Andrew Shearer, Director-General of National Intelligence, has taken part in a panel discussion on how strategic and net assessments can support Australia in a period of intensifying geopolitical competition and technological disruption.

At a recent conference hosted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Mr Shearer joined Dr Kori Schake, Director of Foreign and Defence Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute, and Dr Ross Babbage, former head of Strategic Analysis, Office of National Assessments, in a discussion on the role of net assessments. The 2023 Defence Strategic Review recommended a net assessment approach be used to shape and frame future planning on force structure and force posture.

A net assessment is a strategic analysis and assessment approach that looks holistically at the military, economic, technological and political dimensions of strategic competition. A net assessment will typically combine quantitative assessments of military and national power, as well as more qualitative judgments about intent, resolve and resilience.

Mr Shearer told the audience that net assessments work well because of their ability to take a wider aperture.

“Competition isn't just a head‑to‑head ORBAT (order of battle) versus ORBAT equation,” Mr Shearer said. “It goes to the different dimensions of power, not only military, but economic, diplomatic and soft power.”

Mr Shearer cited Ukraine’s response to Russia’s invasion as an example of the importance of considering more human and qualitative aspects of competition.

“Who knew that Zelenskyy was going to turn out to be a Churchillian war leader? Who knew that those guys on Snake Island were going to give the Russians their views? Or that Ukraine was going to stand up and fight and fight and fight, as they're still doing today.”

Mr Shearer noted net assessments, like all good analysis, depend on rigorous tradecraft and an inquiring, open-minded approach to information-gathering. He particularly noted the value of intelligence analysts engaging in outreach beyond government to gather new insights and test their judgments.

“If you're not out talking to senior business figures who really understand what's happening in global supply chains and in global markets, then you're missing a huge part of the equation,” Mr Shearer said.

26 September 2023

  • NIC
  • ONI
  • DGNI

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