Opening Address by Stephen Smith, MP, Australian Minister for Defence (selected excerpts)
(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued Nov. 10, 2010)
Fifth Biennial Conference of the Submarine Institute of Australia
Western Australian Maritime Museum
Fremantle, Western Australia, 10 November 2010


Thank you Peter (Horobin, President, Submarine Institute of Australia) for that introduction.

My Ministerial colleague, Jason Clare, Minister for Defence Materiel, My Parliamentary colleague, Senator David Johnston, Senator for Western Australia and Opposition Spokesman for Defence, Vice Admiral Russ Crane, Chief of Navy, andRear Admiral Robert Thomas, USN, representing the Commander of the United States Submarine Force in the Pacific Fleet.

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Maritime strategy and capability are vital to Australia.

Deterring and defeating a potential armed attack upon Australia depends in large measure on our ability to control our maritime approaches.

The importance of maritime power is clearly stated in the 2009 Defence White Paper. Maritime power is critical to the future structure of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) – clearly seen in Force 2030.

The Government’s decision to acquire 12 Future Submarines, to be assembled in South Australia, is a defining element of Force 2030 and Australia’s future maritime power.

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WHY SUBMARINES ARE A KEY PRIORITY

The Government is committed to delivering an expanded submarine capability. In the 21st Century, submarines continue to provide a means for Australia to defend our maritime approaches, if necessary at considerable distance from our shores. They allow the ADF to undertake sensitive missions where a submarine’s natural advantages such as stealth are crucial.

This is particularly valuable for maintaining situational awareness and other sensitive strategic missions, to ensure that the ADF attains the widest possible margin of information superiority over an adversary.

This is critical for a relatively small force with enormous operating areas, like the ADF.

A potent submarine capability also significantly increases the risks and planning challenges for any potential adversary. Countering our submarines requires a disproportionate expenditure of military effort.

Submarines represent an effective and flexible capability that the Government is committed to enhancing.

The 2009 White Paper judgement was that 12 boats will be necessary for the ADF to be able to deploy a sufficient capability on station to conduct strategic missions and support maritime task groups. Our geography is such that the necessity of long transits also leads one towards an expanded submarine force.

PROGRESS MADE WITH THE CURRENT COLLINS CLASS CAPABILITY

Strengthening the current submarine capability is the first step in the evolution towards the future submarine force.

The current submarine force has suffered in recent times from poor availability of the Collins Class and from workforce shortages. The Government committed to solving these problems in the White Paper and significant progress has been made. This is vitally important, as the current force is the foundation for the future.

The Defence Materiel Organisation has reorganised the way submarines are supported. Submarine sustainment is now managed from Adelaide, where DMO and Navy staff work closely in an Integrated Product Team with ASC Pty Ltd, the submarines’ builder and maintainer.

An Integrated Master Schedule has been agreed to meet Navy’s availability needs and work is underway to establish a new performance-based maintenance contract to commence in the next financial year. Stability and certainty in Collins Class availability is vital as we build towards the future submarine capability.

Navy has also made significant progress in building a submarine workforce. Numbers have grown by over 20 per cent in the past 18 months and current expectations are that the submarine workforce will exceed 600 by December 2011. This gives confidence that the workforce expansion needed over the next two decades to crew the Future Submarine force can be achieved.

FUTURE SUBMARINE DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT

The complex, sophisticated and costly nature of modern submarines adds to the challenge of capability development and procurement. But the importance of this capability means we must get it right.

The way in which we approach the development and procurement of the future submarine capability is a key issue. Our experience with the Collins program has lessons for us and the Government is very focussed on making sure that these are taken heed of.

My predecessor, Minister for Defence Faulkner, initiated a lessons-learnt process into the Collins Class to inform the development of the Future Submarines.

One area of enormous and expensive difficulty with Collins was the combat system. Issues such as the combat system are complex and important issues for national security. Accordingly, it is vital that we get them right. The Government will take the necessary time to make the right decisions. The Government will ensure decisions are supported by robust planning, comprehensive knowledge and appropriate capability development processes – as must be the case for all capability acquisitions.

In the case of the submarine capability, the significance of the acquisition for future interoperability with the United States means we will also work closely with the US Government throughout the acquisition process.

At AUSMIN this week, Secretary Gates and I discussed working together to enhance our defence capabilities, including the Future Submarines.

We agreed that Australia-US cooperation on submarine systems was strategically valuable for both countries. For this reason our high level of submarine interoperability, and our technical cooperation, extends into future submarine acquisition programs. (end of selected excerpts)


Click here
for the full transcript, on the Australian DoD website



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