Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies Australia


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Thursday 13 December 2018

On Thursday 13 December, more than 40 members and guests gathered at the ADFA Officers Mess to celebrate the end of another USI year. We took the opportunity to thank speakers who contributed to the program throughout 2018, including John Blaxland, Clive Williams, Emily Corner, Tiffany White and Tony Murney, who were all present. Our President, Mick Crane, took the opportunity to report briefly on 2018 achievements, such as attracting almost 900 people to our events in the calendar year, continuing to provide great value for stakeholders, and delivering improved governance. The Mess again provided a relaxed atmosphere and generous hospitality, and we're grateful to the President and members of the Mess Committee for their kind permission to use their facility again.

Tuesday 4 December: 2018 ACT Blamey Oration

On Tuesday 4 December 2018, the 2018 ACT Blamey Oration was delivered by General John Allen AO (USMC Retd) at the National Gallery of Australia. Speaking to an audience of 160 members and guests, General Allen spoke about the depth of the relationship between Australia and the United States, before describing the research programs at the Brookings Institution. He then turned to a very frank assessment of the challenges confronting America and touched on several possible policy prescriptions. In concluding, he took the view that there will be a "day after" and exhorted friends and allies of the United States to be ready for that day.

You can find a video recording of the Oration here, and an "as delivered" transcript of the Oration here.

Members and guests can download our photos from the Oration by using the link below and the password 8946.

Please feel free to download and use these photos, but do remember to acknowledge our wonderful photographer, Bec Fassone, if you're using them publicly.

In addition, CityNews social snaps are available at

The Blamey Oration is presented in partnership with the Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey Memorial Fund. The Oration is presented annually in the ACT by a distinguished scholar or policy practitioner, and addresses contemporary strategic issues or strategic leadership.

The Council of USI of the ACT is very grateful for the support of our sponsors for this event, L3 Technologies, and the Departments of Home Affairs and Defence.

(Bio: Brookings; Photo: USI/Fassone)


Thursday 8 November 2018

Members and guests were treated to an extraordinary evening at the Defence College on Thursday 8 November, when Dr Tony Murney presented a critical view of the international community's police development efforts in Afghanistan. He began by introducing his assessment of Afghanistan's status in terms of government effectiveness and rule of law, showing that it remains amongst the worst governed and most unsafe countries in the world, and that little progress has been made against either metric since the intervention began. He went on to observe that the security situation in Afghanistan is now worse than it was during his first deployment in 2013/14, with many more security restrictions now placed on international staff than was previously the case.  He supported his claim with data from both the security forces and the Taliban, which showed similar pictures of the lack of Afghan Government control across the country. Finally, he spoke about the challenges of police development in a country such as Afghanistan when customary approaches to the rule of law are discarded in favour of imposed western structures. He summarised by noting that in a society that centres on 'me, my family, then my clan', creating alternative power structures to customary law simply invites corruption, and concluded that in many ways 'the biggest problem is us'.

(Photo: USI; Bio: Murney)

Thursday 18 October 2018

On Thursday 18 October, members and guests were treated to a fascinating presentation by former USI of the ACT Vice President and long-time student of Iran, Ian Dudgeon. Ian provided detailed insights into the character of Iran and Iranians, before turning to an analysis of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (formally, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - JCPOA) and the reasons why President Trump withdrew the United States from it. Ian concluded with an assessment of likely winners and losers as a result of the withdrawal.

(Photo: USI; Bio: Lowy)

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Members and guests were treated to an outstanding evening at the Commonwealth Club for the 2018 Annual Members' Dinner, once again sponsored by Thales Australia.

Our guest speaker was Secretary of the Department of Defence, Mr Greg Moriarty, who gave a thought provoking address on positioning Defence for success in a contested Indo-Pacific region. Speaking candidly under Chatham House Rules, Greg outlined a range of new challenges and canvassed some of the measures that Government is taking in response. He then kindly took a number of questions from the floor - the first time we've done at the Annual Dinner for some years. Greg was also very generous with his time in staying on after the formalities to speak personally with members and guests, and we are very grateful for his support. We're hopeful that an edited version of his address might be made available for the website, and we will advise further in due course.

Prior to Greg's address, the winner of the Leo Mahony Bursary was announced by Bursary coordinator, Jacinta Carroll. Jacinta reported that the judges were unanimous this year in selecting Ms Natalie Sambhi, a doctoral scholar at the Australian National University. Natalie is investigating how the Indonesian military's experience of East Timor shapes its military culture. Unfortunately, Natalie was not available to attend the Dinner, as she was on a field trip in Indonesia. We will work to find a suitable opportunity to to introduce her to members and present her certificates.

