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Australia: Outsourced to the US Military Establishment

It’s a very funny thing. In the US, the provision of services in such industries as security and intelligence is outsourced in a sprawling complex of contractors and subcontractors. In Australia, the entire military and security establishment is outsourced to Washington’s former mandarins, many of them earning a pile in consultancy fees. This, perhaps, is what Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles means when he talks about the Australian Defence Force moving “beyond interoperability to interchangeability.”

The list of recipients is depressingly long, and suggests that Australia has ceased to have any pretensions of sovereignty in defence matters. Take, for instance, the appointment of US Vice Admiral William Hilarides to the post of reviewing the future of the Royal Australian Navy’s surface fleet, for which he is pocketing US$4,000 a day. Since 2016, he has received US$1.3 million in contracts from the Australian government.

Hilarides featured in a story by the Washington Post last year, which revealed that two retired US admirals and three former US Navy civilian leaders were “playing critical but secretive roles as paid advisers to the government of Australia during its negotiations to acquire top-secret nuclear submarine technology from the United States and Britain.”

It gets worse. Six retired US admirals are identified as having offered their services to the Commonwealth since 2015. Hilarides was particularly keen, having retired a mere two months before seeking permission to advise the Australians on how best to extend the life of its Collins Class submarine fleet.

US Navy officials had few problems with the application, approving it within five days and forwarding it to the US State Department, which treated it as a mere formality. Hilarides, in his application, stated that he would be receiving money from a contract between the Australian Commonwealth and the consulting firm Burdenshaw Associates, based in Fairfax City, Virginia. The same firm has received US$6.8 million from the Australian taxpayer since 2015.

In a statement provided to the paper, the Australian Department of Defence revealed that Hilarides, another admiral Thomas Eccles, and a number of those on the Commonwealth’s Naval Shipbuilding Expert Advisory Panel, were furnishing Canberra with “expert advice on the performance of the naval shipbuilding exercise. This includes the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines and other issues relevant to naval acquisition and sustainment.”

What is also unsettling is that Stephen Johnson, one of the US admiral advisory set, unbeknownst to the Australian public, also served as a deputy secretary of defence for Canberra for two years. With such a level of involvement, it is only a matter of time before the entire complement of the ADF is signed over to Washington, if it already hasn’t been done so over a game of golf.

In documents supplied to Congress by the Pentagon in March, the outsourcing picture comes increasingly clotted. Retired Admiral John Richardson makes an appearance, having received US$5,000 a day as a contracted part-time consultant with the Australian Defence Department.

Another figure who has made an appearance in this busy outsourcing circuit is former US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. (What is Australia becoming: a retirement village for servants of the US defence-security-intelligence complex?) The Australian National University has made a habit of hosting Clapper at the ANU National Security College to discuss, among other things, “key global and national security issues including the future of Australia’s alliance with the United States.”

Clapper’s academic waltz through the corridors of power has involved discussions “with policy makers and security practitioners, as well as academics, students and private sector partners in the College’s work on issues such as cyber security and analysing future strategic challenges.”

The Pentagon documents also reveal that Clapper received, in 2018, an undisclosed sum for services performed for the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) in Canberra. Only the previous year, the decision by the Turnbull government to create the ONI as “a single point of intelligence coordination” was praised by Clapper as bringing Australia more into line with the other Five Eyes partners.

We can only hope that Clapper has not imparted too much knowledge upon the unwary. His record as DNI was filled with a number of injudicious howlers. In March 2013, he falsely testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that the government does “not wittingly” collect the telephone records of millions of Americans. “There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect – but not wittingly,” he stated in response to a question posed by Senator Ron Wyden.

Within a matter of months, it became clear that such a statement was false, notably in light of the revelations from former defence contractor Edward Snowden. The New York Times was emphatic: Clapper had “lied to Congress”. In his withering critique of Clapper, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul suggested that the intelligence community had engaged in “great abuses”. Perhaps, he proposed, both Snowden and Clapper might serve time “in a prison cell together” to further enlighten the country “over what we should and shouldn’t do.”

