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Former top U.S. admiral cashes in on nuclear sub deal with Australia

Steele-John, the Australian senator, called Richardson and other American consultants “inherently biased” and said they were primarily representing U.S., not Australian, interests

Washington Post, By Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones, March 7, 2023

In its quest to build nuclear-powered submarines, the government of Australia recently hired a little-known, one-person consulting firm from Virginia: Briny Deep.

Briny Deep, based in Alexandria, Va., received a $210,000 part-time contract in late November to advise Australian defense officials during their negotiations to acquire top-secret nuclear submarine technology from the United States and Britain, according to Australian contracting documents. U.S. public records show the company is owned by John M. Richardson, a retired four-star U.S. admiral and career submariner who headed the U.S. Navy from 2015 to 2019.

Richardson, who declined to comment, is the latest former U.S. Navy leader to cash in on the nuclear talks by working as a high-dollar consultant for the Australian government, a pattern that was revealed in a Washington Post investigation last year. His case brings to a dozen the number of retired officers and former civilian leaders from the U.S. Navy whom Australia has employed as advisers since the nuclear talks began in September 2021, documents show.

The former U.S. Navy officials are profiting from a web of sources with sometimes divergent interests. One retired U.S. admiral charges $4,000 per day to consult for the Australian government while simultaneously advising other foreign defense clients and collecting his U.S. military pension, according to records obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The overlapping arrangements cast doubt on whether the U.S. consultants can provide impartial advice and raise questions about whose interests they are representing, said Jordon Steele-John, a member of the Australian Senate whose Green Party opposes the nuclear talks and has been critical of the government’s dependence on American advisers. “If you’re on the payroll of a foreign government, your advice is by definition not independent,” he said.

Under federal law, retired U.S. military personnel must obtain approval from the Pentagon and the State Department before they can accept money or jobs from foreign powers that could compromise their sworn allegiance to the United States. The law applies to retirees — generally those who served at least 20 years in uniform — because they receive a U.S. pension and can be recalled to active duty……………………………………………………………..

Vice Adm. Jonathan Mead, (above) the chief of Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine task force, told an Australian parliamentary committee last month that Richardson had been hired to provide guidance “on stewardship — that is, how to safely and securely manage nuclear technology” and on the training of naval personnel. “When we have specific tasks, questions or complex problems which come our way that we don’t have the subject matter expertise for, we reach in for his assistance,” Mead said during a Feb. 15 hearing.

……………………………….. Since his retirement from active duty, Richardson also has served on the board of directors for major companies in the defense and nuclear sectors, including Boeing, Constellation Energy and BWX Technologies. In 2021, he received more than $900,000 in compensation for his services on corporate boards, records show, plus a six-figure U.S. military pension.

……… “We’ve been very careful to make sure his advice is very specific to the questions that remain within the guidelines,” Mead said.

Steele-John, the Australian senator, called Richardson and other American consultants “inherently biased” and said they were primarily representing U.S., not Australian, interests. “Our government has been paying them handsomely for their advice,” he said. But he added that the arrangement “calls into question” any collaboration between Australia and the United States on military matters.

……………………………. One of the most prominent former officers is retired Vice Adm. William Hilarides, a career submariner who commanded the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command until 2016. Since then, he has received consulting contracts from the Australian government worth $1.3 million, according to Australian defense officials.

He charges $4,000 per day for his consulting services, according to documents that the U.S. Navy recently released in response to The Post’s FOIA lawsuits. He has also worked for Fincantieri Marine Group, a Wisconsin shipyard company that is majority owned by the government of Italy. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Hilarides serves on Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Expert Advisory Panel along with another American, retired Rear Adm. Thomas Eccles, a former chief engineer for ships and submarines for the U.S. Navy. Eccles had received consulting contracts worth about $820,000 since 2016, according to Australian defense officials………………………………………… more


March 9, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, business and costs, USA

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