The Centre of Gravity (CoG) Series Papers

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The Centre of Gravity papers are the flagship publications of the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) with a focus on policy reform and critical regional issues.

The Strategic and Defence Studies Centre is Australia’s oldest, largest and highest-ranking academic institute for strategic studies research, education and commentary. Our focus is on understanding the complexity of Asia’s strategic environment, Australia’s place in it, and the utility and application of armed force in international affairs.

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  • ItemOpen Access
    The Challenge of Warning Time in the Contemporary Strategic Environment
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2021-10) Dibb, Paul; Brabin-Smith, Richard; Carr, Andrew
    This Centre of Gravity paper is based on an ANU public lecture given by the authors on 23 June 2021. The lecture in turn drew heavily on the authors’ paper for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Deterrence through denial: a strategy for an era of reduced warning time, published in May 2021.1 The authors are grateful to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute for agreeing that the material could be re-published in this way.
  • ItemOpen Access
    SEA 5000 Future Frigate Program: continuous shipbuilding under the spotlight
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2021-07) Feeney, David; Carr, Andrew
    The Future Frigates Program SEA 5000 is the largest naval shipbuilding project in Australian history, the centrepiece of the continuous National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise. This paper, by former Parliamentary Secretary for Defence David Feeney shows that Australia will be paying nearly double per frigate as compared to the contemporary US and UK Frigate programs. Even though the Strategic Update 2020 highlights Australia’s rapidly deteriorating strategic environment, Feeney shows the Government has deliberately structured the frigate program so that it delivers capability more slowly (extended to 2044) and at greater cost (an additional A$9.3 billion). He argues the key reason for this deliberate slow down in the construction rate of the frigates is to enable the “implementation of a stable, deliberate and continuous shipbuilding drumbeat” so as to “end the ‘boom and bust’ cycle of naval shipbuilding, delivering sovereign capability and certainty for industry.” The paper explores the challenges of shipbuilding, the policy tensions and trade offs, and offers suggestions for how to get SEA5000 back on track.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Challenges to the Australian Strategic Imagination
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2021-05) Sargeant, Brendan; Carr, Andrew
    In the face of historic changes, Australia needs a larger conception of strategy, a richer discourse, and a more searching questioning of the assumptions that underpin the Australian strategic imagination. This paper by Professor Brendan Sargeant explores the new idea of ‘strategic imagination’, a way of understanding how a country thinks about its place in the world. Reviewing the major elements of Australian strategic imagination, such as Geography, Time, Technology and Partnerships, Nostalgia and Borders reveals discordant notes, many elements which have served us well in the past but may not be fit for the reality we now emerge into. Professor Sargeant argues that the question of how we are to live in the Indo-Pacific in the 21st-century is not first a question of policy or strategy. It is a challenge to strategic imagination. He argues that not only do we need to imagine ourselves into what we might be, but also what the world might be. This poses the question, is our vision of our future large enough to accommodate and respond to the scale of change that we are seeing?
  • ItemOpen Access
    Australia's Defence Policy after COVID-19
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2020-11) Dibb, Paul; Brabin-Smith, Richard; Carr, Andrew
    The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and accompanying Force Structure Plan, and the Defence Science and Technology Strategy 2030 are, when taken together, among the more important defence policy documents that the Government has released in recent years. The timing amplifies their significance. They arrive at a time when Australia is experiencing a momentous crisis that challenges every aspect of our national life and will have consequences for decades to come.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Educating for what? PME, the ADF and an uncertain 21st century
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2021-02) Chow, Aurore; Bowers, Jack; Carr, Andrew
    Professional Military Education (PME) is the study of force by the profession of arms. The profession of arms requires constantly adapting to uncertainty, yet Australian PME is not well prepared to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Military organisations are becoming more hetero-cultural and diverse in their expertise because war is more heterogeneous. The lines between state actors and non-state actors have become less certain; the limits to the battle space have become less certain and the line between peace and war less apparent. In such an environment, the education of military forces needs to adapt. This Centre of Gravity paper, by two deeply experienced PME educators, offers suggestions on the road ahead for Australian PME. It emphasises the need to build on the study of warfighting to help ADF members connect to broader social context they will operate in, at home and abroad. It discusses ways to improve learning environments that foster critical thinking, enable students to encounter and learn to manage uncertainty and the development of first rate instructors.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Why be strong? The Swiss & Australian Responses to Fear
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2021-01) Palazzo, Albert; Carr, Andrew
    Defence thinkers routinely identify Australia as one of the safest countries in the world. However, Australia's future is likely to be more dangerous and troubling than its past has been. As such fear is likely to play a much greater role in the determination of Australia's security policy than it has in the recent past.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific Islands: Ambiguous Allies?
