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Naval Group confirms leadership reshuffle amid subs controversy

The global defence contractor has announced the appointment of a new executive to head up its delivery of Australia’s Future Submarines.

The global defence contractor has announced the appointment of a new executive to head up its delivery of Australia’s Future Submarines.

Naval Group has confirmed the resignation of Jean-Michel Billig as executive vice president of its Future Submarines program.  

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Billig has been replaced by Laurent Espinasse, Naval Group’s executive vice president, industry.

Espinasse has previously served in the French Ministry of Armed Forces, where he was responsible for the maintenance activities for nuclear attack submarines

"Laurent has an in-depth knowledge of the group, including experience dealing with international clients and the Australian program,” a Naval Group spokesperson said.

In stepping down from his role as EVP of the Future Submarines program, Billig has relinquished his position as chair and member of the Naval Group Australia board.

According to the prime, Billig has decided to “move on to another strategic project” after three years in the role.

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However, reports have suggested that Billig’s resignation has come in response to pressure from the Department of Defence, amid controversy over the costs and timing of the delivery of Australia’s $80 billion order of 12 Attack Class submarines.  

Defence has neither confirmed nor denied these reports.

“Over the three years of Jean-Michel Billig’s tenure as executive vice president of the Future Submarine program in Naval Group, Defence has worked collaboratively with Naval Group to implement the Strategic Partnering Agreement,” a spokesperson told Defence Connect.

“This included progressing the program towards the key milestone of Systems Functional Review, in parallel with many other activities to prepare for construction and delivery of the future submarine fleet. These have been critically important achievements.

“We look forward to continuing our collaborative work with Naval Group at all levels, which remains essential to the success of the Future Submarine Program.”

Naval Group is yet to announce Billig’s replacement as chair of its Australian board, however, David Peever, managing director of Rio Tinto Australia, has been touted as a potential replacement.

Reports also suggest that Chris Jenkins, chief executive of Thales Australia and national president of the Australian Industry Group, is also set to join the board, along with Kim Gillis, former deputy security of the Capability, Acquisitions and Sustainment Group.

[Related: Defence denies cost blowout cover-up for Future Subs program]

Naval Group confirms leadership reshuffle amid subs controversy
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