Unprecedented opportunity requires leadership

Leadership within the defence industry is crucial to execute the bold vision of the 2016 Defence White Paper, former Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) head Warren King said.

The chairman of Navantia Australia told the Defence Connect podcast the unprecedented $195 billion investment over the next decade will set the stage for future investment in defence industry within Australia. 

"We've never seen this before, ever. And we're never likely to see it again, or any time soon, unless we all deliver. And delivering means everything. It means focusing on the customer, focusing on getting your product out, focusing on the national implications. And we have this opportunity in Defence and the defence industry the likes we haven't seen since federation, ever," King said.

"This is a far bigger objective in the sense that we're not only doing the immediate consumables response, but we're building an industry."

The former Navy engineer warned there is no room for mistakes across Defence's major projects and accomplishing the ambitious goals within the white paper will require strong leadership within industry.

"The taxpayers got a lot of places that they want money spent; hospitals, trains, police forces," explained King.

"And if the taxpayer doesn't believe that's being developed, within three to six years it could all come crashing down. It can come down that quickly. So there's no time to be wasted, there's no opportunity for failed projects, there's no opportunity not to be totally committed and understand what it takes to make ourselves successful. There's just no opportunity to do that.

"This is the best opportunity we ever had. We need true leadership from defence industry to respond to it."

As for how to best establish this strong leadership, time will be a key factor in an industry that has been defined by peaks and troughs.

"I think it's [industry leadership] got to grow a little. You can't blame industry for that, it's been opportunistic," King said.

"We have at least for the last 10 to 15 years progressed projects as projects, stand-alone one-off projects. So teams assembled, they chased a project, they won it, and then they almost choked it. Like the goose that laid the golden egg, right, because they just kept trying to get golden eggs out of that one project.

"Industry has come from a background of they've had to pursue projects on a project-by-project basis, and the department has pretty much let contracts on a project-by-project basis without taking a broader view of developing an integrated and comprehensive industry base. There's some great people in defence industry of course, but the leadership and the culture of the defence industry will have to mature somewhat to reflect this newfound national sovereign responsibility."

To hear more from the Navantia Australia chairman, tune in to our podcast here.

Unprecedented opportunity requires leadership
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