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2018-10) Wallis, Joanne; Powles, Anna; Carr, Andrew
    In this Centre of Gravity paper, Dr Joanne Wallis, Senior Lecturer and Director of Studies in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, and Dr Anna Powles, Senior Lecturer in Security Studies in the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at Massey University, argue that divergences in Australia and New Zealand's policies and practices raise questions about the status of their alliance and how the two states will work together to address challenges in the Pacific Islands.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Why Australia Needs a Radically New Defence Policy
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2018-10) Dibb, Paul; Brabin-Smith, Richard; Sargeant, Brendan; Carr, Andrew
    In this Centre of Gravity paper, three of Australia's leading strategists and defence practitioners from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb, Honorary Professor Richard Brabin-Smith, and Honorary Professor Brendan Sargeant, make the case for bold, new strategic thinking and imagination in Australian defence policy.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Chinese Power and the Idea of a Responsible State in a Changing World Order
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2018-01) Foot, Rosemary; Carr, Andrew
    In this Centre of Gravity paper, Professor Emeritus Rosemary Foot, Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, outlines the evolution of China’s engagement with the dominant global norms of responsible behaviour. Professor Foot notes that scholars and policy makers have long been preoccupied with ascertaining whether China is intent on overturning or supporting the dominant norms of global order. Maoist China appeared as a revolutionary challenger to global order norms, whereas Deng Xiaoping’s China came predominantly to be seen as adapting to international society and beginning to act as a ‘responsible state’ in world politics. This view of China was reinforced not only by its behaviour but also by the academic understanding of how global norms could act to shape the responses of a state concerned about its international image. Under President Xi Jinping we witness a China more willing to determine for itself what represents ‘responsible behaviour’ in global politics. This is reinforced by Beijing’s sense that the West is in decline while it is economically and politically resurgent. We have moved into a strongly enabling environment for China. Professor Foot argues that countries outside of China need to develop a more nuanced understanding of Beijing’s relationship with dominant global norms. On some policy issues, China seeks a larger voice and role within existing institutions and thus does not constitute a major challenge. In other areas, it is working to aid the decline in certain normative values, arguing that it is the strong and developed state that is the best guarantor of world order and the security of the individual. The West should act to counter China’s arguments where they are weak, inconsistent and retrogressive, and reinvigorate its support for the values of human rights and democracy.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Sovereign Defence Industry Capabilities, Independent Operations and the Future of Australian Defence Strategy
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2017-10) Fruhling, Stephan; Carr, Andrew
    Sovereignty in defence industry is not absolute, but must balance effectiveness, cost, and reliance on allies. The ‘Sovereign Defence Industry Assessment Framework’ promised in the 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement (DIPS) should be a crucial link between strategic policy and defence industry policy, and explain how we manage those trade-offs. DIPS hints at the logic of defence self-reliance, which arose from our concerns of not being able to rely on support from US combat forces in regional conflicts after the Vietnam War. The 2016 Defence White Paper is however now framing Australian policy in terms of the ability to conduct independent operations, which are an important way of securing our interests in conflicts where we fight alongside the United States. In this Centre of Gravity paper, Stephan Frühling argues that plans for a Sovereign Defence Industry must not be a catch-all list of defence industry we want to maintain for a variety of legitimate reasons, but should comprise that industry support required in country for defending Australia in the most challenging circumstances in our own region.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Tipping the Balance in Southeast Asia? Thailand, the United States and China
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2017-11) Blaxland, John; Raymond, Greg; Carr, Andrew
    Professor John Blaxland and Dr Greg Raymond's Centre of Gravity paper breaks new ground in our understanding of Thai strategic and military culture and how Thai security elites view the United States, China, and the shifting geopolitical landscape in Asia. This analysis provides a roadmap to scholars seeking to understand shifting Thai policies and for policymakers seeking to maintain a strong footing for the U.S.-Thailand alliance during a time of strategic flux. This paper is co-badged with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D.C, USA. It was funded by a grant from the Minerva Research Institute.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Beijing's Belligerent Revisionism: Reconstituting Asia's 'End of History'?
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2018-09) Roberts, Christopher B.; Carr, Andrew
    In this Centre of Gravity paper, Christopher B. Roberts, Director of the National Asian Studies Centre at the University of Canberra and a Visiting Fellow at the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, argues that Francis Fukuyama’s famous ‘end of history’ thesis is being challenged by China’s rise. Beijing’s capitalist authoritarian approach to development and international influence is now threatening Indo-Pacific stability.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Debating the Quad
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2018-03) Graham, Euan; Pan, Chengxin; Hall, Ian; Kersten, Rikki; Zala, Benjamin; Percy, Sarah; Carr, Andrew
    In this Centre of Gravity paper, six of Australia’s leading scholars and policy experts debate Australian participation in the ‘Australia-India-Japan-United States consultations on the Indo-Pacific’ - known universally as the ‘Quad’. A decade since its first iteration, the revival of the Quad presents significant questions for Australia and the regional order. Is the Quad a constructive partnership of the region’s major powers to safeguard regional stability, uphold the rules-based order and promote security cooperation? Is it a concert of democracies seeking to contain China? Or is it an emerging strategic alignment that risks precipitating the very confrontation with China it seeks to avoid? Or is it something else entirely?
