Home Latest News The ‘Critical Enabler’, Military Satellite Project JP9102: Class and State Power in Australia

The ‘Critical Enabler’, Military Satellite Project JP9102: Class and State Power in Australia

by Richard Stone

In April, the Australian government selected US arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin to partner the Department of Defence to build the JP Defence Satellite Communications system following the tender process. It has shown the age-old concept of the military-industrial complex is alive and well in Australia, with all that area of state activity entails with security vetting procedures and wider surveillance and political interference in civil society.

Already labelled as the ‘critical enabler’ for Australian Defence Force operations at home and overseas, the new satellite forms part of an increasingly hostile Cold War diplomatic stance which has drawn heavily upon space projects. It has also drawn Australia even closer to US-led Cold War military planning for ‘real-war scenarios’ in one or more of several regional flashpoints.

A recent statement from Canberra about enhancing interoperability with the US also said that ‘we can’t, for example, target our long-range missiles without accessing America’s system’. (1) The alliance between Australia and the US has been systematically strengthened over decades to ensure the ‘defence and security’ of the former remains totally dependent upon the latter and ‘US interests’. The exploration of space and subsequent research and development has merely extended the reach of US foreign policy further into the skies.

In Adelaide, South Australia, usually referred to as the Defence State due its defence industry sector, Lot 14 on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site on North Terrace has been converted into massive research and development for space projects. Satellite JP9102 is a fundamental part of those projects.

Work is already under-way to extend the program into local manufacturing industries and workshops to strengthen the military-industrial complex. Over the past decade similar work commissioned for the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program which included research and development of hyper-sonics, autonomy, machine learning, artificial intelligence, command control and communications together with surveillance and reconnaissance, saw more than seventy Australian companies winning tenders for about $4.13 billion. (2) The new JP9102 project has already seen Lockheed Martin assemble a team of leading Australian companies to research and develop ground and control segments and beyond. (3) They include Inovor Technologies, EM Solutions, AV-Comm, Linfox, Shoal Group, Ronson Gears, Calytrix Technologies, Conscia, Clearbox Systems, DXC and Blacktree Technology. These are part of the national bourgeoisie “working for the Yankee dollar”.

What proportion of the companies and related business organisations are ‘proprietary companies’ remains, as yet, to be accurately established. The term is a CIA definition for, ‘a commercial asset of front company’, used, specifically, for ‘US interests’. (4) It is likely to be a considerable number and proportion, including workforces which are unionised. Studies conducted even a generation ago, before the present-day Indo-Pacific became a central Pentagon focus point, noted, ‘as far as despots of untraceable arms, airlines and other installations concerned, one wonders how the CIA could accomplish the tasks required of it in South-east Asia without such facilities’. (5) The use of proprietaries was widespread; there is every reason, therefore, to believe it remains a central feature of ‘US interests’, in present-day Australia.

Reference in official media releases to the Mentor Protege Program (MPP), for example, has thrown light upon a shadowy business network launched in the US, in 1990. Its specific aim is to enable, ‘successful long-term relationships with eligible small, innovative businesses while helping them to develop technical and business capabilities that will enable them to compete more effectively’; it has already recruited a number of Australian businesses. (6) The MPP, operating in the sensitive areas of defence and security research and development and procurement, would obviously possess those connections with the nerve centres of power and the exchanging of required information. And also excluding those who they have no wish to deal with.

References to the project have also included tender collaboration and improvement activities with the British Commonwealth, and it is, therefore, no surprise to find proposed AUKUS legislation being introduced into the Canberra parliamentary system at the end of November to increase vetting procedures for those employed in the military-industrial complex. (7) The proposed Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill, 2023, will draw Australia ‘into the US’s military-industrial eco-system, enabling the transfer of sensitive US technology to Australia … under the AUKUS pact’. (8) So much for the national sovereignty of Australia and the civil liberties of its residents and citizens.

The bill, will restrict employers from recruiting foreign workers from a number of countries including China and India, while providing exemptions for those from countries forming the elite intelligence-sharing Five Eyes and Japan. (9) Those from Five Eyes countries, however, would appear likely to have already been subject to security vetting procedures as a matter of course. Canberra, nevertheless, has remained silent on the sensitive issue.

