Former Heads of the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre

Brendan Sargeant

Professor Brendan Sargeant

Head: 2020- 2022

Brendan was one of Australia's most respected defence strategists, Professor of Practice in Defence and Strategic Studies and Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University.

He retired from the Department of Defence in October 2017. From September 2013 to October 2017, he was the Associate Secretary of Defence. Prior to that appointment he was the Deputy Secretary Strategy. As Associate Secretary, he was responsible for oversight of the implementation of the First Principles Review, a major reform of Defence organisation and enterprise governance, planning, performance and risk management. He was the principal author of the 2013 Defence White Paper.

Brendan made invaluable contributions to ANU, the Australian Public Service, the Australian Defence Force, the wider Canberra community and the nation.

John Blaxland

Professor John Blaxland

Head: 2017 - 2019

John Blaxland is Professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at ANU. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales. In addition, he is a member of the Australian Army Journal editorial board and an occasional commentator in the media.

John holds a PhD in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada, an MA in History from ANU and a BA (Hons 1) from UNSW. He is a graduate of the Royal Thai Army Command & Staff College (dux, foreign students) and the Royal Military College, Duntroon (Blamey Scholar). He has extensive experience in the intelligence community including as the principal intelligence staff officer for the Australian brigade in East Timor in September 1999, as an intelligence exchange officer in Washington DC, as Director Joint Intelligence Operations (J2), at Headquarters Joint Operations Command (2006/7) and as a lead author of the three-volume history of ASIO. In addition he was Australia’s Defence Attaché to Thailand and Myanmar. He teaches “Honeypots and Overcoats: Australian Intelligence in the World” and supervises a number of students undertaking higher degrees by research.

His publications and research interests concern intelligence and the security arms of government, Australian military history and strategy, defence studies, military operations (including East Timor, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan); international relations, notably on South-east Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Timor Leste, Indonesia, South China Sea), North America, (Canada/United States) and Australia’s Flag.

Brendan Taylor

Professor Brendan Taylor

Head: 2011 - 2016

Brendan Taylor is a Professor at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. Specialising in great power strategic relations in the Asia-Pacific, economic sanctions and regional security architecture, he holds a PhD and Masters degree from The Australian National University and a BA (Hons) from Waikato University in New Zealand. With a longstanding association at ANU, Professor Taylor has also held the positions of Interim Director of the Coral Bell School (October 2016 - January 2018) and Head of the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre.

With his current research focusing on flashpoints in Asia, published as The Four Flashpoints: How Asia Goes to War by Black Inc. in 2018, Professor Taylor is often sought as an expert on Asia Pacific security, including China and North Korea. Other areas of research interest and expertise include Taiwan and the East China Sea, Asian security architecture such as the Shangri-La Dialogue and East Asia Forum, as well as the US-Australia alliance.

Seeking to produce work both academically credible and accessible to broader audiences, Professor Taylor has featured in leading international journals, including the Washington Quarterly, Survival and International Affairs. He has authored or edited five books, including Australia as an Asia-Pacific Regional Power and Sanctions as Grand Strategy for the Adelphi Series. His book ‘Australia’s American Alliance,’ co-edited with Stephan Frühling and Peter Dean has become required reading at the Australian Department of Defence and the US Pentagon.

Professor Taylor has previously taught courses for the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre and is a regular media commentator.

Hugh White

Emeritus Prof Hugh White AO

Head: 2004 - 2011

Hugh White AO is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre at ANU. He has worked on Australian and regional strategic, defence and foreign policy issues since 1980.

He has been an intelligence analyst, journalist, ministerial adviser, departmental official, think tanker and academic. In the 1990s he served as International Relations Adviser to Prime Minister Bob Hawke and as Deputy Secretary of Defence for Strategy and Intelligence. He was the principal author of Australia’s 2000 Defence White Paper.
His recent publications include How to Defend Australia, published by Black Inc. in 2019, Power Shift: Australia’s Future between Washington and Beijing published by Black Inc. in September 2010, and The China Choice: Why America should share power, published in Australia by Black Inc. in 2012, and by OUP in 2013. The China Choice has also been published in Chinese and Japanese.

In the 1970s Hugh studied philosophy at Melbourne and Oxford Universities. He was named an Officer of the Order of Australia(AO) in 2014 for distinguished service to international affairs, through strategic defence studies as an analyst, academic and adviser to government, and to public administration. In 2018, Hugh was granted the title of Emeritus Professor.

Paul Dibb

Emeritus Prof Paul Dibb AM

Head: 1991 - 2004

Paul Dibb AM is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre at ANU. Before joining the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, he had an extensive career working on intelligence and defence issues.

