1 October 2023

Independent review 'best positions' Australia’s National Intelligence Community

| Andrew McLaughlin
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ASIO building

ASIO is one of the 10 NIC agencies that will be subject to an independent review. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

An independent review into Australia’s intelligence agencies has been launched by the Commonwealth Government.

The review announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this week will be led by Dr Heather Smith PSM and Richard Maude.

Dr Smith is currently a professor at the Australian National University National Security College and has served as secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and deputy director-general of the Office of National Assessments. In April 2023, she was appointed the national president of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Mr Maude is currently executive director of policy at Asia Society Australia and a Senior Fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute. He has 30 years’ experience in foreign policy and national security, including as the former director-general of the Office of National Assessments. In May this year, Mr Maude was appointed to the External Advisory Panel to oversee the implementation of the Defence Strategic Review.

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“Dr Smith and Mr Maude are highly capable individuals with the specific skills needed to lead this review,” Mr Albanese said in his 22 September release.

“Our intelligence agencies underpin our national security objectives, including helping to safeguard our sovereignty in an increasingly uncertain security environment.

“This independent review will make sure that our intelligence agencies are best positioned to serve the Australian national interest, respond to future capability and workforce challenges, and continue to protect our security, prosperity and values.”

The National Intelligence Community (NIC) is comprised of the following agencies, all of which will be subject to the review: the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Federal Police, Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Australian Signals Directorate, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, Defence Intelligence Organisation, Department of Home Affairs, and the Office of National Intelligence.

Previous reviews into the NIC were conducted in 2004, 2011 and 2017.

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Due to be completed by mid-2024, this latest review will consider:

  • the impact of the implementation of the recommendations of the 2017 review, including the benefits of the establishment of the Office of National Intelligence and the expansion to create the NIC;
  • how effectively the NIC serves, and is positioned to serve, national interests and the needs of Government;
  • the status, risks and potential mitigations of major investments in the NIC since 2017;
  • topics identified by the 2019 Comprehensive Review for consideration by future reviews, and whether further legislative changes are needed;
  • whether workforce decisions by the NIC at the agency and community levels reflect a sufficiently strategic response to current and future workforce challenges, anticipate future capabilities of other states so we are best positioned to counter threats, are in line with the Australian Public Service commitments to diversity and inclusion, and offer options if recruitment targets cannot be met;
  • NIC preparedness in the event of regional crisis and conflict;
  • whether the use of the classification system by the NIC achieves the right balance between protecting sensitive information and providing decision-making advantages to policy makers and operators;
  • whether current oversight and evaluation mechanisms are effective and consistent across the NIC.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will establish a secretariat to support the review as required.

Original Article published by Andrew McLaughlin on Riotact.

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