Thursday 02 Jul 2020 | 23:46 | SYDNEY
Thursday 02 Jul 2020 | 23:46 | SYDNEY

US intelligence community shows us the way


Allan Gyngell

24 November 2008 14:05

The US National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World is available now on the web. It’s well worth your attention: a thought-provoking, judicious and geographically and thematically sweeping account of how the world may change between now and 2025. It doesn’t try to predict the future but to identify the trends and drivers that will shape it. 

It’s not just the content that is impressive but the methodology: in contrast to the conventional public view of the intelligence agencies’ obsession with secrecy, the NIC consulted very widely in the report’s preparation and the final product was shaped, as it acknowledges, by a wide range of discussions and debate with outsiders (including some of us at the Lowy Institute).  It shows the American intelligence community at its best.

Australian agencies like ONA and DIO have been good at staying in touch with outside views, but are much less comfortable about contributing to the public debate. There are some sound reasons for this – including the resource costs of re-writing classified material — but Global Trends 2025 shows how usefully the analytical agencies can strengthen the foundations for a sounder, more balanced, discussion about the national future. 

The time has come for more of it. There is no need to go as far as the FOI – the aptly-named Swedish defence research institute, which makes all its reports available to the public — but we have a long way to go before that’s anywhere near in prospect.

My colleague, Rory Medcalf,  has been urging an Australian version of the 2025 report. The nearest Australia has come to this was an excellent speech to ASPI in September by ONA’s Director General, Peter Varghese, looking at the Australian strategic environment to 2030, available on ONA's website

By the way, Sam, does ONA have the most boring Australian government website? It’s a tightly-fought competition, I know, but surely one The Interpreter would find worth running. (Ed. note: Interesting challenge, Allan. The DFAT site is pretty grim too, and what about the Department of Education? That one gets extra points for irony, as standing out from its grim utilitarianism is a brightly coloured button for the 'Digital education revolution'! But over to you, readers. Give us your nominations via the Email the Editor button below.)