United Services Institute of the Australian Capital Territory
The Leo Mahony Bursary is a significant element of the USI program. It is awarded annually to a doctoral scholar or scholars enrolled in an ACT university and studying in the field of national security and defence. The Bursary commemorates the memory and service of founding National Secretary of RUSI-A and long-time USI member and Counsellor, Mr Leo Mahony.
On Thursday 23 March, at the Defence College, our two 2016 Bursary winners briefed members and guests on their respective projects.
Mr Cameron Hawker from UNSW Canberra described his work on Australian Prime Ministers and the Australian - American Alliance 1951 - 2001: Crisis Points and Political Decision Making. He explained that the origins of his thesis lay in claims by the distinguished ANU scholar, Coral Bell, that Prime Minsters are the key figure in alliance policy. His work tests that proposition in a series of case studies of crises ranging from Holt and LBJ managing the Vietnam War to Howard and Bush in the aftermath of 9/11. Cam is about half way through his research.
Major Leon Young, also from UNSW Canberra, spoke about his work on Developing Computational Strategic Thinking Models. He explained that his motivation was to determine whether strategic thinkers can be made, rather than just found, in an effort to understand where the ADF might put more emphasis in its professional military education programs. The results of his research raise challenging questions for the Services, particularly in relation to some mid-level ranks. Leon has substantially completed his work and at the time of writing is due to submit his thesis imminently.
Both speakers expressed their thanks to Rolls-Royce Australia and the USI of the ACT for their support. We wish them well for the remainder of their studies and for the future.
On Thursday 9 March, Mr Graham Fletcher, First Assistant Secretary North Asia at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, addressed members and guests at the Defence College on Australia's complex relationship with China. In a comprehensive presentation, Graham sketched the interests of both partners and canvassed the surprisingly wide range of activities that comprise the relationship. He provided a frank personal perspective on how the relationship works in practice, and his very pragmatic approach was much appreciated by the audience.
Prior to Graham's presentation, Group Captain Pete Mitchell DSC, OAM gave a short account of his experiences commanding 75 Squadron RAAF on operations in the Middle East in 2015. Speaking informally in the ADC Mess, Pete described vividly a day of flying operations during the tour and touched on some of the lessons learned in the deployment. He placed particular emphasis on the quality and capacity of the young men and women under his command.
On Thursday 23 February, Professor Clive Williams MG from ANU sketched the complex environment that is the Battle for Mosul for around 80 members and guests of USI of the ACT at the Defence College, Weston Creek.
Clive outlined the strategic setting and the operational plan, then talked through many of the tactical challenges confronting the Iraqi security forces and their allies. His thought-provoking analysis, including a range of lessons learned, sparked a wide range of questions. You can find an edited version of his slides here.
Clive is a regular contributor as guest speaker and we continue to value his insights.
On 9 February 2017, Dr John Blaxland spoke about Australia & Regional Security: The Challenge of being an Indo-Pacific Middle Power in the Age of Trump. You can find the slides for the presentation here.
In a wide ranging presentation, John sketched the variety of security challenges confronting Australia in the Trump era. He likened Australia's dilemma to walking a tightrope while balancing on the one hand its economic relationship with China and on the other its security relationship with the United States. He argued in part that the 2016 Defence White paper's emphasis on a rules-based global order is misplaced, and that Australia should instead re-focus on its more immediate region.
This presentation was the first in a series exploring Australia's security in the region through a variety of lenses. Dr Blaxland's introduction set the scene for a number of policy practitioners who will follow later in the year.