Office of National Assessments
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|Formed||19 October 1977|
|Jurisdiction||Commonwealth of Australia|
|Headquarters||Robert Marsden Hope Building, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia|
|Annual budget||$54.7 million (2015)|
|Parent agency||Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet|
The Office of National Assessments (ONA) is an Australian intelligence agency. ONA was established by the Office of National Assessments Act 1977 as an independent body directly accountable to the Prime Minister of Australia. ONA provides all-source assessments on international political, strategic and economic developments to the Prime Minister and senior ministers in the National Security Committee of Cabinet. It also coordinates and evaluates the work and performance of Australia’s foreign intelligence agencies. ONA is not an intelligence collection agency.
In October 2011, ONA moved into the Robert Marsden Hope Building, a refurbished building in the Parliamentary Triangle. The building is named for Justice Hope, who led two Royal Commissions into Australia's intelligence and security agencies and operations, the first of which led to the creation of ONA. Before its move, ONA had been a sub-tenant in the Central Office building of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in Russell, Canberra.
The Director-General of ONA is an independent statutory officer who is not subject to external direction on the content of ONA assessments. ONA has about 150 staff, including 100 analysts. The current Director-General of ONA is Richard Maude, who was appointed to a five-year term at the agency in April 2013.
ONA is not a producer of intelligence; it draws on intelligence collected by DIO, ASIS, ASIO, AGO and ASD, and combines it with open source research to produce assessments on key issues for the Prime Minister and senior ministers. The assessments are designed to assist the Australian Government in strategic decision making and ensure that government is fully briefed on emerging threats both in the region and globally.
In the media
Although not a secret organisation, ONA usually attracts little attention. However, a striking exception occurred in 2001 when the former Prime Minister, John Howard, publicly relied upon an ONA assessment to support his claims about asylum seekers on the MV Tampa, in an incident which became known as the "Tampa affair". The ONA assessment was later leaked to the public in its entirety, showing that the assessment was ultimately based on nothing more than press releases from various government ministers.
In 2003, in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an ONA intelligence officer named Andrew Wilkie resigned from the agency, citing ethical concerns in relation to selective and exaggerated use of intelligence by the Australian Government on the matter of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
ONA has experienced substantial growth since the release of the report into intelligence agencies by Philip Flood which recommended a doubling of the agency's budget and staffing resources and formalisation of the agency's role as a coordinator and evaluator of the other Australian foreign intelligence agencies. The only ONA specific recommendation not implemented from the Flood report was the renaming of ONA to the Australian Foreign Intelligence Assessment Agency (AFIAA).
The ONA is divided into branches which cover geographic or thematic areas. It does not have a graduate intake, but recruits from other intelligence agencies, academia, Defence and DFAT for its analysts.
Directors-General of the Office of National Assessments
- Robert Furlonger (1977–1981)
- Michael Cook (1981–1989)
- Geoff Miller (1989–1995)
- Philip Flood (1995–1996)
- Richard Smith (1996–1998)
- Kim Jones (1998–2003)
- Peter Varghese (2004–2009)
- Allan Gyngell (2009–2013)
- Richard Maude (2013–present)
- Portfolio Budget Statements 2015-16 (Report). p. 194, 198. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2015.
- New Building, Office of National Assessments.
- Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security Third Report on Intelligence Co-ordination Machinery – Abridged Findings and Recommendations, dated 1 December 1976, National Archives of Australia.
- "Richard Maude is appointed new head of spy agency the Office of National Assessments". The Australian (News Corp Australia). AAP. 24 April 2013.
- Report of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies, chapter 7
- Office of National Assessments home page
- Report of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies (The Flood Report)
- Open Australia Search: Parliamentary records mentioning ONA.