One of the most enduring myths about policy — and one which often undermines the overall effectiveness of policy decisions — is that policy is an abstract, theoretical and cerebral occupation for people who are as remote as possible from reality. Policy is accordingly irrelevant, and the policy areas of the Department and the ADF little more than sheltered workshops for the over-educated. Of course, such a view reflects the narrowest possible interpretation of policy.
In fact, the Defence policy process involves, in one way or another, everyone associated with the Defence function because, like all processes, there are inputs and outputs. Those involved in identifying particular needs, in implementing decisions and in evaluating actions are )ust as relevant to the policy process as those who develop and formulate proposals, the so-called "policy officers'.
The principal stages of the policy process are
■ information — needs are identified
analysis — information is processed and categorised
assessment and appraisal — analyses are considered and concepts developed
formulation — specific proposals are developed
■ DECISION — by Cabinet/Minister
•implementation — plans and programmes are applied
Of course, this paints an overly simplistic and schematic picture of the process. Nonetheless, it is helpful from two points for view; it assists in describing, in general terms at least, the approximate position of the various parts of the Defence organisation in the policy process; and it clarities the interrelationship between the various elements of the process. It also suggests that, if policy proposals are to be realistic, relevant and realisable, a considerable amount of consultation and negotiation is required. No individual area within the Defence function can afford to be isolated, but rather must seek to ensure that all relevant groups have a stake in the outcome.