Saturday, June 4, 2011

Find out who is responsible for the Air Warfare Destroyer mess

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 Australianisation 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?


Anonymous said...

The problem with this article was that, following the usual pattern of "The Australians" anti-ALP agenda, they tried to make the story about "Gillard Government spin" rather than the problems with the project. Count the references to "government spin". This is why we dont get the questions asked that should be - the media is off the reservation busily trying to hang the government.

RS said...

The Australian is correct.
It is not anti-ALP as the previous Govt also ignored the problems.
The current Government must admit that the problem is DMO, over and over again.Defence compounds the problem with further incompetence, and lies to Senate enquiries to cover their oncompetence.
What is it that these people ae seen as protected species.
Admit that problems exist and the current system does not work.
Introduce one that does.
Hey guess what, the Government is responsible and there in lies the problem , it is not the project .

They should criticise the Government.
Smith is spinning like a top.

Bonza said...

As long as Government treats ADF capability acquisition as a domestic "jobs cow" rather than of vital importance for the defence of Australia, things like this will continue to happen.

There's nothing wrong with building ships in Australia of itself. We've built heaps successfully. The last 2 FFG's, ANZAC's, Huon Minehunters and Armidales show that.

What is wrong is the "alliance" structure which ensures no-one has total responsibility and no-one has any accountability.

If the ships run late, that only effects our defence capability and as long as we're not at war that can be borne. Defence Industry doesn't suffer.

Yet if Government could find a way to make timely, sensible decisions they could actually HAVE a reasonable defence industry. These AWD's shuod have followed straight on from the ANZAC's, LHD's follow-on from AWD's and future frigates follow-on from LHD's and so on. It's not rocket science but Government dithers for years and the sult is what we have now. Contractors that lose the capability to do what they previously could...

RS said...

Bonza exactly, not rocket science but beyond the capabilities of DMO, Defence and Politicians.
However DMO are the Managers

Anonymous said...

Guys, getting an Australian Government of ANY colour to treat Defence as anything other than a job factory and a way to funnel money into marginal electorates is a pipe dream. Get used to it, it aint going to stop. Ever wondered why the Armys Soldier Career Management Agency (SCMA) is at Fort Queenscliff South of Melbourne when the Directorate of Officer Career Management for Army (DOCM-A, and incidentally all of the equivalent agencies for RAAF and RAN) are in Canberra? The reason is that in 2004, John Howard looked like losing that electorate, so Army was directed to insert at least 120 military jobs into the existing facility at Queenscliff (which was about to be closed and handed over to the National trust). Dont get me started on why 1 Brigade is in Darwin while 7 RAR (one of its component units) is in Adelaide (OK, it was Alexander Downer) or why the Army's Aviation training centre is at Oakey. All of those decisions were nakedly political.

If you want to fix Defence, you could do a lot worse than changing the Governments view on what it is actually for. But dont hold your breath.