Friday, July 14, 2006

Defence Direct By Brendan Nelson

Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel.
In this, the second issue, I have provided updates on some large Defence equipment projects and reflected on the role of Defence materiel in building a more mobile, combat focussed and operationally ready Defence Force and the challenge in ensuring good value for Australian taxpayers.

Following a number of important developments, I have also provided an update and some reflections on our involvement in Iraq. Where appropriate and as events unfold, I will provide updates on other operations in future issues.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


The Prime Minister and I recently announced the decision to acquire at least 34 more MRH 90 helicopters to replace Navy’s 30 year old Sea Kings and Army’s Black Hawk helicopters. With 12 currently on order, our fleet will total 46.

These MRH 90s will give us mobility and flexibility to enhance the ADF’s ability to respond in operations, counter terrorism and disaster relief. As a utility transport helicopter, the MRH 90 is highly suitable for amphibious (ship-to-shore) operations. The MRH 90 could also, for example, fly from Darwin to Dili and be able to conduct operations on arrival without having to refuel. Alternatively, two of these will fit in one of our new C-17 Heavy Lift Aircraft.

By replacing two helicopter types with one, as part of our overall plan to replace 10 types with seven, we will remove duplication. The ADF will benefit from jointly trained Navy and Army crews and a helicopter with land and maritime roles. The result will be improved program management, operational effectiveness, responsiveness and flexibility, value for money and safety.

This acquisition also means up to 350 smart, new jobs for Australians - around 200 in six years of assembly and 150 for ongoing support. In turn, this strengthens our Defence capability.


In 2002, following advice from the RAAF and others and detailed evaluation, the Australian Government decided that the Joint Strike Fighter would be the best aircraft to replace the F-111 bombers that have served us for 30 years and the F/A-18 fighters we are going to upgrade, but which will then need to be replaced.

To have the best aircraft - to deter would be aggressors and ensure we are prepared to defend Australia against any potential threat - we need the most up-to-date technology that can evolve and be changed throughout the life of the aircraft.

The Joint Strike Fighter is designed to do what its name suggests, combining strike (air-to-ground and air-to-sea attack) capability with fighter (air-to-air combat) capability. It would mean a quantum leap in air combat capability for Australia.

Yes, this project has attracted controversy - there has never been a significant Defence acquisition that hasn’t. I consider this scrutiny a positive thing. But Australia should not be risk averse in ensuring we get the best technology with which to protect our people, interests and values.

The Joint Strike Fighter is a developmental aircraft and our scientists have been working with Lockheed Martin (the manufacturer) and the US Department of Defense. More than 18 months ago, we addressed technical concerns that related to software and the cockpit display. With a project of this size and complexity, there may be other issues that arise and we need to be smart in addressing them.

A final decision on acquiring about 100 Joint Strike Fighters is not due until 2008. Later this year, we are due to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to progress further into the program. Before we do that, we will be absolutely certain that we will get access to the technology and data needed to sustain the aircraft through its life. We also want to make sure Australian industry gets a fair share of the action.

Following my visit to the Lockheed Martin Headquarters and subsequent meetings with Secretary Rumsfeld and US Defence Department officials, I am confident that we will get these outcomes.


At the recent Defence and Industry Conference, I launched the public version of the 2006-2016 Defence Capability Plan – the Government’s plan for the delivery of $51 billion in fully costed Defence projects.

This updated Defence Capability Plan accounts for the recent Budget commitment to increase Defence spending by 3% in real terms, each year to 2015/16.

This plan includes a long term financial commitment to the construction of substantial projects such as three air warfare destroyers, two amphibious ships, the new air combat capability and the replacing of Army’s entire vehicle fleet. It also provides for new projects including helicopters, enhanced satellite capability, refurbishments or replacements for Hercules C-130Hs and Caribou aircraft, naval weapons and boosted funding for our Hardened and Networked Army plan.

This new Defence Capability Plan acknowledges the reality that delivering a strong Defence Force requires commitment from Government, substantial sums of money, careful planning and focused project management.


