Patrol boat woes demonstrate wider defence capability lesson

Stress fractures in the hulls of the Navy's hard-worked patrol boat fleet are not the result of the high operational tempo per se. They are really a symptom of not building the right type of boat in the first place despite ADF professional and wider scientific advice to do so. This short-sighted decision was insisted on by the then government to supposedly save money but, like all such politically expedient decisions, it costs the taxpayer much more over the long run as well as resulting in considerable operational costs and risks for our defence force.


Letter to The Australian 

Friday, 10 August 2012
(published with editing that changed some of the meaning substantially (see below), Saturday, 11 August 2012)

Cameron Stewart, “Asylum demands breaking navy fleet”, 10/8, confuses symptoms with causes and misses the wider defence capability lesson involved.

The high operational tempo is only causing the Navy’s patrol boats to break down because, to supposedly save money, they were built down to a price and constructed to commercial not warship standards.

ADF professional and wider scientific advice not to do this was ignored.

Saving money in the short term has again come at the long-term financial and operational costs of sacrificing most of the factors that make warships rugged, dependable and able to remain operable when coping with a combination of high tempos, tough sea-keeping conditions and damage.

People need to stop reflexively blaming the victim, our Navy, for problems with its ships.

If the procurement of the right ships is not authorised and appropriately funded in the first place - and then the Navy’s responsibility and capacity to maintain them is taken away (as the independent Rizzo Report noted) - any blame must be duly sheeted home to the short-sighted and ideological decisions made by governments of all political persuasions.

 

 

What The Australian oddly chose to publish instead:
(changes in italics, deletions underlined)

Your story “Asylum demands breaking navy fleet”, 10/8, confuses symptoms with causes and omits the wider defence capability lesson involved.

The high operational tempo is only causing the Navy’s patrol boats to break down because, to supposedly save money, they were built down to a price and constructed to commercial not warship standards.

ADF opinion and wider scientific advice against this course was ignored.

Saving money in the short term has again come at the long-term financial and operational costs of sacrificing most of the factors that make warships rugged, dependable and able to remain operational when coping with a combination of high tempos, tough sea-keeping conditions and damage.

People should stop reflexively blaming the victim, the Navy, for problems with its ships.

If the procurement of the correct type of ships is not authorised and appropriately funded in the first place, then the Navy’s responsibility and capacity to maintain them is taken away.

Any blame must be duly sheeted home to the short-sighted and ideological decisions made by governments of all political persuasions.

 

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