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On Point: The evolving role of industry and defence in supporting Navy

While much of the focus has been placed on the $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan, an elite team within CASG is working behind the scenes to ensure that the unprecedented modernisation of the Royal Australian Navy remains capable of supporting Navy’s ability to “fight and win at sea”.

The RAN is currently undergoing the largest peacetime transformation of capability and platform in its history, and Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm, Head of Maritime Systems within the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), is at the forefront of that transformation.

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With a tagline of "shipbuilding is sexy, but sustainment pays the bills", RADM Malcolm is intent on building on the acquisitions decisions and the role sustainment and maintenance plays in ensuring the Navy can meet its responsibilities as required by government. 

Joining the Defence Connect podcast at Pacific 2019, RADM Malcolm spoke on the renewed push from within both Navy and CASG to actively seek to break down the barriers and really engage with industry partners in a collaborative manner. 

How's your feeling with the progression between industry and the maritime domain?

RADM Malcolm: Oh, it's going great. I mean, I really have a terrific opportunity.

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You know, the current government's commitment to continuous shipbuilding is really setting us up for the future. It's a real promise of what's to come.

My job, you know, I'm all about fixing and maintaining ships. My job is to make sure that, that promise of shipbuilding, when they turn up, we've got to be ready for them.

We've got to have support systems in place and we're getting really ready to do that. So, that's my key job. The fact that I've actually had a bit of time out there in industry, you know, I can reach out to people and actually get their help. And that's been fantastic.

In this journey of continuous shipbuilding, what does that mean for you and the work that you do? And then where do you think we are in a cycle of continuous shipbuilding?

RADM Malcolm: Well, I think we're just starting and we're seeing great progress already on our offshore patrol vessels that have already started building in Adelaide. From my perspective, that's the one that I'm getting ready for because as the first cab off the rank, so there's absolutely great progress there.

From my perspective, the great thing about continuous shipbuilding, and I've seen this through my time supporting Anzac ships, the more you do to build, to support, to modernise, the better you get at it and the more efficient you get at it.

The great thing about the continuous shipbuilding program is you're going to see things actually improve over time. You're going to see skills be built.

For me, that's key. My job in the sustainment space is really to make sure that we complement and enhance the continuous shipbuilding effort. And we've got to get ready, not so much in Adelaide and Henderson, although part of that answer will be in Henderson, but we've got to get ready around the country to make sure that when those ships arrive, we're ready to support them. So, there's the continuous shipbuilding part, but there's also the continuous sustainment part. So, that's what we're getting ready for.

It sounds like you like this sustainment bit?

RADM Malcolm: I know, I will say to you, you know, everybody gets very excited about shipbuilding and shipbuilding is sexy, but let me tell you, sustainment pays the bills.

So, that's the line, but you know, for every dollar that we spend in shipbuilding, you're going to spend $2 in sustainment. 

I've been in the sustainment game for over 20 years now and there's a lot of fantastic small business out there and our primes who are doing a really great job. All of our warships that are out there right now are out there and doing a great job because our Australian industry does a great job for them.

To listen to the whole podcast, click here.

On Point: The evolving role of industry and defence in supporting Navy
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