• An artist's impression of the Attack Class SSG. (Credit: Defence)
    An artist's impression of the Attack Class SSG. (Credit: Defence)

Defence’s Contestability Division has 39 staff in Maritime Analysis Branch, 30 staff in Air and Land Combat Branch, and 33 staff in Joint and Enabler Branch, the department disclosed in June Senate Estimates hearings.

The Division, established in February 2016, “provides Integrated Investment Program project teams with ‘arms-length’ assessment of their documentation as they proceed towards Investment Committee consideration, and then to provide independent assurance of these capability projects for the Investment Committee," Defence stated in response to a question on notice by Senator Kimberley Kitching.

More straightforwardly, the Federal Government Directory says the Division “provides internal contestability across the entire capability life-cycle, from concept through to disposal, and ensure the capability needs and requirements of Defence are aligned with strategy and resources."

Contestability Division is part of the Strategy, Policy, and Industry Group, which points out (cautions?) that the Division involves decision-support, not decision-making.

There are no independent contractors in-house; all staff are Defence employees, or members of the ADF, who provide advice to internal Defence committees.

Asked at what stages, gates and passes of a project the Division was involved, Defence settled for “advice to internal Defence committees for key project approval stages."

Advice provided in relation to the selection of Naval Group for the Future Submarine project was “commercially sensitive and classified."

So were all risks specifically relating to any major Defence acquisition. And so, therefore, was a copy of the advice provided to CASG, Navy and Defence committees on the Future Submarine program.

However, asked whether the Division had been involved in consideration of any alternatives for the Future Submarine project, Defence appeared to have momentarily thrown caution to the wind: “In programs of this complexity it is entirely appropriate for the Department of Defence to undertake prudent contingency planning covering a range of potential options.

But - “this should not be taken as an indicator of future Government decisions.”

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