Nick Patterson

Staff Spotlight: Taking Control

If you haven’t met Nick Patterson and seen him across the way, you would notice a friendly smile. Generally having a chat and laughing (or crying) about his beloved Liverpool FC and his two (soon to be three) young boys at home, Nick credits his drive and passion to his family and love of a healthy lifestyle.

As the Export Control Manager at Naval Group Australia, Nick takes on a role that is as mysterious as it is important.  

Can you please briefly explain your role and responsibilities at Naval Group Australia?

It’s a good question. If you are new to the Defence environment you might have no idea what Export Control is, but it is vital to the program as we are dealing with a strategic military platform across multiple borders. We are dealing with France for the design and build, the United States for the Combat System and various other countries for the sourcing of shipyard construction equipment. At the time we are also ensuring sovereign capability in those jurisdictions is protected and leveraging off them to bring that capability to Australia for generations to come.

The Export Control function supports the business ensuring compliance under varying sets of legislation which extends over countries.

The export control stream of the business is responsible for compliance against domestic and international export control laws and regulations. Specifically, export controls prevent sensitive military and dual use technology from being exported to any countries or end-users that may use that technology for activities that contradict the national interests of Australia, France, the US and any country in which that technology was developed.

At the program level its really all about ensuring compliance against the various export control jurisdictions that apply by ensuring export licenses and agreements are in place, controlling and monitoring the receipt, export, transfer, re-transfer and re-export of controlled items  and establishing the effective systems, controls and tools are in place to hold and protect controlled goods and technology.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I have worked with export controls my entire career and been in the dedicated Export Control position now for four years (five months at Naval Group Australia). It is the problem solving that I really enjoy. The fact you get to come to work each day and contribute to a program like this, it is simply just really cool stuff.

Previously I have worked on the Air Warfare Destroyer, Classic Hornets, Super Hornets, The Lead in Fighters, Wedge Tail aircraft, Space systems, Radars. To be part of projects that have big budgets, support the enforcement and maintenance of Australian sovereign interests and go bang – what’s not to love!

How did you get into a career in Export Control?

You don’t go to University and study Export Control, but it is a really fascinating field, especially in defence. 

I completed a Degree in International Studies and International Business at University and secured a role in defence after completing my Degree. At that time I didn’t even know export control existed, not many do, but when you commence with defence, export control is ingrained in you from the very beginning. I was very involved with international agreements and compliance, which really opened my eyes to the importance of export control.

What has been the most surprising thing you have found about your role and/or working at Naval Group Australia?

I have been pleasantly surprised with the willingness from France to integrate me into their team and to come to me for advice on Australian and US controls.

I assumed coming into this program that with such a strategically important French capability there may have been reluctance from France to share information. The truth of the matter is exactly the opposite for me. My French colleagues have welcomed me into their team with lots of information sharing, weekly meetings and frequent visits to France and Australia. The level of enthusiasm and support from the French team for me to be engaged and provide specialist advice is a credit to the respect and trust held by both parties so far in the program.

What has been your top career highlight to date?

It really sounds corny, but for me the Future Submarine Program is a continual highlight. The reason I accepted the role with Naval Group Australia is because it was a blank page which was equal parts scary and equal parts exciting.

You will never get this opportunity in defence to walk into a program this big and be able to write the export control framework the way you want it. Every experience I have had in my career, I get to apply here. All the things I did not like, or that did not work, I get to change for the better. Plus, I have got backing from everyone – the CEO, my direct Manager the Board and France. They all really get and understand the importance of compliance against export control. 

What has been a major challenge in your career and how did you overcome it?

Paperwork. I hate it (which might sound contradictory to those who have worked with Export Controls in Defence!). I really dislike unnecessary paperwork and will be focusing on implementing tools in Naval Group Australia that will fix this.

Another challenge, and part of my core role, is supporting the integration of the US Combat System into the French platform and protecting French and Australian sovereignty whilst ensuring compliance against US export controls. Developing a strategy for Naval Group Australia and educating this across the board to my French and Australian counterparts will be vital to program success.