Australia's defense policies criticized

Sept. 17, 2012 at 2:21 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Australia's defense policies are being criticized for their inefficiency and cost.

Liberal Party Sen. David Fawcett, a former army helicopter pilot who worked for the Defense Materiel Organization before entering politics, said billions of dollars have been wasted.

'Defense is often under media and political pressure to reduce the number of 'consultants and contractors' as a cost-cutting measure, he said in a report by The Canberra Times in calling for a ''more commonsense'' approach to defense spending

"If the public service or uniformed personnel do not have the required competence this is not only false economy; it directly elevates project risk."

He said experts' opinions, if they were in conflict with bureaucrats', were often disregarded.

''The decision-makers must have disclosure of the fact that dissent was made and the basis on which the dissenting concerns were dealt with or discarded,'' Fawcett said.

He said the use of such outside experts is valued because the ordinary rotation of individuals in specific slots in the government would change.

He then claimed, "'Governance of the Australian Defense organization is dysfunctional.

"Defense procurement does not occur in a vacuum. (We should) view Defense through the prism of what we want it to be able to do; not just list (the equipment) we think it should have. This will lead to logical definition of the capabilities needed to generate the military effects required," he said in the Times' report.

Fawcett's credentials to speak on defense manners are bolstered by his extensive military experience. He was an officer with the Australian army from 1982-2004, trained as a pilot and became a helicopter pilot for 1st Aviation Regiment, flying in operations across Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Fawcett subsequently served in the Australian air force aircraft research and development unit and the Defense Acquisition Organization, rising to lieutenant colonel and commanding officer responsible for flight test programs for all of the Australian military's aircraft before resigning his commission to enter politics.

Topping the list of Fawcett's criticisms was the multibillion-dollar Super Seasprite helicopter project, which at $48 billion was the military's most expensive project debacle in a review of 28 major DMO initiatives recently reviewed by the Australian National Audit Office.

Other defense mismanaged projects targeted by Fawcett for criticism include landing craft for the dismissed Australian navy HMAS Manoora and Kanimbla warships, the Wedgetail early warning and air control system, the Tiger reconnaissance helicopter, an Adelaide class missile frigate upgrade, the KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Aircraft for and multi-role Helicopter project for the Australian air force, the Air Warfare Destroyer, a $1 billion program to upgrade the army's APCs and a lightweight torpedo replacement project and Collins class submarine sustainment for the RAS.

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