CANBERRA, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Australia's plan to build a new fleet of ships and submarines could be jeopardized by a lack of workers, the Department of Defence warned.
In a government briefing obtained by the Australian Financial Review (AFR), the department identifies the size of the workforce as "the single largest risk" to the program.
It estimates that in order to build and maintain the new fleets, the domestic workforce will have to number 15,000 people by 2030.
Under the governing Liberal-National party (LNP) coalition's naval shipbuilding program, at a cost of about 90 billion Australian dollars (62.1 billion U.S. dollars), 54 vessels have been commissioned to be built in Australia, including 12 submarines, nine frigates, 12 offshore patrol vessels for the navy, and 21 patrol boats to be gifted to Pacific nations.
"The Naval Shipbuilding Program is the largest major capital acquisition program that has ever been undertaken in Australia," the briefing said, according to AFR on Tuesday.
It said the ambitious program "carries significant risks, particularly for cost and schedule".
"Defence considers workforce development to be the single largest risk to the success of the Naval Shipbuilding Program."
The government in February signed a 50 billion AUD (34.5 billion USD) contract with France's Naval Group for the construction of the 12 submarines.
Linda Reynolds, minister of defence, earlier in July had to remind France that as much of the construction as possible must be done in Australia.
"I emphasised the importance of a strong sovereign capability in Australia and high levels of Australian industry involvement as key goals of this program," she said.
Asked by the AFR if she was concerned about the capability of the local workforce, Reynolds said, "We have taken steps to support industry, mitigate risks associated with the availability of suitably skilled and experienced workers, and to stabilise the workforce during transition between build projects."