Office of National Assessments

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"Open Source Centre" redirects here. For the United States OSC, see Open Source Center.
Office of National Assessments
Office of National Assessments logo.gif
Agency overview
Formed 19 October 1977
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Headquarters Robert Marsden Hope Building, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Employees 138 (2015)[1]
Annual budget $54.7 million (2015)[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Richard Maude, Director-General
Parent agency Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Website http://www.ona.gov.au

The Office of National Assessments (ONA) is an Australian statutory intelligence agency. Established by the Office of National Assessments Act 1977, ONA is an independent body directly accountable to the Prime Minister of Australia and is a portfolio agency of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.[2] ONA provides all-source assessments on international political, strategic and economic developments to the Prime Minister and the National Security Committee of Cabinet.

ONA also plays a coordination role in the Australian Intelligence Community through evaluating foreign intelligence products, convening the National Intelligence Coordination Committee, and developing relationships with intelligence agencies around world.

History[edit]

The origins of the Office of National Assessments stem from the 1977 tabled recommendations of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security, established on 21 August 1974 by Australia's Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and led by Justice Robert Hope, for the formation of an independent agency to provide intelligence assessments on political, strategic and economic issues directly to the Prime Minister.[3][4]

As such, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser established the Office of National Assessments through the Office of National Assessments Act 1977, ensuring the ONA had statutory independence from government. ONA began operations on the 20 February 1978, assuming the Joint Intelligence Organisations's foreign intelligence assessment role. The Joint Intelligence Organisations retained its defence intelligence assessments role until being restructured as the Defence Intelligence Organisation in 1990.[5]

Role[edit]

ONA is an all-source intelligence assessment agency which reports directly to the Prime Minister. ONA provides assessments on international political, strategic and economic developments and analyses intelligence products of the Australian Intelligence Community. ONA plays a leadership role in the Australian Intelligence Community through coordination and evaluation of Australia's foreign intelligence activities. ONA also collects and analyses open-source intelligence.

Ultimately the ONA assessments are designed to assist the Australian Government in strategic decision making and ensure that government is fully briefed on international developments and emerging threats both in the Indo-Pacific region and around world.

ONA can be seen as the Australian equivalent United Kingdom Joint Intelligence Organisation, a combination of the United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence and United States Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the New Zealand National Assessments Bureau.

Branches[edit]

The ONA is divided into analytic branches covering geographic or thematic areas including:

Coordination[edit]

The Executive and Foreign Intelligence Coordination Branch (EFIC) supports the coordination of matters of common interest across the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC), in areas such as cross-agency policy, long-term planning and the setting of Australia’s foreign intelligence requirements based on the National Intelligence Priorities. EFIC also runs an active foreign relationship program and manages ONA's Cabinet liaison functions.[6] EFIC supports the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the National Intelligence Coordination Committee.

Washington Liaison[edit]

The ONA Liaison Officer Washington works within the Embassy of Australia, Washington, D.C. and liaises with and develops relationships with the United States Intelligence Community.

London Liaison[edit]

The ONA Liaison Officer London works within the High Commission of Australia, London and liaises with and develops relationships with the United Kingdom Intelligence Community.

North Asia[edit]

The North Asia Branch monitors and forecasts political, security, social, and economic developments, issues and trends in East Asia (including China, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula) and analyses and assesses all-source intelligence products on North Asia from the Australian Intelligence Community.

Oceania[edit]

The Oceania Branch monitors and forecasts political, security, social, and economic developments, issues and trends in Oceania (including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands), and analyses and assesses all-source intelligence products on North Asia from the Australian Intelligence Community.

Open Source Centre[edit]

The Open Source Centre collects, analyses and researches open-source intelligence to support Australian Government intelligence priorities and the work of the Australian Intelligence Community, with a focus on international developments that affect Australia's national interests.[7]

Strategic Analysis[edit]

The Strategic Analysis Branch monitors and forecasts strategic, military and security developments around the world including military-political affairs, science and technology, cybersecurity, space, weapons of mass destruction, global health, and climate change. The Strategic Analysis Branch works also collaborates with the Defence Intelligence Organisation.

International Economy[edit]

The International Economy Branch monitors and forecasts international economic, financial, and trade developments, issues and trends around the world. The International Economy Branch works with the Department of the Treasury.

Transnational Issues[edit]

The Transnational Issues Branch monitors and forecasts transnational issues such as terrorism, illegal drug trade, people smuggling, transnational crime, and human security around the world as well as political, economic, social and strategic developments in Africa and the Americas.

South East Asia[edit]

The South East Asia Branch monitors and forecasts political, security, social, and economic developments, issues and trends in South East Asia (including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines), and analyses and assesses all-source intelligence products on South East Asia from the Australian Intelligence Community.

South Asia and Middle East[edit]

The South Asia and Middle East Branch monitors and forecasts political, security, social, and economic developments, issues and trends in South Asia (including India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) and the Middle East (including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Saudi Arabia) and analyses and assesses all-source intelligence products on South Asia and Middle East from the Australian Intelligence Community.

Corporate Services[edit]

The Corporate and IT Services Branch provides support for human resources, internal security, facilities management, business management, information technology, information management, report production, and administration.[8]

Directors-General[edit]

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.[9]

Headquarters[edit]

In October 2011, ONA moved into the Robert Marsden Hope Building, a refurbished building in the Parliamentary Triangle.[10] 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.[11] Before its move, ONA had been a sub-tenant in the Central Office building of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in Russell, Canberra.

In the media[edit]

Although not a secret organisation, ONA usually attracts little attention. However, a striking exception occurred in 2001 when 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.

Flood report[edit]

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.[citation needed] The only ONA specific recommendation not implemented from the Flood report was the renaming of ONA to the Australian Foreign Intelligence Assessment Agency (AFIAA).[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Portfolio Budget Statements 2015-16 (Report). pp. 194, 198. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Office of National Assessments Act 1977
  3. ^ National Archives of Australia Records of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security
  4. ^ Gyngell, A. and Wesley, M. (2003) Making Australian Foreign Policy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. (page 146)
  5. ^ Office of National Assessments History of the ONA
  6. ^ [1] Office of National Assessments Executive and Foreign Intelligence Coordination Branch overview
  7. ^ [2] Office of National Assessments Open Source Centre overview
  8. ^ [3] Office of National Assessments Corporate Areas overview
  9. ^ "Richard Maude is appointed new head of spy agency the Office of National Assessments". The Australian. News Corp Australia. AAP. 24 April 2013. 
  10. ^ New Building, Office of National Assessments.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Report of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies, chapter 7

External links[edit]