The Dinner was once again very well supported by senior Defence leaders, including Associate Secretary Rebecca Skinner, Chief of Air Force AM Leo Davies and Rhonda, and Chief of Joint Operations AM Mel Hupfeld. Our sponsors also turned out in large numbers:  Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins was accompanied by Vice President Strategy and Communication, Gary Dawson, and Directors Alex Cresswell and Michel Mathieu; and Leo Mahony Bursary sponsor Rolls Royce was represented by Vice President Defence Australasia AVM Roxley McLennan (Retd) accompanied by Loretta. We are also very grateful for the support of the many other senior people from across the national security and defence sector in Canberra who helped to make the Dinner such a grand occasion.

There are two sets of photos from the evening.  Some of you may have already seen the social pages from Canberra's local City News, but if not you can find them here. This year we also decided to employ a professional photographer to cover the event, and we hope you'll agree when you see the photos that it was worth the investment. You can find them herePlease feel free to share the links with your colleagues and friends. You are welcome to copy and save the professional photos but, if you are sharing, please remember to acknowledge USI of the ACT and the photographer, Rebecca Fassone.

(Photo: Rebecca Fassone; Bio: Defence)

Thursday 9 August 2018

On Thursday 9 August, members and guests were treated to an engaging and challenging panel discussion on approaches to countering terrorism and radicalisation. USI Councillor Jacinta Carroll, Dr Emily Corner from ANU and Mr Bren Burkevics from the ACT Government's Security & Emergency Management Branch canvassed both theory and practice in a session that raised as many questions as it answered. 

Emily began by explaining that her research has found no causal link between mental health and radicalisation, and that we just don't know why people radicalise. She lamented the paucity of data to enable research and suggested that researchers are not yet pushing the field far enough.

Bren began by stressing that, although there is very good cooperation between governments at all levels, it is difficult to identify potential offenders, particularly in a world where there are so many potential sources of radicalisation. He agreed that more data would be helpful and argued for a long-term research plan with clearly established priorities, and stronger links between academia and practitioners.

A fascinating exchange then unfolded, in which Jacinta and the audience probed the presenters in detail. The conclusion was that USI probably needs to return to this very difficult subject area in the not too distant future.

(Carroll & Horner bios: ANU; Photo: USI)

Thursday 12 July 2018

The Invictus Games is an international adaptive multi-sport competition for serving and former serving military personnel who have been wounded, injured or become ill during their military service. The 2018 Invictus Games will be held in Sydney from 20 - 27 October. The Games will attract competitors from 18 nations who will compete in 11 adaptive sports events.

On Thursday 12 July, USI member and Australian Invictus Games team organiser Brigadier Phil Winter AM, CSC, provided terrific insights into the background, development and possible future directions of the Games. While stressing the contribution that the Games can make to recovery, he was realistic about the potential for some athletes to feel let down after the event, and described some of the measures the ADF and RSL are taking to prepare the Australian team for this eventuality. 

Phil was accompanied by 2018 Australian Invictus athletes Ben Farinazzo and Tiffany White, who spoke frankly about their own stories. Tiff reflected on her journey of rediscovering life, love and family, and the importance of letting go of the past and focussing on the future. Ben spoke passionately about his realisation that he is more than an army officer or CEO, and that despite his wounds he is still strong and unconquered. Both thanked their coaches and all involved in the Invictus Games, and emphasised the healing power of sport more generally. 

(Photos: USI) 

Thursday 28 June 2018

On Thursday 28 June, members and guests were privileged to listen to the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO, CSC, RAN, who reflected on his experiences while working at the most senior levels within Defence.

In a significant address, Admiral Griggs described the quite challenging situation he found on assuming his appointment as Chief of Navy in 2011, before arguing that the ADF is now a more potent fighting force and that the ADF and Defence more broadly are now more agile and diverse. He sketched the many new capabilities that now make the ADF more potent, noting that the recent deployment of the very capable and self-contained air task group to Iraq exemplified his point.  He emphasised the many positive outcomes from the Strategic Reform Program (while acknowledging its limitations) and the First Principles Review, particularly the many benefits of the new capability life cycle. He underlined the importance of diversity as a capability issue, stressing that no team can win if its members do not respect each other. He concluded by observing that articulating the contemporary meaning of what it is to be a warrior is a significant challenge for today's senior leaders, and by reflecting that leaders must be resilient if they are to be effective. You can read the full text of the address here.

Admiral Griggs has been a strong and consistent supporter of USI of the ACT and RUSIDSS-A more broadly, and we wish him every future success as he leaves the Navy and the ADF.

