Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR_Dec.Jan2013 Contents 30 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter DECEMBER - JANUARY 2013
Referring to those statements, the Senator fired
this shot, “The committee has been told this pack of
'yes minister' jargon for more than six years now. You
must think we are as green as cabbage water to just
see it in the budget again and again”.
And then a short time later ... we come to the
moment referred to above.
SENATOR JOHNSTON: “.....
what is the
2014-15 [Collins sustainment] figure, the last of the
MR KING: “The 2014-15 figure in the forward
estimates is $360 million”.
SENATOR JOHNSTON: “That is $360 million for
sustainment of Collins?”
DR WATT: “It is $367.7 million”.
SENATOR JOHNSTON: “You could not be
serious. You are sitting there telling me that that figure
has any legitimacy on the facts I have given you?”
MR KING: “Well, it is certainly on the basis of our
estimating, yes, Senator”.
SENATOR JOHNSTON: “If I was a gambling
man, I would bet the house that that figure is about
half of what it is going to end up being, because you
have gone through the roof on your numbers already
and you are now telling us those figures are going
to come down. They have never ever come down
before; they have gone up at a rate which is far and
beyond any other force element group in the ADF;
and you are telling me they are coming down in the
out years. I have to tell you the credibility of that
statement is as low as I ever heard or witnessed at a
Senate hearing, given the facts I have just given you”.
October 2012 ...
Using Chris Deeble’s updated 2014-15 numbers
forward estimates have hit $640 million, thereby
approaching the doubling that the Senator predicted.
WHAT LIES BENEATH
And that leads us back to the real issue and comment
by Senator Johnston, “What really worries me is
that I think I was much closer to the mark, and I am
sitting over on this side of the lake with virtually no
It’s a very fair point. How does this happen? How
does the DMO – an organisation of more than 7000
people - with access to the information that it does,
do worse than a Senator and his Chief of Staff, no
doubt working on limited information and gut feel?
Two explanations spring to mind. One of them
is that the DMO’s senior executives have not been
frank with the Senate. The second possibility is that
they have had no idea, and that would be a tragedy.
So, which is it?
Certainly this writer rejects the first proposition.
As to the second proposition - others may agree,
sighting the influx of expertise from outside the
Australian submarine community over the past few
years; Steve Ludlum - CEO of ASC (from the UK),
John Coles - Head of the Collins Class Sustainment
Review (from the UK) and David Gould – General
Manager Submarines (from the UK). But this writer
also suggests the second proposition is wrong too,
on account of the experience and commensurate
salaries of the DMO team.
So, with both those propositions ruled out, what is
NO FOREST, JUST TREES
A third proposition exists; we have a DMO executive
group that is so close to the trees, they just can’t see
Warren King was an RAN Weapons Electrical
Engineer Officer (note also, that in his early civilian
life, he had involvement in the Collins program – this
writer first meet him after being posted to NUSHIP
Collins). He has spent 45 years in the domain. Much
of the rest of his team have also been around Defence
or in uniform for decades. People of that background
are passionate and loyal. If their dedication was a
knife, it could cut through carbon steel.
That loyalty can be seen in the defence-of-Collins
that has been mounted in the Senate in relation to
For the past three years Defence has been arguing
that it was doing well with respect to submarine cost
versus availability. Even this time around at Estimates,
distance travelled by our submarines was been put
out as a mitigating factor, along with complexity.
With respect to distance travelled, King talked
of “smaller, less widely used submarine” before
the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Griggs, proudly
provided a snapshot of what had happened with the
three Collins boats that operated between May and
October of this year. “There have been 163 days
at sea, 23,716 nautical miles ... 13 programmed
exercises. They fired 16 torpedoes, one warshot
which resulted in the sinking of the former US tanker
during RIMPAC, and 15 exercise shots. We have
qualified 25 new personnel and we have only lost 28
days in that period against planned Materiel Ready
Days”. It was clearly a good five months, and no one
should take away what was achieved.
But we need to put what King and Griggs said into
perspective, least we not be left inadvertently liking
our own ice cream.
An August 2011 article in “Janes International –
Navy” by LCDR Sebatiano Rossitto, Commanding
Officer of the Italian Type 212 submarine, ITS SCIRE,
on a 2009 deployment to the US is instructive.
He stated he had been underway for 108 days of
SCIRE’s 150 day deployment, a trip in which he had
HMAS Farncomb enters Sydney Harbour.
Credit: CoA / Richard Cordell
How does the DMO – an organisation of more than 7000
people - with access to the information that it does, do
worse than a Senator and his Chief of Staff, no doubt
working on limited information and gut feel?
6/12/12 11:38 AM
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