The initiative reached a significant milestone last week when three Brisbane submariners became the first group of Royal Australian Navy personnel to graduate from Nuclear Power School, putting them on track to operate the attack subs that will eventually be provided to Australia.
“The capacity of a nation to develop strong alliances might be the greatest strategic edge any nation has,” said Senator Kaine, pointing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a cautionary tale.
But while AUKUS has received broad bipartisan support questions remain about the lengthy time frame of AUKUS, the extraordinary cost to taxpayers, and the myriad of rules governing the deal. Among them is the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which could delay for years the transfer of crucial technologies unless the system is reformed or a special waiver is granted.
To that end, the approval by the Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over armed export controls and ship transfers, was an important boost for AUKUS, however there is still a long way to go before all the relevant AUKUS legislation makes it through Congress.
Some US politicians have also raised concerns that AUKUS could stretch America’s industrial base “to breaking point”, given the industry was already struggling to meet its target to build two attack submarines a year.
Asked if the US had the capacity to provide Australia with the submarines promised under the pact, Under Secretary Raven replied: “Yeah, absolutely”.
He pointed to $US1.7 billion of new investment passed in the president’s latest budget, which he said would help address US maintenance backlogs, but added: “AUKUS is a big initiative and it’s not the United States – it’s the UK and Australia who have a lot of work to do to make this partnership reality. That includes big lifts on all sides of our oceans.”
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