An Australian Intellectual Edge for Conflict and Competition in the 21st Century

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Author/s (editor/s):

Major General Mick Ryan

Publication year:


Publication type:

Discussion paper

Over the past decade, Australian academics and policy makers have been forced to readjust their thinking about Australia and how it might secure its interests in a changing world. The re-emergence of China as a powerful player in Australia’s region, as well as the developing strategic competition between the United States and China has driven a reassessment of national security and defence policies. Adding to the complexities of national security planners, this ‘contested world’, is now potentially at the start of a new industrial revolution. The revolution is underpinned by connectivity, biotechnology and silicon-based technologies, including artificial intelligence. This revolution will inevitably result in changes in how Australian governments evaluate national security, defence policy and the capabilities of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). While this will have many implications, one of particular note will be the necessary transformation in the intellectual preparation of military leaders to adapt to, and excel in, this changed geopolitical and technological era.

This paper provides insights into how Defence might apply its knowledge of a changing environment to more comprehensively address gaps in its software framework. The insights in this paper are designed to inform and strengthen Defence’s ongoing efforts to reform the professional development of its people. While the focus of this paper is on developing Australia’s future military personnel, concurrent and complementary development of civilian national security professionals is also necessary in the future.

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