Australian news, and some related international items

Dumb Ways to Buy: Defence “shambles” unveiled – former submariner and senator Rex Patrick.

massive over-investment in one project with a delivery date close to two decades away. This will unquestionably jeopardise our national security.

Sadly, Defence Minister Richard Marles is out of his depth and drinking the Defence Department’s Kool Aid.

Michael West Media by Rex Patrick | Dec 18, 2022

“The AUKUS nuclear submarine project will bleed the Australian Defence Force white”, topping the billions in Defence spending waste each year. And there’s no one watching anymore, reports former serviceman and senator Rex Patrick

Anyone with kids will know the song, ‘Dumb Ways to Die’.

Set fire to your hair
Poke a stick at a grizzly bear
Eat medicine that’s out of date
Use your private parts as piranha bait

Dumb ways to die
So many dumb ways to die

With 300 million views, it’s the world’s most shared Public Service Announcement. Launched in November 2012 by Metro Trains Melbourne to promote rail safety, it went viral through YouTube, quickly being shared all over social media.

Like many parents, I’ve suffered relentless annoying renditions of the song courtesy of my two, otherwise wonderful, daughters.

But that suffering is nothing like the suffering inflicted on Australian taxpayers and our national security by the Department of Defence as it has repeatedly bungled major Defence procurements. I’m not a songwriter, but what follows are all the elements needed for someone more creative than I to write a Defence procurement ‘Dumb Ways to Buy’ jingle.

Costly failure after failure

Defence procurement is a shambles and national expenditure disgrace. Project after project blows out in cost and schedule, with some projects being cancelled all together.

Every year the Auditor-General releases a Major Projects Report into Defence’s major projects. The most recent report covered 21 projects worth $58 billion dollars. Across those 21 projects, there had been $18.5 billion in cost increases – that’s 18,500 million dollars for those that can’t easily grapple with the large amounts of money with which Defence plays.

Across those 21 projects the schedule slippage was 405 months – 34 years. A number of projects, excluding the future submarine project for the moment, have either been binned or did not meet capability requirements. They are:…………………………………

That’s eight and a half billion dollars of taxpayers’ money just thrown away. That’s eight billion dollars of new capability our brave front-line Defence Force members don’t have.

What’s worse, there’s no-one watching Defence anymore. The Labor Party aren’t too interested in shining a light on Defence’s failures now they’re in Government. And the Liberal Party, having just left Government, are to blame for many of the programs. They’re happy to stay silent too.

And that leads us to the Future Submarine Program. It’s been in the news a bit last week after the United States offered, without any detail, to plug the capability gap that will be left by a first nuclear submarine only being delivered until in 2040 – the gap that the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd and Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison governments all pledged wouldn’t happen.

The Future Submarine project is the quintessential example of how not to buy a capability for the Australian Defence Force. Let’s examine that purchasing disaster.

Dumb ways to buy – delay the start

Sensibly, the future submarine project was first stood up in 2009. The plan was to work through the purchase options and commence construction of the first futures submarine in 2016, with the first boat hitting the water well before 2025, when the first of the ageing Collins Class submarines was due to retire.

Dumb ways to buy – pick partners using their views of themselves

In February 2015, the Government commenced a Competitive Evaluation Process, not to select a submarine, but to select an international partner to design and build our future submarines. The taxpayers forked out $8 million to each of France’s Naval Group, Germany’s TKMS and Japanese Industry: $24 million to listen to each potential partner tell Defence how good they thought they were.

At the time I was writing extensively on submarines for a Defence magazine. My business experience made me take a different approach to Defence. I jumped on a plane and went to talk to other navies, not about their submarines, but about their experience with their French and German suppliers.

The Chileans had had a good experience with the French. So too had the Portuguese…….

We proceeded to select the French as a partner, in taboo circumstances, where we didn’t have a comprehensively articulated contract.

After the partnership selection, Defence spent two and a half years trying to put in place a Strategic Partnering Agreement with the French, an agreement that was originally schedule to take 13 months; a first sign of trouble…………..

Dumb ways to buy – sign before you know what you’re buying

………… But that’s exactly what Defence did. Unsurprisingly, they copped severe criticism from the Auditor-General in his 2017 first program audit………..

Dumb ways to buy – risk it up………………………………………………….

Underlying this is the embarrassing fact that Defence employs Admirals, Generals and Air Marshals and senior Defence bureaucrats, with very little practical knowledge of project risk, to make procurement recommendations to Cabinet members who have no knowledge of project risk………………………………………………

Dumb ways to buy – switch to a costlier solution

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on September 16, 2021 that the Government was walking away from the French solution, he did so with great fanfare and gusto, announcing we were purchasing a nuclear-powered submarine solution. He made no mention of cost, or schedule. Irresponsibly, those details were not known at the time.

And then opposition leader Anthony Albanese irresponsibly signed up to the solution with 24 hours’ notice, principally because he and his shadow ministry were politically too scared to have a fight about Defence policy in the countdown to the 2022 federal election.

Our political leaders would have us think that we are special because the US has agreed to share its nuclear technology with us. But that’s simply incorrect………….

t’s like we’re hunting for the most expensive and best football team, but planning for it to arrive after the grand final has been played.

The AUKUS nuclear submarine program will bleed the Australian Defence Force white. The opportunity costs are huge in terms of other capabilities, for the Air Force, for the Army and indeed for the Navy, that won’t be affordable because of massive over-investment in one project with a delivery date close to two decades away. This will unquestionably jeopardise our national security. Sadly, Defence Minister Richard Marles is out of his depth and drinking the Defence Department’s Kool Aid.



December 19, 2022 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war

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