Shadowy class and state powers linked to routine monitoring and surveillance systems, lurking in almost every aspect and level of society inside the Five Eyes, would appear to have profiled entire populations, without their consent. Those on the receiving end of such class and state repression remain left, invariably, with everyday concerns about why the job they always wanted, and which they had the required qualifications and experience, was, nevertheless, always outside their grasp. Others, less well-suited, however, moved into their career pathways with relative ease. The simple explanation is that vetting procedures have already taken place and that, ‘detailed, private and intimate knowledge of a prospective employee and her or his acquaintances’, has been provided for employers. (10)  

During the previous Cold War US-led security vetting was primarily linked to identification of those assessed as unsuitable for security clearances due to pro-communist views, often of other family members or their associates; the definition of communist was broad, and virtually useless. It was, however, used to justify profiling of whole populations of countries who were subsequently placed on white, grey or black-lists for identification. (11)

While intelligence-gathering was conducted through US facilities at Pine Gap, with its huge surveillance capacity, a generation ago in the previous Cold War, security vetting in the present Cold War would appear to be conducted on the far more systematic basis with complete coverage of the internet and on-line facilities. Massive monitoring facilities collect intelligence from all everyday on-line communications. (12)

A generation ago the capacity of the Pine Gap facilities included the capacity for surveillance along the lines of, ‘a multi-purpose vacuum cleaner, sucking electronic signals 35,000 kms into space and feeding them to the enormous computer complex at Pine Gap’. (13) The facilities have been upgraded throughout recent decades; they now have the capacity for intercepting all global internet connections and telecommunications, including those of Australians through XKEYSCORE programs. (14)

Such facilities have serious implications for security vetting for the Australian working-class, and their families, friends and associates, turning civil society into one where suspicion becomes the order of the day. A noticeable feature of societies under such surveillance is isolation; doubts linger, whereby people lose trust in those whom they associate, with concerns information is being collected on files. The problem of ‘unwitting agents’ is a very important consideration in society at large: they provide information about their associates, ‘without knowing the ultimate recipient is an intelligence service’. (15)  

And during the present-day Cold War, domestic surveillance remains directly linked to US-led military and security considerations. The use of military terminology, including reference to the JP9102 being a, ‘critical enabler for every ADF operation at home and overseas … and … enhancing our interoperability …  with the US’, furthermore, reveal Australia is being drawn closer to US-led real-war scenarios primarily in the Indo-Pacific region. (16)

It has nothing to do with the defence and security of Australia, only the role of this country as a regional hub for ‘US interests’.

The US-led present day Cold War is a real threat for Australia; the US is preparing for war!

                                        We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Space as a critical enabled: nation has a strategic imperative, Space Capability supplement, Australian, 28 November 2023.
2.     Partnership fosters innovation, Space Capability supplement, Australian, 28 November 2023.
3.     Ibid.
4.     See: Proprietary Company, Espionage, Spies and Secrets, Richard M. Bennett, (London, 2002), page 227.
5.     Lyman Kirkpatrick, former CIA Executive Director, US News and World Report, 11 October 1971, quoted; The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, (London, 1976), Proprietary Organisations, Chapter 5, Part 2, pp. 161-81.
6.     Partnership fosters innovation, Australian, op.cit., 28 November 2023; and, The CIA’s Australian Connection, Denis Freney, (NSW, 1977), Multi-nationals as CIA cover, pp. 56, with specific references to Lockheed.    
7.     AUKUS bill to restrict use of foreign workers, Australian, 30 November 2023.
8.     Ibid.
9.     Ibid.
10.   See: Vetting and Surveillance, State Research, (London, 1978), Bulletin No. 5, pp. 77-78.
11.   See: Army’s Project X had wider audience, The Washington Post, 6 March 1997.
12.   See: The intelligence coup of the century, The Washington Post, 11 February 2020.
13.   The Secrets of Pine Gap, William Pinwill, Australian Penthouse, October 1979, pp. 62-68.
14.   See: Wikipedia – Pine Gap.
15.   See: Unwitting Agent, Espionage Spies and Secrets, Bennett, op.cit., page 385.   
16.   Industry survival is vital in the contested and congested domain, Space Capability supplement, Australian, 28 November 2023; and, Space as a critical enabler, op.cit., Australian, 28 November 2023.

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