ASPI has been set up to help Australians understand the critical strategic choices
which our country will face over the coming years, and to help Government make better-informed
This is important. Defence is one of the key functions of Government, and a major
area of national expenditure. But it remains a difficult and arcane area of public
policy - beset by technicalities, obscured by jargon and wreathed in tradition.
Australians live in a complex and strategically dynamic region. Like people everywhere,
we face risks from terrorism and other transnational threats. But we also face unique
uncertainties about the stability of our immediate neighbourhood, and about the
strategic balance of the wider Asia-Pacific region. We must meet major technological
challenges to keep our forces up to date. And we must overcome managerial and budget
problems to achieve the strategic goals we set ourselves.
ASPI will help to meet these challenges in four ways.
1.Informing the Public
ASPI will publish information and analysis on a full range of strategic and defence
issues that bear on the choices facing Australia over coming years.
A well-informed public debate about strategic issues is essential to Australia's
ability to take good strategic decisions, and to sustain clear directions over the
long haul. Last year's extensive Public Consultation process contributed significantly
to the development of the Defence 2000 White Paper, and highlighted the interest
that many Australians have in our defence choices.
Nonetheless, public debate on Defence still lags behind the kind of well-informed
discussion we see on economic and social issues. In the 1980's, important new directions
in Australian economic policy were stimulated and supported by a rapid increase
in public understanding about our economic options. Likewise over coming years,
a more sophisticated public debate on defence issues will help support far-sighted
and innovative strategic decision making for Australia.
2.Fresh Ideas for Government
ASPI will be a source of new ideas and innovative solutions for Government, both
through our published work, and through policy analyses specifically commissioned
Governments around the world have placed increased emphasis in recent years on contestability
of policy advice. The traditional monopoly of public service departments and agencies
over the provision of advice to Ministers has been broken down as new sources of
ideas and proposals have become available. But this trend has been less evident
in Defence and related strategic policy areas than in almost any other field of
ASPI has been established specifically to foster contestability of advice on strategic
and defence policy issues. Competition should help ensure that old ideas are not
propped up beyond their useful life, and that new ideas are rigorously scrutinised.
A small, agile organisation like ASPI will be able to address critical issues and
choices with more flexibility and innovation than would always be possible in a
large organisation like Defence.
For more information about this aspect of ASPI's work follow this link to a paper
published by ANU in August 2000 (Discussion Paper No.75) by Celia Perkins.