2009 is going to be the mother of all Defence budget train wrecks. Where is Defence going this year with our money? Well if recent news is any indicator, everything is on an express train to hell.

The taxpayer has provided for full up training facilities for the Collins class submarine program right at home. Yet through a variety of mismanagement goofs, one hundred submariners have to go to Canada to get special escape training. No matter that Canada doesn’t have submarines like ours. You are paying for the trip though. Some have called this “crazy”.

Defence has announced that in order to get the Boeing Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft in any usable form that we are going to have it delivered with around 10 percent less capability. Boeing could not cobble together the mission systems to meet the original requirement no matter how hard they tried. Defence seems quite happy enough with this resolution for a program that is years late. There is of course no mention of what 10% is missing from these aircraft. And why we’re not getting them for 10% off the original price.

Defence still wants a decision on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in 2009. If this deal goes through, it may cost us around $40 billion or more over the life of the program. However, John Young, the chief weapons buyer for the Pentagon stated the other day that the huge cost increases and delays incurred on the F-35 program were inevitable because the U.S. Defense Department didn’t spend enough money upfront to build realistic prototypes. This caused unrealistic cost and weight estimates. The F-35 “leads the way in all recent cost-growth analyses” stated Young. New estimates, that will be released soon, are expected to show further cost growth.

Also a study came out recently which claims that the F-35 should meet its low observable or “stealth” requirements. But those requirements were drafted years ago in an environment with blinders on to the growing threats that will exist in the aircraft’s lifetime of the next 30 or more years. The F-35 won’t be survivable enough to meet those threats. It may end up being a very expensive, gold plated clay pigeon.

What adds to this is the cold reality of the economic meltdown. Buying hugely expensive war equipment should be the least of our worries. It has been revealed by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that because of the US dollar value, Australia would have to shell out $1.3 billion or more every year just to sustain its US weapons buys.

In all this we have a Defence establishment that would have better luck looking at the entrails of a goat in order to predict the best way to procure military equipment.

There was one taxpayer purchase just the other day performed by Defence that was successfully completed. We don’t know what it cost. The Australian Defence Forces have compensated TV celebrity Tania Zaetta for damaging allegations that she had s-x with Special Forces soldiers while entertaining troops in Afghanistan. A Defence spokesman said that the investigation into who leaked the document to the media had been “inconclusive”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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