Observations Apr-Jun2007
by Geoff Evans

Defence Management Under Scrutiny
As noted by Observations in the October-December 2006 edition of THE NAVY, the Minister for Defence had recently announced a Review of Defence management practices. The Minister's statement named Ms Elizabeth Proust, a distinguished businesswoman whose career included senior Victorian Government and Melbourne City Council appointments, as chairman of the Review Panel.
Subsequently, the writer received details of the Review Panel's membership, the Terms of Reference and an invitation to appear before the panel (regrettably declined for a number of reasons and instead submitted 'impressions' of Defence arrangements gained from a long association with the Navy). The Minister's announcement also referred to the appointment of a permanent Defence Business Improvement Board of eight members - four external appointments and four from within Defence - to tackle management efficiency.
The panel headed by Ms Proust also included Vice Admiral Chris Ritchie, Navy Chief 2002-2005; Mr John Azarias, a Senior Partner in the accountancy firm Deloitte Australia and Dr Alan Kallir, an experienced management consultant.
The panel was charged with examining and assessing organisational efficiency and effectiveness in the Defence organisation, and make recommendations with particular regard to:
(a) decision making and business process, having regard to best practice in organisations of comparable size and complexity;
(b) the appropriateness and need for military personnel in non- operational or executive positions in the organisation and efficacy of Defence preparation for senior postings;
(c) structure, processes and procedures for managing information and providing timely and accurate information to stakeholders;
(d) the adequacy of the information management systems which support business processes and reporting requirements.
The Review was also required to provide "direction on the role and work programme of the Defence Business Improvement Board". There were however, qualifications; these included a reference to reforms underway in the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) which the Review would note, together with the role of the Defence Procurement Advisory Board, but "the Review should not seek to specifically address business processes in DMO". The ADF operational chain of command was also not to be considered.
Given the challenges facing all conventional defence forces at the present time - endless technological developments leading to material costs, personnel shortages and not least the diversion of national resources to combat the threat posed by terrorism - it is not surprising that governments should seek to reduce costs in areas such as administration and management; in this regard Ms Proust's Review Panel will no doubt make a worthwhile contribution.
If however, the Government was really serious about assessing the nation's defence arrangements, it would examine the whole organisation rather than numerous reviews and inquiries into different parts of the organisation - DMO and the chain of command included.
The Review headed by Ms Proust is expected to report to the Minister for Defence on schedule and at about the same time this edition of THE NAVY is published.

More Nuclear-Powered Ships for the USN?

In an article in the United States Naval Institute's February 2007 issue of PROCEEDINGS, the author Norman Polmar* discusses current proposals in Congress and elsewhere to again build nuclear-powered-destroyer/cruiser-tyre ships rather than conventionally powered ships of this type. An objective is to reduce the USN's dependence on imported oil, one of the reasons nearly fifty years ago to build nuclear powered cruisers and destroyers, nine being built between 1961 and 1980 and all now decommissioned, the last in 1998. This writer recalls the visits of LONG BEACH and TRUXTON to Melbourne and the stir they caused at the time!
The ship in mind for the new program is a cruiser being considered to follow the current new generation, conventionally powered, DDG-IOOO destroyer program (reported in previous issues of THE NAVY). The cruiser, designated CG(X), is planned to be conventionally powered but as it is not expected to be ordered before 2011. Nuclear advocates suggest there is probably time to redesign the ship to provide for nuclear propulsion. The author suggests it might be feasible if the US Navy adopted an existing submarine power plant or provided half of that of a carrier.
Author Polmar believes however, the odds are against the construction of nuclear-powered cruisers in the immediate future, cost being the main impediment. There are other issues:
. The engineering personnel of nuclear ships are significantly more expensive to recruit, train, and retain than for conventionally propelled-surface ships.
. Nuclear surface ship availability is less than conventional ships, i.e, they spend more time in shipyards.
. Nuclear ship accessibility to ports is difficult, including certain US ports as well as foreign.
. Nuclear ship disposal costs are considerable.
The article includes references to the well-known Admiral Rickover's 1960s plans for a force of nuclear strike cruisers to escort the carriers - four per carrier, 48 to 60 in all; 1974 . legislation supporting nuclear powered surface combatants provide the following US oil consumption figures - Department of Defence 300,000 barrels per day of which 8% went to the sea forces compared to 73% air and 15% to ground usage.
The article concludes "... while nuclear propelled surface ships are certainly desirable in many operational scenarios, the current forecast for shipbuilding funds and several other factors sharply reduce their feasibility. And while oil consumption is a significant factor in naval operations, more efficient or different types of propulsion for military aircraft and ground vehicles would provide a much better return on investment".
(* Norman Polmar is the author of "Ships and Aircraft of the US. Fleet" and is a regular contributor to the PROCEEDINGS)

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