4. Naval Guided Weapons Maintenance Facilities

The Department of Defence (Defence) seeks approval from the Committee to proceed with the Naval Guided Weapons Maintenance Facilities project.
The proposed works will deliver new purpose-built integrated weapons facility (IWF) at Defence Establishment Orchard Hills to increase maintenance capability and alleviate constraints and deficiencies within the Naval Guided Weapons Sustainment System.
The Naval Guided Weapons Sustainment System has exceeded its design capacity for the maintenance of guided weapons and the facilities do not have the functionality to support the changed maintenance requirements.
The estimated cost of the project is $95.5 million (excluding GST). This includes management and design fees, construction costs, information and communication technology, furniture, fittings, equipment, contingencies and a provision for escalation.
The project was referred to the Committee on 16 August 2018.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, construction is expected to commence in early 2019 and be completed by mid-2020.

Conduct of the inquiry

Following referral, the inquiry was publicised on the Committee’s website and via media release.
The Committee received two submissions and two confidential submissions.
On 9 November 2018, the Committee received a site inspection by presentation, and conducted public and in-camera hearings. A transcript of the public hearing is available on the Committee’s website.

Need for the works

In their submission, Defence noted that guided weapons inventory has evolved significantly since the commissioning of the Surface Weapons Complex. They forecast that evolution in this inventory will continue, due to modernisation of the individual missile variants in use. With the introduction of new, more capable platforms such as the Air Warfare Destroyers, the Future Frigates and the replacement Submarines, guided weapons throughput is forecast to increase.1
Following the 2009 Defence White Paper, a New Policy Proposal initiative was approved to remediate the single points of failure in the Naval Guided Weapons Sustainment System, and to provide for growth in Defence's guided weapons inventory. The 2016 Defence White Paper reinforced the necessity for guided weapons maintenance, stating that Defence must maintain a technological edge while simplifying maintenance of equipment.2
Defence commissioned a scoping study to analyse and define the requirements of the New Policy Proposal. In summary, the recommendations of the scoping study were:
Defence Establishment Orchard Hills represents a single point of failure within the Naval Guided Weapons Sustainment System, with no 'whole of facility' or technical redundancy;
the (existing) Surface Weapons Complex is in a state of disrepair;
sections of the Surface Weapons Complex are not being used efficiently due to inadequate design, a lack of processing space and poor environmental control; and
new test facilities should be constructed to provide efficiencies by increasing overall work-space, provide redundancy, and allow for increased throughput of guided weapons.3
The combined effect of these factors has resulted in the need to improve and expand guided weapons infrastructure.

Scope of the works

The proposed works include construction of an Integrated Weapons Facility, which will be fit-for-purpose and provide value-for-money. The project also proposes to deliver associated civil works, infrastructure, supporting services, and landscaping. The proposed facilities are to be located on a 'green-field' site within Defence Establishment Orchard Hills.
The proposed Integrated Weapons Facilities will consist of four components of the project:
Administration Area. Provide modern and fit-for-purpose working accommodation for SWC personnel. The Area will be sized to house the working population of the IWF in a fully climate controlled environment. The Administration Area will comprise of the following:
working accommodation, comprising a mix of standard offices, open plan work-stations, and meeting rooms;
a communications room, to accommodate Defence Information and Communications Technology networks; and
ablutions, a kitchenette and lockers for staff amenity.
Weapon Assembly Rooms. Two Weapon Assembly Rooms (WARs) are proposed. A WAR is a specialist workshop for the safe handling, inspection and maintenance of guided weapons. Each WAR will be climate controlled and comprise:
a workshop, for the safe handling of guided weapons;
a covered area for the all-weather receipt and dispatch of guided weapons, including associated equipment and stores; and
plant and storage areas.
Testing Areas. Two test areas are proposed, one for each WAR. These test areas will provide for the testing of individual guided weapons, and each area will comprise the following:
Test Cells (A reinforced concrete room with an external earth covering); and
Test Control Rooms (A reinforced concrete room, separated from the test cells where staff will control and monitor guided weapons testing activities).
Civil Works and Supporting Services. Vehicle and pedestrian pavements will be provided to access the new facilities. Pavement types are designed for known and approved traffic activities; roads and hardstands rated for large rigid vehicles and material handling equipment, and flexible pavements to areas of light vehicular traffic.4

Cost of the works

The estimated cost of the project is $95.5 million (excluding GST).
Defence provided further detail on project costings in its confidential submission and during an in-camera hearing.
The Committee is satisfied that the costings for the project provided to it have been adequately assessed by the proponent entity.

