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Trials and Transitions: The 2013 Defence Reserves Association Conference
By Mitchell Sutton
2 October 2013

The Defence Reserves Association National Conference was held on Saturday 17th of August at HMAS Stirling, and featured a wide variety of speakers, of interest to both Reservists and the wider defence industry. These included David Feeney, parliamentary Secretary for Defence under the previous Labor government, Stuart Robert, the current Liberal Assistant Minister for Defence, NORFORCE’s Paul O’Donnell, and Indian Ocean expert Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe, among others. Perhaps representing a shift in strategic focus, it was the first time that the event has been held in Western Australia.

Senator David Feeney started the talks, after a brief introduction from the Defence Reserves Association, with an outline of current defence capability and a robust defence of his former government’s handling of the portfolio. “We’ve seen strategic guidance that makes it clear that the government understands Reserves,” the Senator said, before outlining various enhancements to the Army Reserve. These included providing Reserve cavalry units with Bushmaster IFVs, converting Reserve artillery units to mortar only forces and providing many opportunities for Reservists to participate in exercises.

On the other side of the political divide, Stewart Robert MP delivered an address outlining the Coalitions ambitious Defence plans, whilst launching more than a few swipes at the former government. “It’s not a matter of what we’d like to achieve, it’s what we have to achieve,” Robert bluntly stated, “if you’re not talking dollars, you’re not talking strategy”. Though he claimed that it was impossible to predict when a Coalition government would return defence spending to 2% of GDP, he did promise that there would be no further cuts to uniformed members or Reserve training days, and that the funds gained from any further cuts would be put back into defence. He also highlighted the growing importance of defence contractors, pointing to the example of the privatised maintenance and launching of drones during the Afghanistan conflict.

On a similarly frank note was the outline of the Beersheba modernisation plan given by Major General Steve Smith, commander of 2nd Division and Brigadier Mick Ryan, Director General of Strategic Plans. “We cannot be a force that compares itself against the Taliban; instead we must be prepared to meet a near peer competitor,” Brigadier Ryan said, “for too long we have had a mass mobilisation mentality, which gave us a wide, yet shallow, range of capability to draw on”. Instead the plan proposes highly adaptable light reserve brigades that are capable of contributing key capabilities to a full-time multirole combat brigade. The level of capability contributed is to be based on the level of readiness commanded in the so-called force generation cycle. This will allow 2nd Division to provide a “full spectrum capability,” as opposed to the light infantry force of the past.

Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe’s talk was on the often overlooked topic of security in the Indian Ocean region, plus its associated history and threats. Making the case for a renewed focus early on, Mr DeSilva pointed out that “eleven out of the world’s twenty most unstable states are located in the Indian Ocean region,” and that there had been over forty ADF and Australia police missions throughout the region since World War II. Food security, piracy and the high likelihood of continued aggression on the India-Pakistan border are just some of the threats that this unstable region is facing. Also touched upon were Australia’s interests in the region; with much of our country’s overseas trade travelling through that zone, plus the constant commitment required for its search and rescue zone in the West, one of the largest in the Indian Ocean.

Of most relevance to West Australians was Lieutenant Colonel Paul O’Donnell’s presentation on NORFORCE, the vulnerable North’s first line of defence. With a patrol area that covers 1.8 million square kilometres and only 500 reserves and 60 regulars to cover it, NORFORCE faces a constant challenge in its provision of Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance capability (ISTAR). Colonel O’Donnell sees some unique advantages, however, in the force’s strong engagement with remote indigenous communities. “Our ‘regionality’ is what gives us strength, and NORFORCE reflects its region. Small groups of soldiers can patrol a large area thanks to local information, and we see these community links as providing unconventional HUMINT (human intelligence)”. He also drew attention to the large contribution of indigenous Patrolmen to NORFORCE, which is around 50-60% indigenous in composition.

In conclusion, it was an excellent conference, well attended by the senior ranks of ADF Reservists from around the country. Though there was, understandably, much time committed to Reserve only issues, there was excellent debate about the future of defence in general, and all speakers should be commended for their candid and engaging expositions.


Mitchell Sutton is a Perth-based defence writer.

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Defence engineers launch new WA chapter
by Natrisha Barnett
In early August, Western Australia’s defence industry was given further profile with the creation of the WA chapter of the Australian Society of Defence Engineers.

ASDE represents professional engineers and technologists in the defence arena across the state, and combines the contributions of defense personnel, associations and government bodies, such as the Defense Materiel Organisation. Membership of ASDE is open to the wider community, and those with an interest in defence are encouraged to get involved. As part of its upcoming events agenda, ASDE WA plans to host a variety of activities to impart knowledge and engage with WA’s defence sector.

