Hunter-class frigate acquired without significant valuation, Congress says

The former coalition government has acquired the Navy’s Hunter-class frigate without any valuation.

The program, which was estimated to cost $35 billion when the Turnbull government signed the deal in 2018, has already swelled to $46 billion, and last week’s General Accounting Office report said the costs were even higher. suggested that it may rise.

The report found that plans, originally intended to ensure the submarine-seekers to replace the Anzac-class frigates would be on the road by mid-2032, are already 18 months behind schedule due to the “immaturity” of the British design. clarified. Reports further delay warnings.

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The report was followed by an extended meeting of Congress’ Joint Committee on Public Accounts Audit on Friday. Significant records of the procurement process and related advisory processes were reportedly missing.

Officials told the committee on Friday that the Hunter program was the only defense acquisition program audited since 2016 and did not appear to have been valued for its money.

Senior defense officials could not point to other opportunities for which value-for-money assessments were not provided to ministers, but said an internal review process was underway. Treasury officials said they would try to prevent such oversights from happening again.

The first nine Hunter-class frigates were scheduled to be launched by 2032, but are operating 18 months behind schedule. Photo: BAES

Commission chair Julian Hill questioned how ministers reading relevant ministerial documents at the time failed to notice the lack of a value-for-money assessment.

Hill questioned whether they were playing a “pin the donkey tail” game or a “twist the bottle” game, questioning the previous administration’s decision based on the “taste of things”. He said he appeared to have made a major defense decision worth billions of dollars. .

“It’s up to Scott Morrison, Maryse Payne, Peter Dutton and those in attendance who made the decision to explain why we chose an immature design with extreme risk without appreciating its monetary value. It is,” he said.

“And they’re leaving it up to our government to get an important project back on track.”

He told investigators that the program had been assessed as having “serious risks” without valuing value for money, so the previous administration bears “serious responsibility” for making such a big decision. said.

The frigate already has serious design problems. Photo: BAE

The frigate, based on the British Type 26 warship and built in Adelaide, already suffers from serious design problems, including being heavier and potentially slower than the original design.

Britain’s BAE Systems defeated Spanish and Italian rivals in 2018 to win the contract to build an anti-submarine frigate despite evidence that the latter option would be better suited to the needs of the Royal Australian Navy.

Last month’s Defense Strategic Review announcement unveiled a review of the Navy’s future, including a reduction in the BAE contract and other ships that are smaller, faster, cheaper and have better missile capabilities. Prioritization is likely involved.

Mr Hill has asked contractors BAE Systems and the British High Commission for written submissions by the middle of next month on what could indicate cracks in the AUKUS’ armor.

Given the role the frigate should play in the AUKUS program, the Comptroller General’s report suggested that serious issues with the Hunters were likely to create tensions.

federal political reporter

Ellen Lansley is a federal political reporter based out of the Canberra Press Gallery covering everything from international relations to COVID-19. She was previously NCA NewsWire’s Queensland General News Reporter. read more

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