In 2019, Clapper did his Pontius Pilate act on CNN, claiming that he did not lie so much as make “a big mistake”. He “just simply didn’t understand” what he was being asked. “I thought of another surveillance program, section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, when I was asked about Section 215 of the Patriot Act at the time.”

His credibility suitably shot, Clapper is still given to making rich offerings of tainted advice. He is manic about Moscow’s electoral interference, going so far as to tell NBC’s Chuck Todd in May 2017 that the Russians were “typically … almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever.” With such xenophobic opinions, he must be a fabulous guest in Australia’s isolated capital.


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  1. Douglas Pritchard

    Our sovereignty is moving forward Dr Binoy.
    From the “Gor blimey”, through “struth”, “absurd” to the downright “utterly ridiculous”.
    This is progress, Aussie style in 2023.

  2. TwainandHume

    Though you certainly make some good points, I wouldn’t use comments from Rand Paul to support or refute anything.

  3. Frank

    Australia bought and paid for,just another part of America,Morrison was bad enough but this government is going gang busters,selling us down the road,i think now we fully understand this is not a independent country,we are just hanging around now waiting for America to send us of to war,just going to be another proxy while the Americans stand back and watch

  4. Steve Davis

    TwainandHume, I don’t think the author was using Rand Paul to support or refute anything — it was more a case of pointing out that things are really out of hand in the intelligence community when even Rand Paul can spot the problems.

  5. Canguro

    Yep, you know things are rooted when we’re paying an ex USA military guy five grand – a freaking day! – to provide advice to the ADF. Just what is it exactly that makes this man’s mentations so valuable, stuff that can’t be read in a book or looked up on the internet or discovered by a curious and interested brain. I’m willing to bet big that the ADF are stuffed full of lazy disinterested nobodies who have sucked on the pubic teat all their useless lives and are so brain dead that they think there’s nothing wrong in getting the cashier to authorise a $25,000 authorisation to some ex USA military has-been nobody per week, and guaranteed that they haven’t even gotten an honest forty hours of invaluable advice out of the septic parasite, and even in the remote circumstance that the advice he’s being so handsomely paid for is useful, what exactly are the ADF going to do with it?

    Honestly, when I read the other day what eastern Europeans who so frequently target Australians for hacking and scamming think of us, per an ABC interview with a hacker who was either Ukrainian or Russian, and he was quoted as saying, when asked why, said ‘because Australians are the stupidest people on the planet’, or words to that effect, it’s hard not to disagree. Not everyone, obviously, but the trend is there, all the same, and not confined to the ‘burbs but salted throughout the public service as well.

    Another Yank, as a dept. secretary of defence. WTAF?

    And the disgraced liar, Clapper, also being given the welcome mat and privileged treatment, as if this machiavellian CIA spook, a man who wouldn’t blink a moment or pause to reflect when faced with his own shortcomings and those of his colleagues, a man who undoubtedly would have been part of the cheer squad rounding up innocent Muslims fingered by aggrieved opponents and dispatched to hell-holes around the northern hemisphere to be subjected to torture routines by CIA operatives, a man whose oversight and authority condoned the illegal surveillance of his fellow citizens and who knows who else, political and other allies around the planet all subjected to the all-encompassing dragnet of American spying technology simply in order that the Great Satan maintain its hegemony over all others…. and we welcome this gorgon make-alike into our country? Truly, we’re rooted, when we don’t, or refuse to, see that problems that this imputes in our public probity.

  6. New England Cocky

    Why does Australia need any other enemies when it has the USA (United States of America) as an ally?

    Nothing has changed since the 1975 Dismissal of the Whitlam Labor government except the players. The current gg David the Dud Hurley betrayed the Australian voters by being complicit in facilitating the attempted dictatorship coup by Scummo of the Seven Secret Ministries. The CIA has continued to infiltrate and undermine Australian national sovereignty up to and including the USUKA sub deal. The LIARBRAL$ continue to be totally self-absorbed in their own pecuniary interests to the detriment of Australian taxpayers.

