Defence has responded to negative and sensationalist media reporting on the contents of an ANAO report on the progress of the Future Submarine Program.
A joint media statement was released by Defence tester, signed by Secretary of Defence Greg Moriarty, CDF General Angus Campbell, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan and Deputy Secretary National Naval Shipbuilding Tony Dalton.
“Contrary to media interpretations of ANAO’s latest report on the Future Submarine Program, Defence was not advised to ‘walk away’ [as reported in some media outlets] from Naval Group by the Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board,” the statement said.
“In line with best practice and following the advice of the Advisory Board, Defence has continued to assess all of the risks that attend this highly complex program [including, a recommended that Defence consider alternatives to the current plan – in the event contract negotiations were not successful].
“At each stage, we are adopting relevant risk mitigation strategies.
“The ANAO acknowledges that Defence has taken steps to manage risks.
“The ANAO also concluded that Defence established a fit-for-purpose strategic partnership framework with Naval Group.
“Having done so, Defence continues to actively manage its contractual arrangements with Naval Group as both parties work closely to meet the inevitable challenges that will arise with a program of this scale and complexity.
“Following signature of the Strategic Partnering Agreement in February 2019, a schedule for design of the Attack-class submarine was agreed and implemented under the Submarine Design Contract.
“This schedule reflected Defence’s requirement for high levels of design maturity at defined points during the design phase.
“Defence has continued to ensure that design of the Attack-class has progressed to the required high levels of design maturity, providing greater certainty that our capability requirements will be met, and avoiding costly and lengthy delays that would otherwise eventuate during the construction phase of the program.
“While the first scheduled major milestone under the Submarine Design Contract was reached five weeks later than planned, Defence and Naval Group are working towards the recovery of this delay by the next contracted major milestone in January 2021.
“Importantly, the delivery of the Attack-class submarine has not been delayed.”
The official joint statement also said Defence had remained open in reporting the high risks that accompany the Attack Class Submarine Program, and had been diligent in working with its industry partner to manage pressures.
“As many lessons from major projects clearly indicate, taking the time required to establish strong foundations at the earliest stages of the Attack Class Program will underpin our longer-term ability to deliver the Attack-class fleet to schedule.
“Acknowledging the scale of this program, we remain confident that our work on the Attack Class Submarine Program with Naval Group and Lockheed Martin Australia is progressing thoroughly and will result in the delivery of a regionally superior submarine capability for Australia from the early 2030s, establishing a truly sovereign capability as we maximise the involvement of Australian industry.
“Australia is fully committed to working with France and Naval Group to deliver the Attack-class submarine fleet, which remains a strategically vital capability for our Defence Force into the future.
“The ANAO has previously reported that Defence effectively designed and implemented the process to select an international partner for the Attack-Class Submarine Program (ANAO Report No.48 2016-17).
“Through a robust and comprehensive selection process, Defence determined that Naval Group was the most suitable partner to design and deliver a regionally superior submarine that will best meet our demanding capability requirements.
“Nothing has altered this assessment [and] Defence stands by this judgement.
- AUDITOR-GENERAL REPORT NO. 22 of 2019–20 – Future Submarine Program — Transition to Design
- AUDITOR-GENERAL REPORT NO. 48 OF 2016–17 – Future Submarine — Competitive Evaluation Process
EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m no expert – but my reading of the ANAO report does not reflect the negativity I heard and read in other media outlets yesterday and today. I don’t usually carry official defence rebuttals to negative press – but in this case, Defence’s disappointment seemed to me to be warranted.