Public Concern about Submarine Procurement in Australia

Given that people are talking about the need to make a decision about new submarines for the Canadian Navy, it’s perhaps useful to look at the experience elsewhere. Australia is always a good comparison for Canada, and it recently decided to procure new submarines. But clearly there are already some hiccups. In September 2017, a 143-page report was published entitled “Australia’s Future Submarine: Getting This Key Capability Right.” Insight Economics was commissioned to write the report. It’s interesting that the report was commissioned by a ‘concerned citizen’ who was worried about the Australian government’s decision to procure the Shortfin Barracuda as Australia’s new submarine. The report notes widespread concern in Australia, and among defence experts, economists and public policy specialists in particular, about this decision. As noted in the Foreword, the concerns about the submarine are as follows:

  • Suitability of the proposed acquisition having regard to the most likely strategic risks facing Australia;
  • Cost of the proposed acquisition;
  • Lack of competition and consequent loss of control over future costs;
  • Extended delivery timeframe with the acute danger of a capability gap;
  • Associated need for a comprehensive, costly life extension of the Collins class; and
  • Significant risks (economic, strategic, technical and industrial) arising from the selection of an untested bespoke design for a very large submarine.

 

It’s an extremely interesting report. It is available at http://www.insighteconomics.com.au/reports/2017_Insight_Economics_Submarine_Report.pdf. The responses to it are also interesting.  See, for example, an article published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (3 October 2017) by Andrew Davies called “A Fall-back Option for the Future Submarines” at https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/a-fall-back-option-for-the-future-submarines/.

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