Defence makes some of the Australian Government’s largest and most expensive procurements. Monitoring staged construction by large corporations over many years to ensure deliveries are made on time, on budget and to the required levels of quality and safety is not an easy process. I am confident however, that we are getting much better at it.

Following the Defence Procurement (Kinnaird) Review in 2003 the Government established the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) as a prescribed agency, giving Australia’s largest project management organisation greater responsibility and accountability.

Under the outstanding leadership of Dr Stephen Gumley, the DMO has implemented a range of initiatives to improve project management, including: a 'two pass' approval process (ensuring greater visibility and awareness of the project and its risks); greater professionalism (with particular emphasis on project management and specialist skills); a culture of greater accountability; and more comprehensive reporting (to enable problems to be diagnosed and remedied quickly).

On this last point, it follows that more comprehensive reporting makes it easier for worrying developments to come to the surface (just as a medical check up can raise concerns). But by diagnosing problems early, we will be better placed to fix them.

Of the 230 major projects since July 2003, 18 have closed with real cost decreases, while 8 have required real budget increases.

While projects were, on average, running 25% behind schedule in 2003/04, the final tally for 2005/06 will show projects 10%-13% behind schedule (compared to private sector benchmarks of around 10%). As a result of this improved project management, $625.1 million in funding was 'brought forward' in the 2006/07 Budget.

As Defence Minister, I am placing a lot of trust and responsibility with the DMO and will work with them to bed down and build upon our reforms to procurement. If and when it is necessary however, I won’t hesitate to intervene privately or publicly to make sure Defence contractors deliver what we have agreed to.


While making a brief visit to Hawaii to meet those involved in the RIMPAC biennial maritime exercise, I had the honour of laying a wreath at the memorial for USS Arizona, sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

I’ve never heard anyone question the decision of the US to respond to Pearl Harbor by entering the Second World War. It is important we acknowledge the reality that had America sat on their hands, Australia would not have survived!

In my first visit to the US as Defence Minister, I made a number of formal remarks about our alliance. In this forum, I’ll characterise our relationship less formally, by likening it to a relationship with one’s sibling. We don't agree on everything and it is important for us to be self reliant and independant. But at the end of the day, we are from the same 'family' (with a commitment to the core values of freedom, democracy, rule of law and tolerance). When it matters most, we’re at each others side.

A commitment to shared values and strategic interests has seen Australia fight along side America in every one of its major conflicts since the First World War. The present struggle against fundamentalist terror is every bit as important as any of those previous wars.


In the past eighteen months, our troops have been working side by side with the Japanese reconstruction force in Al Muthanna province in southern Iraq.

The symbolism of Australia and Japan working side by side to help another country’s transition to democracy, sixty years after Japan tried to defeat us in war, should not be lost on Australians. These recent photos of our troops and the Japanese, taken in southern Iraq on the day of the Australia versus Japan World Cup soccer clash, speak volumes about the transformation that takes place when a country embraces freedom and democracy.

No doubt this transition was difficult for Japan (and Germany and Italy), but it was surely worth it!


The Iraqi people are putting their shoulder to the wheel to help build democracy in their country. In January 2005, 8.6 million Iraqis braved threats of violence to vote for an interim government. In October 2005, 9.9 million took part in a referendum to ratify Iraq’s new constitution. In December 2005, 12.2 million (77% of eligible voters) had their say in electing the first National Assembly.

Iraq’s hunger for free expression is now being fed (at the latest count) by 54 commercial TV stations, 114 commercial radio stations and 268 independent newspapers and magazines. Under Saddam Hussein there wasn’t a single independent media source.

There are more practical benefits to Iraq’s transformation with millions more Iraqis getting access to water, sewerage and telecommunications and a projected 10.4% real increase in Gross Domestic Product underpinning a rapid expansion in standard of living.

