Journal of the australian naval


NAVAL CAPITAL EQUIPMENT PROJECT MANAGEMENT



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NAVAL CAPITAL EQUIPMENT PROJECT MANAGEMENT

By Commodore A.L. Hunt, AM, RAN

The jottings ot a busy, perhaps distracted, Deputy Chief of Naval Materiel.

One of the basic principles of effective organisation is that it should develop from function, and not vice versa. Twenty years ago the then existing Navy Office organisation tried to deal with the functions of capital equipment project development and implementation without substantial structural change. The Directorate which was considered to hold the major interest was generally charged with the full responsibility for procuring and introducing a new equipment.

As equipment acquisition activity became more technologically complex and the amounts of invested capital grew and attracted greater external scrutiny, the Navy moved towards the establishment ot Project Teams drawn from the several related directorates, a practice by then quite common in industry and the Defence Scientific community. The first full-scale team for a Navy project establishment separate from the functional organisation was that created for the RAN Light Destroyer (DDL) in the early 1970s We now have some twenty such teams ol varying size managing about thirty major and some lesser projects.

And in that time we have moved from project teams formed between the traditional' divisions (operational, personnel, engineering and supply) to the formation of a Naval Materiel Division and now that Division as an element of the Defence Capital Procurement Organisation (CPO).

Throughout naval circles I keep hearing the question. Are we doing any better? Did not our predecessors introduce very adequate (and relatively complex) ships, systems and aircraft without much of this fuss and management overhead?' For example, a tiny team drawn from three directorates twenty five years ago negotiated, contracted, managed and introduced two full squadrons of Wessex helicopter, the residue of which are still performing front line tasks and we saw proudly flying past the October Fleet Review.

One great difficulty we have in answering such a question is the time scale involved with the gestation, development, implementation and fleet evaluation ol a major capital equipment procurement. For a major combatant type this period can extend to twenty years, over which time some up-and-coming Lieutenant

Commander has become CNS, and the sons and daughters of the original Project Officer have left school and joined the Service. But the nagging, heallhy question remains — whether we have the procurement overhead question right.

One observation I make is that little more than one generation ago the new ship or equipment to be introduced was largely of a developmental form that represented a significant but marginal change from that generally in service. The steps from Type 15 to Daring and River Class were measurably evolutionary and each new ship type could be introduced into an operational and logistic environment where a relatively gentle re­education was required for each new type. On a grander scale, when the new equipment has been significantly different in character, technology or scope from that managed by the extant organisation, (eg. the aircraft or submarine earlier this century), then a major structural change to the tunctional organisation has been necessary. We are increasingly involved with introducing systems which are more than marginal changes to the present inventory. And therefore the task of developing and introducing the new equipment inevitably becomes more revolutionary than evolutionary.

What was a relatively slow, gradual change in organisation from established functional areas to project teams, seen as transitory, has already blossomed to a mechanism where the Materiel Division has within it a quantity and quality of talent and experience that challenges the established functional areas. Where a naval warfare specialist might be posted into the staff from sea for a 2-year term, barely find his feet and be shot off back to the Fleet, his equivalent weapons system Project Director of identical specialisation might be in his third or lourth year on the Canberra scene. I observe that the corporate Defence machine, ever anxious to

The Author

Commodore Hunl joined Ihe RAN in 1954 and has some experience as a WEEO in elderly ships (eg Duchess. Melbourne) and a range ol naval aviation posts leading to his being the Navy Helicopter Project Director from 1981--85 He presently serves as the Deputy Chiel ol Naval Matenel

November 86. Journal ol Ihe Australian Naval Institute — Page 53







AUSTRALIAN MARINE SYSTEMS








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