The Australian defence department's senior civil servant has defended the selection of the Eurocopter Tiger armed helicopter, arguing that the decision was based on capability and cost, not politics.

Allan Hawke, Department of Defence secretary, has also flagged a possible overhaul of Australia's recently released ten-year defence capability plan, arguing this may be required because of the 10 November national elections and the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Hawke's defence of the Tiger acquisition comes amid widespread international criticism of Australia's defence acquisition system. Bell, which came second in the competition, has criticised the Tiger decision severely.

Hawke says the competition was fast-tracked deliberately as part of ongoing procurement reforms. "We declined one tender after four weeks, a second after three months and at the same time notified a third that they would be held in reserve but should stop spending.

"All of these decisions were based on clear margins of capability, costs and Australian industry involvement, consistent with our acquisition reform agenda. Politics played no part in the decisions. The processes accorded completely with the request for tender." He says fast shortlisting means "industry avoids the cost of maintaining bid teams unnecessarily. Defence reduces its acquisition costs and the services get their new equipment sooner."

He adds that Australia's A$50 billion ($25 billion), ten-year capability plan, released at the end of June, is likely to require adjustment because of the "war against terrorism".

"Some planned enhancements, such as those to intelligence and special forces, may have to be brought forward. The higher than expected operational tempo will also have to be addressed, but we do not need a new policy framework."

Source: Flight International