As part of its recent submission to the Senate inquiry on the benefits and risks of a Bipartisan Australian Defence Agreement, Raytheon Australia called for a number of measures to be implemented regarding the conduct of tenders.
Citing the need for a greater focus on the discussion of capability (as opposed to the current situation – think Land 400 Phase 2 – where industrial considerations of individual projects are the default and exclusive focal point) Raytheon stated this could be facilitated by a relaxation on the ban imposed upon tenderers by Defence restricting them from speaking publicly about the content of their tenders.
While recognising there should be no disclosure of classified performance specifications of individual capabilities, the prime is of the opinion there is no “suitable justification to limit a proper and open public discussion of issues a tenderer thinks appropriate to reveal about their bid”.
The resulting capability-focused conversation would, according to Raytheon, provide the public with a greater stake in the defence capabilities for which they are ultimately paying as taxpayers.
A case in point is that of the Collins class submarine – “it is certainly true to say that if Australians were more aware of the need for submarines and the highly capable nature of the Collins Class submarine in particular they would have been more tolerant of efforts on the part of successive governments to improve the capability and the submarine enterprise in general”.
The submission also called for a requirement to table in Parliament the progress of National Security Committee (NSC) consideration of individual projects.
“Each year the federal budget discloses those projects planned for first and second pass consideration yet there is no requirement to report to the Parliament on the success or otherwise of the Executive’s timetable for consideration of those projects.”
Interestingly, Raytheon questioned whether the current level of scrutiny into defence industry performance (the scorecard process assesses success against benchmarks including cost, schedule and technical performance) was adequate: “the impact of this measurement of past performance on source selection is doubtful and there is little evidence that the scorecards are even seen by anyone beyond the companies themselves and a limited group within the Defence Department”.
It called for the scorecards to be made available to members of the Investment Committee (during evaluations) and the NSC (when final decisions are made).
“Further, there is a strong public interest that members of the Defence Sub Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade also be provided with the scorecards on a confidential basis to inform them on how the portfolio of defence projects are being executed by industry.”
ADM Comment: Hear, hear we say, but then who are we but the hacks, somewhat jaded at having to wade through political PR, reading between the lines that trumpet jobs and growth to glean some choice snippets about proposed capabilities. More discussion and focus on capability is certainly welcome so long as it is tempered, as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute stated in its submission, with an enquiring attitude of government that seeks to determine whether the capability proposed represents the best available return on investment for the nation.