Local impact

In their submission, Defence stated that the impact on the local community was assessed as positive, particularly for the supply of local services, resources and material during construction.
Defence added that the proposed works are likely to generate employment opportunities in the local area during the construction phase, as construction will require a diverse range of skilled consultants, contractors and construction workers. This will have flow-on benefits to small and medium businesses in the local community.5
Additionally, they noted that the potential negatives that may impact on the community are assessed to be during construction, including long lead-times for engaging local trades and procuring construction material supplies.6
Defence undertook a series of stakeholder engagement sessions to ensure the local community is aware of the potential impacts of the proposed works. These engagement sessions comprised of:
community stakeholder briefings;
industry briefings; and
media releases.
Defence indicated that they also consulted with stakeholders following the announcement of the Western Sydney airport.7

Local Traffic

Defence noted that during construction, there will be an increase in the number of large vehicles entering the Orchard Hills Establishment with construction materials. To respond to this they will implement construction management controls to mitigate the effects of this increased traffic on local road networks. These measures may include the use of dedicated access gates, to minimise delays to traffic using local roads. Large volume deliveries, such as concrete, will be planned to occur outside of peak hours to avoid traffic congestion.8
Defence’s submission estimated that during the construction peak in early 2019, 150 workers will be on-site, with a commensurate flow into the local community and road network. This impact was assessed as minimal, based on the working population of the Defence Establishment Orchard Hills and its associated traffic load.9

Committee comment

The Defence Establishment Orchard Hills is in western Sydney region, and although originally in a sparsely populated area is increasingly surrounded by subdivisions with both medium and high densities. The Western Sydney Airport will also be established nearby at Badgerys Creek.
In their submission Defence noted that the explosive ordnance requires an exclusion or buffer zone and explained to the Committee that this zone, which cannot be developed, is maintained by Defence.10 They further noted that part of the exclusion zone contains some the Cumberland Plain Woodland endangered habitat which Defence has entered into an MOU with the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities around biodiversity offset planning.11
The Committee was interested in the future of the Defence Establishment Orchard Hills and its exclusion zone given the increasing development on its margins and sought reassurance that Defence has considered future occupational density in the region outside the exclusion zone.
Having regard to its role and responsibilities contained in the Public Works Committee Act 196, the Committee is of the view that this project signifies value for money for the Commonwealth and constitutes a project which is fit for purpose, having regard to the established need.

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives resolve, pursuant to Section 18(7) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, that it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work: Naval Guided Weapons Maintenance Facilities project.
Proponent agencies must notify the Committee of any changes to the project scope, time, cost, function or design. The Committee also requires a post-implementation report be provided within three months of a project completion. A report template can be found on the Committee’s website.

  • 1
    Department of Defence, Submission 1, p. 2.
  • 2
    Department of Defence, Submission 1, p. 2.
  • 3
    Department of Defence, Submission 1, p. 2.
  • 4
    Department of Defence, Submission 1, pp. 4-5.
  • 5
    Department of Defence, Submission 1, p. 16.
  • 6
    Department of Defence, Submission 1, p. 16.
  • 7
    Brigadier Galton, Department of Defence, Transcript of evidence, 9 November 2018, p. 2.
  • 8
    Department of Defence, Submission 1, p. 17.
  • 9
    Department of Defence, Submission 1, p. 17.
  • 10
    Brigadier Galton, Department of Defence, Transcript of evidence, 9 November 2018, p. 3.
  • 11
    Lieutenant Colonel Sims, Department of Defence, Transcript of evidence, 9 November 2018, p. 3.

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