From 1974 to 1978, Paul served as the Head of the National Assessments Staff—the predecessor to the Office of National Intelligence. In 1985, Paul was commissioned by the then Minister for Defence, Kim Beazley, to analyse Australia’s defence planning. The resulting report — officially known as the Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities — but colloquially referred to as the Dibb Report was highly influential and led to the adoption of the Defence of Australia Policy.

From 1986 to 1988, he held the position of Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation at the Department of Defence. The Joint Intelligence Organisation was the predecessor to today’s Defence Intelligence Organisation.

Paul’s career in the Department of Defence culminated in his appointment as the head of Defence Strategy and Intelligence Group with the rank of Deputy Secretary at the Department of Defence from 1988 to 1991. Following his retirement from the Australian Public Service, Paul took up the role of Head of Centre at the SDSC, departing the role in 2004.

Paul has published numerous academic works, including his 1995 Adelphi Paper, Towards a New Balance of Power in Asia, and the books: Siberia and the Pacific (1972), Australia’s External Relations in the 1980s (1983), The Soviet Union: The Incomplete Superpower (1986, 1988), Essays on Australian Defence (2005), America and the Asia-Pacific Region (2006), and Inside the Wilderness of Mirrors: Australia and the Threat from the Soviet Union in the Cold War and Russia Today (2018).

Paul was named a Member of the Order of Australia in 1989 in recognition of service to the Public Service.

Desmond Ball

Professor Desmond Ball AO

Head: 1984 - 1991

Desmond Ball AO was Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre at ANU having been head of the Centre from 1984 to 1991.

Professor Ball authored more than 40 books or monographs on technical intelligence subjects, nuclear strategy, Australian defence, and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

His publications include A National Asset: 50 years of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (with Andrew Carr); Militia Redux: Or Sor and the Revival of Paramilitarism in Thailand; Burma’s Military Secrets: Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) from the Second World War to Civil War and Cyber Warfare; Signals Intelligence in the Post-Cold War Era: Developments in the Asia-Pacific Region; Presumptive Engagement: Australia’s Asia-Pacific Security Policy in the 1990s (with Pauline Kerr); Breaking the Codes: Australia’s KGB Network, 1944–50 (with David Horner); Death in Balibo, Lies in Canberra (with Hamish McDonald); The Boys in Black: The Thahan Phran (Rangers); Thailand’s Para-military Border Guards; and Australia and Cyber-Warfare (with Gary Waters and Ian Dudgeon). He has also written articles on issues such as the strategic culture in the Asia-Pacific region and defence acquisition programs in the region.

Professor Ball was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia in 1986. He served on the Council of the International Institute for Strategic Studies from 1994 until 2000, and was co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific from 2000 until 2002.

He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2014 for distinguished service to international relations as an academic, author and researcher, to Australian Defence policy formulation, and to the security architecture of the Asia-Pacific region.

A festschrift on Professor Ball’s work, ‘Insurgent Intellectual: Essays in Honour of Professor Desmond Ball’ was published by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in 2012.

Robert O'Neill

Professor Robert O'Neill AO

Head: 1971 - 1982

Professor Robert O’Neill AO is one of the world’s leading experts on strategic and security studies, O’Neill was head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre from 1971 to 1982. He also served as Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London from 1982 to 1987 and then as Chichele Professor of the History of War and Fellow of All Souls College at Oxford University from 1987 to 2000.

A prodigious author and editor, O’Neill wrote the Official History of Australia’s role in the Korean War, a masterful two volume work which was published in 1981 and 1985. He has produced influential reports for the Ford Foundation on reducing levels of conflict in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as dozens of academic books and innumerable articles and essays. Professor O’Neill is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in Britain.

He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1988 for service to International Relations and to Reducation. He was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001 for service to Australian society through Defence and contributions to Australia's security.

A festschrift celebrating the work of Professor O’Neill was released in 2016 titled, ‘War, Strategy and History: Essays in Honour of Professor Robert O’Neill’. It can be downloaded for free (or a printed copy purchased) from ANU Press.

TB Millar

Profesesor T.B. Millar AO

Head: 1966 - 1972, 1982 - 1984

Professor Thomas Bruce "T.B." Millar AO was the founding head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. Initially joining the ANU Department of International Relations in 1962, he founded the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in 1966 as a way of concentrating Australian academic attention on ‘a combination of strategic questions and the problems of national defence’. At the time, Professor Millar had just published one of the first and most important books on the subject ‘Australia’s Defence’ which remains a classic over half-a-century after its publication.

Professor Millar published a wide range of books and papers on Australian foreign and defence policies. From 1973-1974, he led the Australian Federal Government’s Committee of Inquiry into the future of the Citizen Military Forces. He later worked in the United Kingdom at the London School of Economics and King’s College London.

Professor Millar was named an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1983 for service to International Relations.

A festschrift recognising the contribution of Professor Millar was published in 1995 titled ‘Nation, Region and Context: Studies in Peace and War in Honour of Professor T.B. Millar’.

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