(Photo: USI;  Bio: Defence)

Thursday 31 May 2018

On Thursday 31 May, we continued our exploration of the Department of Home Affairs with the Department's First Assistant Secretary National Security and Law Enforcement, Mr Hamish Hansford

In presenting the rationale for the Department, Hamish described its historical roots dating back to Federation before turning to the imperatives that drove the Government to establish the Department in its current form. He contended that the challenges arising from the dark side of globalisation, such as transnational flows of terrorism, drug trafficking, cyber crime and modern slavery, demanded that the Government bring together disparate departments of state to force greater transparency and collaboration. In rebutting claims made by Professor John Blaxland in an earlier presentation, Hamish argued that the new Department is in fact only marginally larger than the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection; that it was the result of deep thinking over a long period of time; that its size and scope cannot be considered to rival the larger and better resourced Department of Defence; that there is still considerable room for contestability of ideas; that immigration has not been lost as a point of focus; and that there is an extent to which concentration of power in one minister was the whole point of the new arrangement. In a candid question and answer session, Hamish described some of the challenges that have had to be faced in bringing the Department together and concluded that, on balance, progress has been good. He envisaged that in five years' time, the Department would be much more mature and making a significant contribution to keeping Australia a prosperous, secure and united society.

(Bio: Home Affairs; Photo: USI)

Thursday 19 April 2018

Deborah Jeppesen

On Thursday 19 April, our 2017 Leo Mahony Bursary winner, Deborah Jeppesen, briefed members and guests on progress on her doctoral research in a presentation entitled Are we influential? Examining the attributes which make military advisors effective in Train Advise Assist roles.

Deborah explained that in deciding on a doctoral project, she first and foremost wanted to produce a work that would have practical application rather than gather dust.  Given that so many of the ADF's recent contributions have involved providing military advisers, understanding the attributes required for success in such roles seemed an ideal choice.

Deborah described her hypothesis that emotional intelligence is the key to success and explained what this means behaviourally, her research method and some of her results.  She went on to list some preliminary conclusions and their implications.  All this and more is explained in the slides for her presentation.

The Leo Mahony Bursary is a significant element of the USI program. It is  awarded annually to a doctoral scholar enrolled in an ACT university and studying in the field of national security and defence. It commemorates the memory and service of founding National Secretary of RUSI-A and long-time USI member and Counsellor, Mr Leo MahonyConnecting recipients with USI members is an important element of the Bursary.  We achieve this in a number of ways: recipients are presented with their award at our Annual Members Dinner; appointed Honorary members for 12 months; and invited to attend our events and functions. They are also asked to give a presentation on their work.

(Photo: USI)

Thursday 5 April 2018

ADF Health Support Arrangements in Peace and War

AVM Tracy Smart AM

On Thursday 5 April 2018, the ADF's Commander Joint Health and Surgeon General, Air Vice Marshal Tracy Smart AM, addressed members and guests on the ADF's health support arrangements in peace and war.

In a wide-ranging presentation, AVM Smart described how the ADF health support system works, her dual role as CJ Health and Surgeon General, the evolution of Joint Health Command, the range of challenges she confronts and her approach to addressing those challenges. You can find the slides for the presentation here.  A short video on Joint Health Command can be found here

AVM Smart took the opportunity to debunk a number of myths that surround ADF health support, including on mental health issues, outsourcing of aspects of health support and privacy of patient information. She also touched on the challenges arising from the use of "free medical and dental" as a Defence advertising button, including managing expectations about the standard of health care that will be provided, and getting members to value a service that is provided to them free (eg in just six months in 2017, a staggering $0.5 million was wasted paying for specialist appointments that members failed to attend).

(Photo: USI; Bio: Defence)

Thursday 15 March 2018

The Battle of Marawi

Professor Clive Williams, MG

On Thursday 15 March, USI of the ACT Life Member, Professor Clive Williams MG, briefed members and guests on the  Battle of Malawi, which was fought between the Government of the Philippines and it supporters (including Australia) and militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The battle commenced on 23 May 2017 and ran for five months. 

Clive covered a range of issues, including the influence of Islamic State and the Battle for Mosul, the prevailing demographics in and around the city and other local issues that contributed to the uprising, and the performance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

His conclusion was that dealing with the aftermath of the battle will be problematic due to the catastrophic damage caused around the centre of the city, ongoing local tensions, and problems inside the Government of the Philippines.

(Photo: USI.  Biography: ANU)

Thursday 8 February 2018

Home Sweet Home: A Critical Historical and Contemporary Perspective on the Emergence of the Department of Home Affairs

Professor John Blaxland

On 8 February, Professor John Blaxland, Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, presented to more than 100 USI of the ACT members and guests on the new Department of Home Affairs. In an entertaining but thought provoking address, Blaxland set out a range of concerns about the new arrangements. He described the evolution of the Australian Intelligence Community since Federation, arguing that changes had resulted incrementally - and sensibly - over time in response to periodic reviews and Royal Commissions. He contrasted this with the decision to form the Department of Home Affairs, the imperative for which remains unsatisfactorily explained.  You can find the slides for the presentation here and listen to the audio here.

(Photo: USI)

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