A reform of Defence acquisition processes following implementation of the First Principles Review has seen the Maritime Systems Division of the new Acquisition and Sustainment Group adopting a four-point business plan to focus on the waterfront, essential business, governance oversight and the workforce.
Outlining details, Head of Maritime Systems Rear Admiral Mark Purcell told a Pacific 2015 audience that the low-point of new maritime platform acquisition would be reached in 2016-2017. New procurement activity would then rapidly ramp up to a peak in 2019-2020 greater in volume than seen for many years in the defence maritime sector.
He said: “We have practically moved through the valley of death with the Government’s announcement in August in regard to bringing forward the Future Frigates [SEA 5000] and Offshore Patrol Vessels [SEA 1180] and are working on dates to commence cutting steel for the future frigates in 2020, and 2018 for the OPVs.”
Timelines on both projects are “tight but not unachievable” said RADM Purcell. HMAS Anzac reaches life-of-type in 2026 and the 15-year life of the Armidale-class patrol boats expires in 2020. So “that gives us six years from cutting steel in 2020 to bring on the first Future Frigate”.
RADM Purcell added that for SEA 1180, there were a host of off-the-shelf designs that could potentially satisfy the new helicopter-capable OPV requirement: “We’ve stopped talking about corvettes – the real requirement is for a vessel that can undertake those extended deep sea voyages to offshore territories that we’ve been using the Armidales for.
“We’ll replace them first and then look at what will be most suitable to replace the existing special purpose vessels undertaking hydrography and minehunting.”
He acknowledged both projects involve risk, so if unacceptable risks in cost or schedule arise “we may have to go back to Government at first or second pass for additional consideration if unexpected issues arise”.
The Competitive Evaluation Process (CEP) for project SEA 1180 is accordingly to be progressed in a substantially different manner from that adopted for the Future Submarines, with RADM Purcell advising that Defence will first do an internal evaluation of all the primary contenders, before recommending a short-list to Government via established tendering processes. A contract with an external provider is to be announced soon fo assistance with the filtering process.
In the interim, the Maritime Systems Division has been advancing its new business plan. The focus on the Waterfront will be to improve outcomes, while Essential Business revolves around configuration management, maintenance planning and execution.
Governance Oversight will see effort shifting to governance-focused business in partnership with industry through new collaborative behaviour termed ‘communities of practice’. The fourth area of activity involves all steps necessary to create a workforce capable of supporting sustained operations.
RADM Purcell concluded by saying work is underway to ensure that in future procurements, acquisition activity is not progressed in isolation from sustainment considerations: “We’ve had a look at ISO 55001 and this has been considered in the development of a new MSD support concept, which has now been matured and will be reflected in future tenders.
“Ships take a long time to bring into service – we need to maintain them for the long haul.”