Australia will have to replace or upgrade 80% of its military equipment in the next 10-15 years.
The number represents more than A$100 billion in defense business, says Greg Combet, the Parliamentary Secretary for Defense Procurement. Around 60% of that expenditure would go to local companies, with the rest available for companies overseas.
Although Australia is assessing its national security needs as part of a broad strategic review, Combet suggests there’s unlikely to be a big change in those modernization figures.
It’s potentially good news for industry, if the government can just find the people to manage the programs. Combet notes that of 1,680 positions for acquisition and sustainment that had to be filled in 2007-2008, only 650 could be filled. The shortfall means spending has slowed.
Addressing the skills shortage is something the government is focused on, Combet tells the Submarine Institute of Australia.
On the topic of greatest interest to the audience, submarines, Combet promises the Collins-class replacement will be built locally, in Adelaide, even if the contract will be competitively awarded.
The project itself should not be at risk from the ongoing strategic review, he indicates, although procurement numbers could be impacted. But Combet notes that “sophisticated Russian and Western European designed submarines are proliferating into the region, with Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore and South Korea all acquiring or planning to acquire modern conventional boats. The rising major powers China and India are [also] working to develop indigenous nuclear submarines.”
In addition to risk reduction studies of all sorts, the government plans to hire a submarine design consultant to help define the project. The goal is to lock in the design around 2010-2011.
Like naval chief Vice Adm. Crane, Combet says the relationship with the U.S. Navy and defense industry will be key. “We will be working with our good friends closely on this project especially in the areas of combat systems technology – drawing on their extensive expertise.”