Cameron Stewart from The Australian has another update on the Air Warfare Destroyer disaster.
In “Government and industry out of their depth on defence procurement” he tries to explain the battleground of the Australian Defence shipbuilding players. In my opinion he gets most of it right but doesn’t ask enough questions of why--in this situation and others—the Defence Material Organisation (DMO) is a failed experiment.
Let us start out by looking at one of the key players in the Air Warfare Destroyer project, Deputy CEO of the DMO Mr. King. A quote from the above mentioned article starts out with Mr. King waving the flag. The warship project is difficult but don’t we have what it takes to see it through?
Early on Monday evening in Canberra, as King was being grilled by senators about the troubled project in a Defence estimates hearing, the public servant suddenly pulled out a round piece of steel. He waved it at the startled senators and declared: "This is a piece of steel. It came from Western Australia and was milled at Port Kembla and was cut and shaped by Australian industry. There are about 20,000 of these to go in these [AWD] ships.
"We do have a challenge; it's a complex project [and] . . . our industry is not always ready to take on every project immediately . . . this is one of those cases. [But] do we as a nation stand by [in] these tough times, come up with appropriate decisions and build a better capability for the next generation or do we just fold and say the world has collapsed?"
In one emotional outburst, King -- deputy head of the government's defence acquisition agency, the Defence Materiel Organisation -- had summarised the dilemma facing the Gillard government over defence.
Nice try, but it was Mr. King himself that put us in this situation (DMO biography PDF). It was King that had the responsibility to see the project through first and second-pass approval. Matter of fact the first paragraph of his DMO bio mentions both the “Air Warfare Destroyer” and “responsibility”. The “success” part is in serious dispute. He even got a promotion from that “success”.
It seems that it was he that was out of his depth and not just the Defence community in total. If politicians want to ask the right questions about this debacle they have to pin the tail on the donkey without the blindfold.
If politicians want true accountability in the taxpayer funded arena of the Defence Circus, why do some of these people still have jobs? Mr. King is one. There are more. Where was his boss the CEO of the DMO, Mr. Gumley during all of this? Should not the leader of the DMO—as one of our highest tax-payer funded employees in the nation—take some responsibility? This is what was missing from Mr. Stewart’s article above.
With that, good work to Mr. Stewart for staying on this story. He points to those other important topics such as:
1.How much Australianization can a project handle before it ends up as a dead kangaroo?
2.How much warship making skills do we have in the country considering that there are such long stints of inactivity between large projects?
3.Is the prime purpose of the Defence Industry a jobs program or to help defend the nation?
I will add two more. Where are the real project managers? And, if someone says, “Maybe we should not be doing this”, does anyone in authority listen?