Saturday, 26 December 2009

Best wishes of the season

I've left it until Boxing Day to wish everybody the compliments of the season and offer my best wishes for 2010.

Why? Because I'm slack.

Its been an interesting year - plenty happening on the defence and aerospace side of things: the Australian government has ordered 14 Joint Strike Fighters (why just 14?); the first RAAF Super Hornet is flying and will be delivered early-ish in 2010; the AWD project continues to move along; the RAAF has short-circuited Canberra's cumbersome bureaucracy and laid its hands on a couple of Heron UAVs while the Army and DMO mess around trying to decide what they'e going to do about acquiring Tactical UAVs under JP129; the government says we need 12 bigger and better submarines than the current Collins-class, and mouths are already pursed censoriously at the prospect of an industry program that's bigger and more complex than the Collins, and run by the same stakeholders; and Navy at some point will have to decide what sort of helicopters it wants. Or, rather, somebody will have to tell the Navy what sort of helicopters it's going to get, because it's not a choice I'd entrust to the RAN just at present. There are two contenders and they need to be compared properly, and on its performance to date I'm not confident that the Fleet Air Arm is equipped to either make that choice or cope with the consequences of getting it wrong.

My viewpoint on this has been sharpened by my three-month sabbatical, courtesy of the Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) in Melbourne, studying defence industry innovation. I'll be flagging up papers and survey results in due course, but it's becoming clear that there are a number of factors which both stimulate industry innovation and affect the prospect of its success; these include the professional and technical expertise of the customer and their effect on his ability to identify, estimate and manage risk; and the customer's willingness to invest in a developmental project - the two seem to be related.

It's nice to see the DMO concentrating on the professional and technical development of its people, but the recent Mortimer and Pappas reviews of Australian defence procurement urge the government to buy more equipment off the shelf, which could see opportunities for Australian innovators reduced significantly. Hope not, but we'll see.

I'll try and blog a bit more frequently next year; the difficulty is finding something interesting to say that I'm not being to write for somebody else. Is that a New Years Resolution? Fat chance!

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