Decision comes less than a year after winning $50 billion bid to build the country's new submarines.Tory Shepherd, The Advertiser
20 March 2017
The captain of the French bid for Australia’s $50 billion Future Submarines project has quit less than a year after winning the contract.
Adelaide-based Sean Costello resigned on Friday, a move that will likely shock the French and the Australian defense communities.
Mr. Costello was the executive general manager at ASC before he became chief of staff for then-Defense Minister David Johnston, who famously declared that the SA shipyards couldn’t be trusted to build a canoe.
Mr. Costello then took up the mantle at DCNS Australia, fighting for and ultimately winning the contract to build 12 submarines in South Australia.
While he is lauded for that win, there are also tales told in Parliament House of his temper while in Senator Johnston’s office.
He was involved in a kerfuffle after receipts for lunches involving him, Senator Johnston, and defense industry heads were leaked, and two other staffers were booted from the office.
Those leaks were interpreted as attempts to damage both Mr. Costello and Senator Johnston.
Key government adviser and former general Jim Molan reportedly quit after clashing with Mr. Costello.
While in the past people have criticized his style, on Monday people had only good wishes for Mr. Costello.
Defense Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said he had enjoyed working with him and wished him “all the best”.
“Matters such as these have no impact on the submarine project or our arrangements with DCNS. I look forward to working with the new CEO when they are selected by DCNS,” he said.
Chief operating officer Brent Clark — who was also integral to DCNS’s win — will become the chief executive officer in the interim.
Mr. Clark has a long history of delivering programs at defense giants including BAE and Thales. He was also a submariner in the Royal Australian Navy for more than a decade.
DCNS said in a statement that there was nothing unusual in leadership changes.
“Throughout the life of a program of this magnitude, there will be multiple changes of personalities and this is a normal process for any large program,” it said.
“DCNS is supremely confident that, working with its partners the Commonwealth of Australia and Lockheed Martin, it will deliver a regionally superior submarine that realizes the government’s ambitions for a sovereign submarine capability.
“DCNS thanks the former CEO for his efforts and sends best wishes to his family and to him for whatever role he chooses to undertake next.”
There have been whispers Mr. Costello is aiming for federal politics, including speculation he could put his hand up for Mayo, which the Liberals lost to the Nick Xenophon Team; however, he has not shown any inclination to become a politician. On networking site LinkedIn he has listed himself as an “independent consultant”.