All of this is bad news to terrorists, who rely on a climate of fear and intimidation for their ideology of hatred to be accepted. To quote Tony Blair:

“…global terrorism is so anxious to stop us in Iraq and Afghanistan – because if they succeed in that then they stop the possibility of democracy taking the place of religious fanaticism in these countries. Whereas if we succeed and if democracy takes root in Iraq and Afghanistan then I think, after that, global terrorism is on a downhill path.” (source: The Australian; 27/3/2006)

The fact that al-Zarqawi (Al-Qaeda’s number three operative) would go to Iraq to lead a deadly but desperate campaign to stop democracy from taking hold, suggests that from the terrorists’ perspective, Iraq is a critical front in the War on Terror. If they view Iraq as critical to their campaign, so must we.


Al Zarqawi’s elimination on 7 June is a blow to the terrorists’ campaign – a blow that would not have been struck had the Coalition of nearly 30 countries turned our back on Iraq.

An even bigger blow was struck that same day, when the formation of the new Iraqi National Unity Government was completed. By ratifying Prime Minister’s al Maliki’s candidates for Minister of Defence and Minister for the Interior, Iraq now has Ministers to lead the 117,900 Defence personnel and 145,500 police and other Interior personnel who have been trained and equipped and are gradually taking over responsibility for security in Iraq.

Less than two weeks later, it was announced that the southern province of Al Muthanna will be the first of 18 provinces to transfer to full control by Iraqi Provincial Government, with security presided over by Iraqi security forces.


As well as representing a further milestone for Iraqi democracy, Al Muthanna’s move to full Provincial Government, with responsibility for their own security, is a tribute to Australia’s efforts.

Since May 2005, the 470 ADF personnel in Al Muthanna have been training the 2nd Brigade of the Iraqi Army’s 10th Division, who are now taking a key role in providing security.

Our ADF has also provided a secure environment for the Japanese to conduct a range of important projects to improve infrastructure, including: training and technical support for four hospitals; 16 community water purification and supply projects; 18 projects building roads and bridges; and improvements to around 30 health clinics, 35 schools and 19 sporting, community and welfare facilities.

In addition, a small ADF team has managed an Australian Civil Military Cooperation Program which has employed local Iraqi people to undertake work that will benefit their own communities. As at May 2006, 19 projects had been completed, including renovations of a grain silo, abattoir and media centre (to support radio, television and print media) and provision of water kits, a veterinary centre and equipment, ambulance station and mobile health clinic (supporting a doctor, dentist and optometrist to remote areas).

All of this helps to bring hope and confidence to Iraqis, most of whom have a significant stake in making sure the transition from dysfunctional dictatorship to democracy is successful.

With this progress comes a responsibility to help see it through. As well as mentoring soldiers, ADF personnel in southern Iraq will now train Iraqi instructors, so the Iraqi armed forces can then take responsibility for training. We will maintain dialogue with the provincial leadership and be on hand to provide security back up if needed. Meanwhile:

• In Baghdad, around 110 personnel and Australian Light Armoured Vehicles (ASLAVs) will continue to provide vital protection for Australian Embassy and other Government personnel. Around 95 personnel will continue their outstanding service in the multinational force units and headquarters.

• A RAAF C-130 detachment of about 150 personnel will provide air lift and sustainment support. To date this detachment has completed over 1,100 missions and moved in excess of 2.1 million kilograms of cargo.

• A RAAF AP-3C Orion detachment of about 180 personnel drawn from all trades and specialties, that recently chalked up more than 8,000 hours in flight, will continue to conduct patrols in support of maritime security and land operations.

• HMAS Ballarat will continue to detect, deter and intercept vessels suspected of undertaking illegal activity within Iraqi waters, while protecting offshore assets such as oil platforms. This continues the work of HMAS Parramatta which recently returned after a six month tour in which they completed 653 investigative queries of merchant vessels, 186 boardings and 330 helicopter flying hours

• Small numbers of personnel will continue to serve in other important ways, providing: expertise on and disarming of explosives; logistics, stores, maintenance and postal support; training; and leadership roles within the Coalition.


Australia has played a strong role, as part of a Coalition of nearly 30 countries in establishing Iraqi democracy and in so doing, bringing hope to the Middle East and undermining the long term viability of fundamentalist terror. Just as we have worked side by side with Japan, I look forward to the day when Australia can work side by side with a strong, stable and peaceful Iraq.

Most important, I look forward to welcoming our troops home, when the job is done.