Director-General of National Intelligence, Andrew Shearer and Director-General of Security, Mike Burgess have discussed the crucial role intelligence plays in ensuring the safety and prosperity of Australia, in a podcast presented by the Australian National University’s National Security College.
In conversation with the head of the National Security College, Rory Medcalf, the Directors-General explained the National Intelligence Community’s (NIC) role in providing decision-makers with advance warning of threats and opportunities.
Mr Shearer, who leads the Office of National Intelligence (ONI), emphasised the multifaceted nature of intelligence.
"For me, there are many, many definitions of intelligence and there are many different forms of intelligence. Fundamentally, intelligence is nothing more than information that can provide decision-makers with advance warning of threats to our national security or our national prosperity but also of opportunities that we might face as a nation," said Mr Shearer.
In discussing the relevance of open-source intelligence, Mr Shearer noted its critical importance, but added that its exponential growth presents both opportunities and challenges for the agencies that make up the NIC.
"The volume of open-source information that is available continues to grow exponentially. There’s so much data out there that, in fact, one of our challenges is how do we deal with all that data? How do we ingest it? How do we understand it? How to organise it, and how to analyse it?," said Mr Shearer.
Mike Burgess, head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), echoed Mr Shearer's views, saying the work of his agency, and the wider NIC, is to provide insights to allow government to make informed decisions.
Mr Burgess underscored the role of intelligence as a critical tool in identifying, understanding, and countering threats to Australia’s national security.
"The real reason I’m here... it’s simply to make a difference. And actually, I can’t think of a more important time than where we are in the world actually to be part of a community, part of an organisation, and in partnership with our friends on actually making a difference to Australia’s position in the world and our safety and security," said Mr Burgess.
“It’s about having really smart people. It is about integrating information from open sources and from all the other classified sources. It is about contesting ideas, testing assumptions, working with our international partners, especially the Five Eyes partners but increasingly a wider group of partners to frame issues for Government,” said Mr Shearer.
ONI and ASIO are part of a community of ten intelligence agencies which make up the NIC.