Flags of Australia and Maryland

Maryland and South Australia Renew and Expand MoU for AUKUS

Australia The Pacific

An economic memorandum of understanding signed in September 2019 by Maryland and South Australia has been renewed and expanded to prepare for the AUKUS submarine program.

On May 16, 2024, Maryland Governor Wes Moore and South Australia Premier Peter Malinauskas renewed and expanded their predecessors’ economic memorandum of understanding (MoU). The MoU aims to network Marylander and South Australian firms, encourage information exchanges at the government and private sector levels, support trade missions, identify mutual areas of cooperation, and communicate news regarding public research infrastructure and information. Mia Romeo, regional manager for India, Southeast Asia, & Australia at the Maryland Department of Commerce, shared her thoughts with the East-West Center in Washington, DC:

"Maryland and South Australia have been partners for years—this renewed MoU is a continuation of that partnership. The significance of this agreement is that both states have a strong focus on similar industries, specifically cybersecurity and defense, and we are both seeing a demand for workforce training. And with Australia and the United States being very close allies, having a state-to-state partnership like this just makes sense for both parties. The Moore-Miller administration believes partnerships will help us address the next decade's challenges and opportunities, and we look forward to continuing this partnership in the future,"

The Maryland-South Australia MoU was originally signed on September 26, 2019. Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan led a multi-state delegation to Australia as president of the National Governors Association. Gov. Hogan met with then-South Australia Premier Steven Marshall and addressed the Defense Industry Cybersecurity Summit, where he spotlighted Maryland’s reputation as the “Cyber Capital of America.” Afterwards, Gov. Hogan signed the Maryland-South Australia MoU with Premier Marshall, focusing on cybersecurity, small satellites, and outer space. Gov. Hogan then visited Lockheed Martin, a Maryland-based defense and aerospace firm, to observe its operations and meet with Australian businesspeople for commercial and trade talks.

Maryland and South Australia share mutual interests and expertise in security, outer space, and cybersecurity. Considered to be national leaders in these industries, both have a vested interest in making the trilateral partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS) successful.

"The two pillars of AUKUS focus on defense capabilities and security, with collaboration and information sharing being integral among the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Our MoU extends our collaborative partnership with South Australia with a new focus on cybersecurity training and workforce development, as well as unmanned autonomous vehicles, all of which are relevant to AUKUS. Both Maryland and South Australia are keenly aware of the need for talent to support these innovative sectors, so we both have a strong focus on workforce training,"
Romeo added: "It's also worth noting that the AUKUS agreement gives large opportunities for Maryland defense companies to develop partnerships with Australian defense companies, as Australia is in the process of increasing its military capabilities."

Maryland houses 15 of the world's top 20 aerospace and defense firms, such as Lockheed Martin, and cybersecurity organizations such as the National Security Agency and the United States Cyber Command. On the other hand, seven of the world's top ten defense companies have headquarters or a significant presence in South Australia, like L3HARRIS, Boeing, RTX Corporation (also known as Raytheon), and Northrup Grumman, along with over 400 small and medium-sized enterprises. As of February 2024, there are currently 56 cybersecurity firms in South Australia.

The goal of Premier Malinauskas' first official visit to the United States was to strengthen its capabilities and personnel in preparation for the construction of SSN-AUKUS submarines. He attended meetings with the US Department of State, US Navy, US Senate Armed Services Committee, Congressman Joe Courtney of Connecticut, and Senator Jim Risch of Idaho. Premier Malinauskas also visited Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News shipyard in Virginia, the biggest shipbuilding firm in the United States, and General Dynamics Electric Boat’s submarine shipyard in Groton, Connecticut. Both shipyards produce Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines.

Premier Malinauskas also paid a visit to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, which is NASA's premier space flight complex and home to America's largest group of scientists, engineers, and technologists who build ships, devices, and other technologies.

The renewal and expansion of the Maryland-South Australia MoU is timely because of three events. First, Premier Malinauskas signed an agreement with HII to aid in the entry of South Australian companies into the global supply chain for nuclear-powered submarines and to provide guidance on how to make the parts. Second, the Australian government announced on March 22, 2024, that ASC and BAE Systems will jointly manufacture Australia’s SSN-AUKUS submarines. Construction will commence on the first SSN-AUKUS submarine by the end of the decade. Lastly, the Australian government revealed on May 28, 2024, that Adelaide firm KBR and joint ventures AECOM and Aurecon will design South Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine construction yard in Osborne.

The Maryland-South Australia MoU is also supported by the academic ties between the University of Maryland and the University of Adelaide. In July 2023, both universities signed a collaborative MoU concentrating on research and information exchange about advanced capabilities in defense. The visit to the University of Maryland was part of the University of Adelaide's deeper collaboration efforts with colleagues in the United States and the United Kingdom to advance shared AUKUS goals of encouraging research and preparing labor forces for various AUKUS initiatives.

In 2023, the Maryland Department of Commerce led a delegation of Maryland firms to various trade fairs in Australia, including the Avalon 2023 Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition and the Indo Pacific International Maritime Exposition, to network with Australian businesses. Avalon draws global industrial leaders from the aerospace, aviation, and defense sectors, as well as military and government officials, while Indo-Pacific 2023 saw major players from the maritime and naval defense industries.

The Maryland Department of Commerce's Office of International Trade and Investment also visited South Australia to meet with Defence SA, the state's primary government department for all defense industry matters. The group attended the Defence SA Business Mission, which featured a delegation of American firms and economic development representatives networking with Australian industries to discuss potential partnerships in the nuclear submarine industry.

South Australian companies have also expressed an interest in partnering with American firms, and the Maryland Department of Commerce has visited several “Centers of Excellence” in South Australia, including the Adelaide BioMed City Innovation District, the Adelaide University’s Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources, and the Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre.

When asked how Marylanders can get involved in commercial opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region, especially those involved in the defense, outer space, and cybersecurity industries, here is what Ms. Romeo advised:

"The Maryland Department of Commerce's Office of International Investment and Trade works closely with the South Australian government. If companies are interested in learning about commercial opportunities, they should reach out to us."

In a rapidly changing security environment in the Indo-Pacific region, the Maryland-South Australia MoU is setting a good example on how to collaborate in the security industry. By enhancing their MoU, Maryland and South Australia are steering their respective country's national priorities by bringing in subnational partnerships.

The author would like to thank Ms. Mia Romeo and Ms. Amanda Winters of the Maryland Department of Commerce for corresponding with him via email and for being valuable resources for this article.   

John Angelo Gerard "Jag” D.O. Calbario was a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington, DC. He is a master’s graduate in international affairs with a concentration in global governance, politics, and security at the American University's School of International Service.