By: Defence Anonymous
A Blueprint for Weapons Acquisition Reform
How to FIX every Product Development to be more Affordable, Producible and Problem-Free
There’s a sub-title to this book: How to FIX every product development to be more affordable, producible and problem-free. The main title reminisces a certain Presidential election and that might put some readers off, quite understandably. But the inoffensive (if not dull and technical) sub-title should keep the book in a buyer’s hands for further consideration. Gary Stewart is inviting us to believe that military equipment purchases for our nation’s war fighters are a virulent swamp. Or that the decisions happen in a swamp – or both. That’s pretty strong language, despite recent over-misuse but it certainly doesn’t sound good. Anyone who has paid even cursory attention to Defence equipment procurement over the years will be aware how often military purchases seem to be a debacle so it’s probably not hard at all to accept Gary’s opening proposition and accept his invitation to explore the subject further.
This book is brutally blunt, simple and clear in the way it describes just how awful Defence’s equipment procurement system really is when compared to world’s best practice. It zeros in with laser precision on the vast amount of taxpayers’ money that is routinely wasted. It exposes how that waste is systematically covered up with spin and worse to create glowing but incomplete or false alternative versions of the facts – all in order to mislead.
Gary analyses and cites reliable public sources and has had privileged access to insights from deeply frustrated people in industry and equally dismayed ex-insiders of the Defence procurement machinery to support his various analyses.
He has clearly been tireless and meticulous in searching out verifiable facts, which he lays side by side with Defence’s public explanations. He leaves the reader to decide whether we have been well served.
He analyses why things seem only to have degenerated over time despite a seemingly endless cavalcade of reviews and reorganisations of Defence in general and the equipment development, procurement and sustainment parts of Defence in particular. Perhaps most unsettling of all, he explains who has benefited from the rivers of taxpayers’ gold wasted through ineptitude, incompetence and lack of leadership.
Something else troubled me deeply about this book, something that Gary identifies as being a big part of the problem with Defence procurement. That is leadership, authority, responsibility and accountability. Recently a senior and eminent lawyer investigated what went wrong that led to so much tragic and needless death involving a ship named Ruby Princess. That investigator found mistakes were made from start to finish in that sad incident – but no one was responsible. Really? How is that possible? It’s not about finding someone to blame. That’s hardly the point after the fact unless crimes have been committed.
What it is really about is the desperate and fundamental need that there be someone at each step who has appropriate authority to take responsibility and be held accountable – someone who is – and is actually able – to be in charge. As Gary outlines, that’s a big problem with Defence procurement – who’s actually in charge and do they have the appropriate skills, authority and responsibility to actually be in charge? And are they supported from above in meeting their responsibilities?
Gary goes on to suggest a better way, using proven practices. For this he draws on his lifetime of product development experience with one of the world’s most successful manufacturers and later as CEO of a manufacturing business in Australia, among other things including international experience. He clearly has the credentials and expertise from his personal success to be making such a suggestion – he is well equipped to understand the problem and to propose a solution that has a prospect of success where so much else has failed so comprehensively for so long.
Any reader of this book may experience a strong sense of incredulity that might extend to disbelief. Things simply cannot be as bad as Gary describes them – surely! And in all likelihood, a reader might suggest as a reason for dismissing it (as Gary forecasts in the opening pages that Defence will do) that it simply can’t be right if our Defence Force’s men and women have continued performing so outstandingly well for so very long in the most challenging of operational activities overseas, including close and savage combat.
On the other hand, I suspect that the informed reader will not be surprised by this book at all. Gary convinced this reader, now reviewer, which perhaps might reveal me as someone who is somewhat informed. Yes, I am, and that’s why this review is anonymous – Gary’s early statement about vindictiveness is correct.
I commend this book to anyone who cares, in these increasingly turbulent times, about the waste of truly vast amounts of the people’s money while at the same time failing to deliver the best we can to the men and women we ask to defend us. If Defence was spending inefficiently while buying exceptionally good equipment, I might be less upset although I’d still be agitated because I’m a taxpayer. But to be spending much more than we should on second rate or inferior stuff, or to get nothing at all for that money in some cases…….
Read this book – if you are not angry by the end, ask yourself why. If your answer is you don’t believe it, then let me assure you that you can.