Home' Ships and Shipping : July 2009 Contents © BAIRD PUBLICATIONS LTD 2009
Baird Publications Ltd, Hong Kong
Printed by: Print Dynamics (S) Pte Ltd,
135 Sturt Street
Southbank, Melbourne 3006, Australia.
PH: +61 3 9645 0411
FX: +61 3 9645 0475
Chairman and Editor-in-Chief: Neil Baird
Administration Director: Rose Baird
Editor: Steven Kelleher BA Hons
Assistant Editor: Janice Chernli Teo BA,
Interns: Caleb Samson, Caroline Zielinski
Pre-Press: Peter Hands
ADELAIDE: Jon Wallis; BANGKOK: Sathita
U-Samran; Kanakporn Sapraset; BEIJING: Jia
Yong Zhi; BRISBANE: Bill Beecham, Dick Lee;
DALIAN: Tina Haishen; FREMANTLE: Mike
Brown; HANOI: Ngo Khac Le; INDIA: Anjan
Mukherjee; MANILA: Roger Tritton; SAINT
PETERSBURG: Yuri Seleznev; SEATTLE: Mark
Clevenger; SOFIA: Krasimir Krastanov;
SYDNEY: John Spiers; TOKYO: Ikuya Ohtagaki;
TORRES STRAIT: John Foley; VANCOUVER:
Campbell Baird; VLADIVOSTOK: Vladimir
Fridyev; WUHAN: Yu Zhixiao
Daphne Cham Ming Sheung LLB, PostGrad Dip Mgt.
Pearly Yeoh B.Bus
PH: +61 3 9645 0411
FX: +61 3 9645 0475
AD Presse International
FX: +33 1 4525 1428
ÖRN MARKETING AB
PH: +46 411 1840
FX: +46 411 1051
Liu Xiaosu (Sue) LLB, MIB
Annual subscriptions are:
E90, US$150, £75 or A$150* by Airmail only
A one year subscription includes 12 issues of
"SHIPS and SHIPPING".
(*Includes 10% GST for Australian subscribers)
Global Circulation Management Pte Ltd,
EDITORIAL JULY 2009
It was interesting, indeed heartening, to see the changes wrought by the current
American Defence Secretary when he took over during the latter part of the George W.
Even more heartening was the fact that President Obama kept Secretary Gates on in
his post, the only Bush appointee to do so. Given the totally different philosophies and
approaches of the Obama administration, this was a major compliment to Robert Gates.
Delving deeper into the United States Defence (sorry, Defense) morass it becomes
easier to see why Mr Gates was so unexpectedly re-appointed. The very strange,
undisciplined and largely ineffectual activities of his predecessor Donald Rumsfield,
were highly damaging to the United States.
Gates started to make waves almost from the day he commenced his Bush era
appointment. He questioned everything and everyone. He would not be put off. He had
an excellent nose for waste, prevarication and cover up. His 'BS' detector seemed to be
very highly tuned!
The US Defense establishment had become fat, spoilt and complacent under
Rumsfield, aided and abetted by Deputy President Cheney. There were squillions of
snouts in the trough and, as a minister in another jurisdiction said years ago: "The
further they have their snouts in the trough, the more they squeal when you pull
Well, the U.S. Defense snouts had got used to enjoying the charms of the taxpayer
trough at great depth. The squeals have been loud and long as Secretary Gates has
forcibly explained the realities of their new lives to them. More power to him.
This new reality will certainly ensure that the United States gets much more bang for
its defence buck. That is assuming, as seems almost guaranteed, that he continues to
enjoy the solid support of President Obama.
With the American Defence machine returning to reality, we have to hope that the
Gates approach spreads to so many other developed and developing countries where
the American disease has become endemic. I think, particularly, of the United
Kingdom, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Norway, Malaysia and
Singapore among others.
In all the above the terrorism bogey and, more recently, piracy, have been squeezed
to the maximum to encourage the purchase of bigger, more complex and much more
expensive hardware. The fact that much of it could not be properly manned or fully
used was irrelevant, the defence chiefs just had to have it. An arms race indeed.
Now that the American defence chiefs have returned to earth with a bang, it is to be
hoped that Secretary Gates' counterparts in those other nations will be inspired to
follow his example. This new reality virus will, hopefully, be extremely contagious.
Just as they have been ripped off by the financial "big end of town" in all the
countries mentioned above, and more, the taxpayer has become tired of waste, fraud,
carelessness and inefficiency. Accountability and value for money dominated by a
realistic approach will become the new order of the day.
Nowhere is this more so than in the naval sector. I have seen so many examples of
profligate waste there in the past few years that I have been amazed at the absence of a
taxpayer revolt in many countries.
The Gates approach, writ large, will certainly lead to a large reduction in the
numbers of big toys for the boys. It should, thus, lead to a significant reining in of the
duopoly's or oligopolies of major naval contractors that dominate in so many countries.
Their days of easy lazy profits will soon be over.
That should have an additional benefit in naval shipbuilding and outfitting in that
smaller nimbler, more innovative companies will be given opportunities to participate.
Those companies and the tax payers deserve to benefit at the expense of the majors.
Of course, Robert Gates is only one man and the United States only one country. His
approach, however, is so necessary and timely that it seems sure to inspire many
imitators. The wider shipbuilding industry will be hoping that they start to get their
Reining in Defence
Links Archive June 2009 August 2009 Navigation Previous Page Next Page