A March 2020 Insight Economics report presents arguments for a submarine capability that lean very heavily on a rather fuzzy concept; the ‘capability gap’.
Outdated terms-of-art are common and unchallenged in defence policy, they require no explanation and have acquired the authority to shut down arguments. But in reality, terms like ‘capability gap’ carry unexamined assumptions from a different time.
In the current strategic environment, has the idea of a capability gap become redundant? And does it not seem odd to expect submarines to fill a ‘capability gap’ in thirty plus years time?
Robert Gottliebsen (‘The Australian’ 12 Feb 2020) has found ‘a clear warning to the Australian nation’ of risks associated with the procurement strategy for Australia’s Future Submarine Program – risks which ‘may even ultimately put the [ANZUS] alliance at risk’.
Gottliebsen’s suggestion is that, because of French involvement in the procurement, the US will be unwilling to supply a state-of-the-art combat system. But Is there really any reason to think that the US would refuse to supply a suitable combat system? Or, more broadly any evidence that Defence is not managing the project risks effectively?
How did the Australian government decide to approve the SEA1000 project? That these decisions and the supporting background strategic analysis and assessments are always hidden from wider view by secrecy classifications and need-to-know protocols must be accepted, as must the reality that pragmatic consideration will be given to other important matters like alliance and industry policy. Still, how did SEA1000 happen?
The decision doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Has a ‘replacement mentality’ disproportionately affected the decision? Perhaps combined with a shift in influence within goverment in favour of the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF)?
Australia’s SEA1000 Future Submarine project is back in the news following a 60% increase in the project’s cost to AUD 80 billion, and a report by the Australian National Audit Office that identified flaws in the acquisition process Mike asks the broader question of the strategic assessment that underpins an investment of this magnitude over an extended, 30-year timeframe. What sort of capability will be produced by the project, and what sort of conflict would the capability serve?