The Challenge of Warning Time in the Contemporary Strategic Environment

Event details

SDSC Public Lecture

Date & time

Wednesday 23 June 2021


China in the World Lotus Theatre, building 188 Fellows Lane, ANU


Paul Dibb, Richard Brabin-Smith


Bell School Marketing Team

The government’s recent conclusion that Australia can no longer assume a warning time of 10 years for major conflict is a critical break from the defence policies of the past 50 years. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this new policy and the urgent demands of its consequences.

Because warning time is now much shorter and potentially ambiguous, there is a need for a National Intelligence Officer for Warning. And to test rigorously the consequences of potential contingencies for the ADF, Defence now needs a Directorate of Net Assessments. Long-range missiles capable of striking an adversary’s forces directly threatening us will have a key role in implementing a new policy of defensive deterrence. Such a capability must assume the highest priority in the government’s defence planning.

Australia needs to sharpen its analysis of US strategic thinking, including what it expects of us. This is not only because of the critical role of the US in the continued stability of the Indo-Pacific, but also because of the potential further volatility of its domestic politics.

More attention needs to be paid to the preparedness of the ADF for contingencies credible in the shorter term, with the demands to sustain operations potentially for months on end that could prove formidable.

Paul Dibb is Emeritus Professor of strategic studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. He was Head of the Centre from 1991 to 2004.

His previous positions include: Deputy Secretary for Strategy and Intelligence in the Department of Defence, Director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, and Head of the National Assessments Staff in the National Intelligence Committee.

Richard Brabin-Smith is an Honorary Professor at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. His former positions in the Department of Defence include Deputy Secretary for Strategic Policy, and Chief Defence Scientist.

This series of Public Lectures seeks to stimulate public discussion on major challenges relating to Australia’s strategic and defence policy and to contribute to the vital national conversation about Australia’s future in the Indo-Pacific.

Updated:  27 November 2022/Responsible Officer:  Bell School Marketing Team/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team