  7. Clakka

    Speaking of fodder (cannon fodder), when you’ve been kicking back waiting for the call, and dining on pies and peas, you don’t need local scientists and academics to devise a healthy recipe. Instead you simply hire in past masters of the great American take-out to provide you with a shopping list, a list of preferred franchises, a purpose-built franchisee contract, a menu, directions about where to stick it and also unload it, and a napkin to take care of inevitable spillages. It’s an easier rocket science for the pie eater, and it’s not from witchety grubs, just grubs.

    Oh, and the essential dressings, the digestion aids, the inspiring amphetamines, the opioids and the soothing narcotics.

  8. Phil Pryor

    Trends in our defence related and security areas of government are becoming disgracefully bad, as incompetence drives outsourcing, inbuying, infiltrations, supine acquiescence, pronation. We buy garbage at high prices, cannot stand upright, know so little about even how to start knowing, that one gets stupefied by the deeds of people. These silly sub stories abound, but how can they defend us? Are they to be equpped with bayonets? People in high places here are incompetent, substandard, ill equipped, unaware and easliy led astray. Our finances are farcically bad and getting worse; our projected outlays suggest we will get less and less for more and more. Our education and TAFE sources are nowhere good enough for future technology, planning, manufacturing, maintenance and repair. We have lost any chances with industry, manufacture, thus, sovereignty. Yet the map clearly shows that our neighbours about whom we relate little, N Z., Indonesia, New Guinea, are not important to is and everything else is far away, We should be safe, assured, neutral, not grovelling to a spent and pustular society in the USA, let alone U K memories. The scammers and infiltrators are correct in assessing us as fools…

  9. ajogrady

    The $400billon Labor government’s AUKUS obsolete nuclear sub deal has shown that Labor’s defence and foreign policy team of Albanese, Marles and Wong are a clear and present danger to Australia strategically, defensively and economically. These 3 rogues show contempt for Labor’s core value’s of peace, prosperity, and security for Australia. Labor, like the L/NP, are now the party of war, adversity and insecurity for Australia. Albanese, Marles and Wong are proving to be embarrassingly sycophantic
    Austral-Americans who cannot be trusted to do what is in the best interests of Australia and Australians.

    Beyond words: Labor’s betrayal of Australia

    Albo’s toxic legacy on AUKUS

  10. ajogrady

    There are serious questions over conflicts of interest under both the Labor and Coalition governments that demand a frank and honest independent investigation to restore public confidence in how Australian defence policy is made and how taxpayers funds are directed and expended, the $368billion AUKUS deal being just one.
    “He who pays the piper calls the tune” is the reality of the Defence Strategic Review and its its authors and in particular AUKUS .

    A tainted Defence Strategic Review

    Defence Strategic Review – Read all about it

  11. Douglas Pritchard

    Seriously, 5 grand a day to retirees still wearing their old clothes with medals displayed by the square metre.
    A bunch of superannuated sales reps, really.
    Albo, Marles, and Wong, patiently being told what to be scarred of, and it so happens we have the toys to calm your fears.
    What a load of old cobblers.
    I paid sfa to sit in front of my tele watching Paul Keating having a chat, with Sara Ferguson, where he quietly, and without any fuss put things in perspective. I wont be seeing a fleet of yellow men coming over the horizon in boats to run our country tomorrow, nor in the foreseeable future.
    We could be doubly sure of our securety if we made a fleet of Collins in our own workshops, and there is certainly no call to dip our toes in the murky cauldron of nuclear propulsion.
    He didn`t say ( but i know what he was thinking) that if we developed a mature friendship with our leading trading partner, then, we too, could enjoy a bit of high speed rail with their help.
    Lets face it, Bunnings without China wont work.
    Its just possible that if the team in charge of defense spoke to the folk footing the bill, then we may arrive at a far more just outcome, and grab back some control for Australia

  12. Douglas Pritchard

    NEC, i like this bit:-
    Albanese has described AUKUS as the “single biggest leap” in Australia’s defence capabilities,

    Yes, the mind boggles. I really can`t come to grips with the possibility of this agreement ever lifting off.

  13. New England Cocky

    @ Douglas Pritchard: I look forward to seeing the USUKA sub(s) cruising down the Stuart Highway to engage the enemy at Uluru while the Bushmasters are parked in their garages in Melbourne.

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