share skills amongst each other that will enhance the industry as a whole and better prepare the military for possible risks that may arise due to new technologies being introduced, with the global world adapting to the use of these new inventions,” the SANDF said.
One example came from an Air Force warrant officer, currently based at Air Force Base Waterkloof. He told the conference “SA Air Force (SAAF) engineers were limited to maintenance work around bases” and proposed “a strategy to align policies and allow a flow of information and collaboration to get the engineering mustering functioning better”.
One of the reasons for the conference, according to a 5 Air Servicing Unit major, “is to get the defence as a whole to understand the importance of engineering capabilities and also to come up with ideas of how we can improve in supporting the defence in operational demands through capabilities”.
DESTC delegates looked at engineering, science and technology not only from an internal national defence force point of view but also compared countries in areas such as systems, problem-solving and functionality. This saw debates on personnel development – developing the whole person intellectually, socially and financially; force resizing concepts in the light of the Defence Review 2015 and “persistent defence budget cuts”; using technology in the human resource marketing and recruitment process as well as “substituting live ammunition shooting with shooting range simulators”. This will create “safer musketry training environments and save on Department of Defence live ammunition costs”.
The conference, according to the SANDF, “provides an excellent opportunity to make suggestions on improving member functionality to limit the outsourcing of services that can be done at a reduced cost within the Defence, as opposed to millions going out the state’s account”.
Key achievements for this year’s conference included discussions on the alignment of engineering strategies and policies to create a flow of information, sharing research on future developments, collaboration, and centralising functional structures for smooth cross-functional relationships amongst Services and Divisions.
Last year’s conference focussed on preparing for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).