Following introductions from two ASDE luminaries, guest speaker Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt, head of the Navy’s Future Submarine Programme, provided an interesting presentation on the lessons that were learned from the Royal Navy’s submarine and surface warship acquisition programmes.

He drew upon the experiences from the UK shipbuilding industry outlining the problems in their procurement strategy, how mergers and acquisitions affected project completion, how mismanagement and ill-considered decision-making resulted in costly-budget blowouts that almost resulted in the failure of the projects.

Recognising the benefit of these overseas experiences, Admiral Moffitt noted that the Royal Navy experience has provided useful lessons to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), as it is on the cusp of selecting a new generation submarine to replace the Collins-class.
 

Given the focus on submarines, the talk also focused on WA and its future as a submarine base. Admiral Moffitt also spoke of the growth of WA’s defence sector over the last 20 years, commenting that the sector had become “increasingly indispensible” to the Navy’s future, especially where the Future Submarine Project (SEA-1000) was concerned.

20 September 2013
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Complicated World of Defence Industry IP Law
By Mitchell Sutton
 
A defence industry lecture and networking event was held on the 25th of July at the headquarters of intellectual properly lawyers Wray’s, at their West Perth Office. Titled, ‘Innovation and Procurement: Development in the Defence Sector,’ the speakers were Andrew Bellamy, CEO of Austal, and David Stewart, the director of Wray’s Lawyers. Both gave informative lectures on both the pitfalls and opportunities that confront the defence industry in Western Australia, especially with regard to IP. 
 
Mr Bellamy’s speech focused on the history and ethos of Perth based naval contractor Austal. As well as touching on past successes such as the 2001 contracting of the first high speed military transport to the US Marines, Bellamy also discussed the future of the company as a contractor to the US Navy for the Littoral Combat Ship and the Joint High Speed Vessel.
 
Austal has managed to maintain its market position against larger competitors through its value (including support during the lifetime of the vessel), quality and niche products, Mr Bellamy claimed. An additional benefit that Austal has utilised is their status as a civilian ship-builder. Most of their products started out as civilian designs after long periods of R&D, which provides military buyers with a practical demonstration that the concepts are proven, as well as the chance to solve any unforeseen problems.
 
Emphasis was also placed on Austal as an intellectual property holder and researcher, rather than as a manufacturer, with the computer assisted stability system, Integrated Maritime Coordination and Surveillance System and the MarineLink diagnostics system being singled out as prime examples. Bellamy was later forced to admit, however, that it had given up ownership of key intellectual property for the Littoral Combat Ships to the US government as part of the lucrative 10 ship deal, with the famous stability system to possibly be supplied by a rival. This was ascribed to the desire of the US government “to own everything” in its defence projects, something which the company has not encountered in Australia. He ended his speech on an upbeat note, however, pointing to the potential for future contracts with the USN and cooperation with General Dynamics on the Independence Class LCS.
 
Mr Stewart’s talk was an engaging look at copyright law as it relates to defence contractors and the inherent risks involved in accepting government tenders. Wray’s is a Perth based intellectual property consultancy specialising in defence and industrial copyright. The three main risks highlighted were those of ‘second source’ clauses, the recent Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 and the transfer of privately held IP to other parties by government.
 

Stewart was somewhat critical of the common government practice of ‘second sourcing’, whereby secure IP is given by contractees to rivals in an attempt to gain a competitive costing.

“I can understand the government logic behind it, but as an IP lawyer everything in me resists it,” Mr Stewart said, using the example of the bitter long running legal dispute over the Paveway laser guidance system between Lockheed Martin and Raytheon as an example. Another criticised element was Australia’s strict export controls. Ministerial permit is needed to export a long list of defence technologies, including many technologies that have an ostensibly benign function. This list, the Defence and Strategic Goods List, restricts the export of everything from machine tools to the Ebola virus. One representative of a major contractor claimed that such laws could see them face criminal charges for hosting sensitive data in offshore servers, as electronic transmission is counted as export.

He also gave the audience an insight into some of the patent battles behind the Australian Submarine Corporation with the Collins Class, and what has been done since then to improve relations between government and contractors.
 
Propeller contractor Kockums claimed that allowing a US subsidiary of rival company Lips to repair the Collins propeller would result in an infringement of its intellectual property rights. Kockums lost this case, but the Australian government has since improved the position of contractors and balanced its own need for control by giving contractors the option of competitive bidding before their IP is released through ‘second sourcing’, sunrise clauses on patents, buying IP from private contractors and keeping sensitive patents with neutral third parties during negotiations.
 
In the end the event was highly successful, giving a comprehensive overview of Austal and a look into the frequently complicated world of defence industry IP law. It managed to attract a large audience from the companies involved in the Australian Industry and Defence Network and government.
 
11 September 2013
 


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