Ex ASIO boss, APS secretary join National Security College

By Shannon Jenkins

July 7, 2021

(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Two former Australian Public Service leaders have taken up academic roles at the Australian National University’s National Security College (NSC).

Dr Heather Smith has been appointed a professor at the NSC, where she will work on the relationship between geoeconomics and security, while Major General Duncan Lewis has been appointed a professor in the practice of national security.

Duncan Lewis

Lewis served in the Australian Defence Force for 33 years, and joined the APS in 2005. He led the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) from 2014 to 2019. In his new role, Lewis will further strengthen the ties between the NSC and government.

“Australia’s strategic outlook is more uncertain than at any time in my working life. I look forward to contributing to the development of our present and next generation of strategic leaders in the field of national security,” he said.

Lewis said he was ‘proud’ to have been involved in the founding of the NSC in 2009.

“Since that time, I have been impressed with the way in which the college and ANU have contributed to national security scholarship and thought on policy development. The work of the college is now a significant part of Australia’s national security capability,” he said.

Smith led the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science from 2017 to 2020, and held a number of senior roles prior to that, including deputy director-general in the Office of National Assessments. Earlier this year she was appointed to an independent panel tasked with overseeing a review of the APS Classification Framework.

READ MORE: Why is there no APS college? ASIO head Duncan Lewis says public service needs its own school

Smith said she would use her new role to help aspiring leaders prepare for an uncertain future.

Dr Heather Smith

“Australia’s capacity to project power and influence are heavily impacted by the interaction of domestic economic success and far-sighted international engagement. If either is given too little attention, we run the risk of confronting emerging challenges for which we are either not prepared or for which we lack the capability to respond,” she said.

“I will be seeking to bring together these economic and strategic dimensions to help the next generation of public and private sector leaders navigate Australia’s place in the world in an era of unprecedented strategic rivalry. This period of great uncertainty could unfold in many ways. Perhaps the best we can hope for is an era of competitive coexistence.”

As two of Australia’s most respected and experienced policy leaders, Smith and Lewis will be ‘exceptional mentors’ to NSC students, according to head Professor Rory Medcalf.

“Heather Smith combines academic depth as an economist with wide experience of the national security community, including as a commonwealth secretary and in senior intelligence and foreign policy roles. Her appointment reinforces the place of ANU as a centre of gravity in understanding the rising challenge of the use of economic weight for strategic leverage,” Medcalf said.

“Duncan Lewis was the national security adviser behind the establishment of the college, and played a key part in shaping this institution as the national asset it has become. The breadth of his career, including as director general of ASIO, gives him an acute awareness of Australia’s changing security environment and our options to manage it.”

A joint initiative of the federal government and the ANU, the NSC offers short courses for government officials, master’s and PhD degree programs, futures analysis, policy publications, outreach and dialogue.

READ MORE: Cyber security experts make case for ‘national interest strategy’


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