  • ItemOpen Access
    China's New Navy: A short guide for Australian policy-makers
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2018-05) Roggeveen, Sam; Carr, Andrew
    In this Centre of Gravity paper, Sam Roggeveen, Senior Fellow at the Lowy Institute and Visiting Fellow at the SDSC, argues that China’s focus on developing a large ocean-going surface fleet indicates its growing ambitions. China already has the second most powerful navy in the Pacific and is developing the capability to match America’s maritime strength in the Pacific. China may already be building a ‘post-American navy’, one designed not to confront US naval predominance in the Pacific, but to inherit it as the US baulks at the increasing cost of continued regional leadership. Thanks to China’s rise and America’s relative decline, Australia faces its most challenging maritime security environment since World War II. To meet the challenge, the ADF needs a force structure that is itself inspired by lessons from China.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Australia and the Korean Crisis: Confronting the limits of influence?
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2018-04) O'Neil, Andrew; Taylor, Brendan; Tow, William T.; Carr, Andrew
    In this Centre of Gravity paper, Professors O’Neil, Taylor and Tow argued that the apparent optimism surrounding the upcoming ‘season of summitry’ on the Korean Peninsula should be tempered by the fact that there are potential risks attached to engaging the North Korean leadership without preconditions. They argue these include legitimising its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, alliance decoupling, and a serious deterioration in Asia’s strategic climate if the Trump-Kim summit fails to deliver concrete results.
  • ItemOpen Access
    After Mosul: A Grueling Start Down a Very Long Road
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2017-04) Brown, Matt; Carr, Andrew
    With combat operations underway in west Mosul, Iraqi security forces will later this year regain control of the city. But what comes next will be crucial, affecting the utility of the costly international intervention against ISIS, the chances of stability in Iraq and the risk of terrorism beyond its borders for decades to come. Building on his in depth reporting in Mosul in late 2016 and early 2017, Matt Brown explores the fight for this vital city in Iraq and the challenges that face the Iraqi Army, Iraqi people, their government and the wider coalition forces, including Australia, who seek to restore order and stability. Key points include: The battle for Mosul has resulted in fewer civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure than many first feared; After government forces recapture the city ISIS is likely to continue to stage attacks and seek influence through extortion, intimidation and corruption; Civilians have been scarred by previous abuse at the hands of the security forces and ISIS but are receptive to reconciliation with the government; and Fears that security forces would engage in sectarian violence have not been realized but sectarianism remains a threat.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Australia and the Rise of Geoeconomics
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2016-01) Wesley, Michael; Carr, Andrew
    In early 2015 a serious disagreement developed in the Australian Cabinet. Prompted by China’s invitation to Australia to become a founding member of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), senior ministers gravitated towards two opposed positions on how to respond. Ministers in charge of economic portfolios, led by Treasurer Joe Hockey and initially with the support of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, advocated that Australia should accept Beijing’s invitation. China was Australia’s major trading partner, and several studies had pointed out the need for infrastructure building in Asia in the coming decades. Ministers in charge of security related portfolios, led by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, argued that Australia should demur. A Chinese-dominated infrastructure fund, they argued, could be used to build strategic footholds for an expanding Chinese power footprint under the guise of economic imperatives. Chinese behaviour had become increasingly assertive, and the United States had lobbied Australia, along with other allies and partners in the region, against joining.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Implications for Australia of the Crisis in the West and the Threat from China and Russia
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2017-06) Dibb, Paul; Carr, Andrew
    The West is in deep trouble. As a geopolitical entity, a model of economic success, a cultural and moral ideal, and as a superior form of governance the West seems to have lost its way. The leadership of the free world by the United States is now fraught with uncertainty. In America, and much of Europe, ultranationalist populism is leading to more inward-looking and protectionist policies. The growing rejection of the benefits of economic globalisation now risk more confrontational trade policies between nation states. In this Centre of Gravity Paper, Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb brings a lifetime of experience as both policy maker and scholar to examine these concerning global changes and identify what this means for Australia.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Smaller, but enmeshed: Why Australia needs to make ASEAN an even stronger priority
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2017-06) Milner, Tony; Huisken, Ron; Carr, Andrew
    Australia's preoccupation with the US-China dynamic in recent years is unsurprising - given its historic relationship with America and the size of economic engagement with China. It is to be expected that some see a role for Australia in mediating the intensifying contest between these giants. To be realistic, however, the region of Asia where Australia has some strategic weight and credibility, born of a long record of deep engagement, is Southeast Asia. For this reason it is a positive development that the current Australian government seems committed to a policy of enhancing ASEAN relations. But there is much work to do.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Economics-Security Nexus Under Trump and Xi: Policy Implications for Asia-Pacific Countries
    (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Australian National University, 2017-09) Ayson, Robert; Carr, Andrew
    In this Centre of Gravity paper, Professor Robert Aysons explores how the links between economic and security considerations are intensifying in Asia. Yet, rather than anticipating an all-or-nothing choice between security interests with the US and economic interests with China, he shows that many Asia-Pacific countries have been making smaller choices to work with both great powers to encourage a regional equilibrium. The paper also explores how North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations have also encouraged some economics-security cooperation between China and the US in the Trump Xi era. For policymakers in middle and smaller sized states, Professor Ayson urges an attempt to deepen their bilateral and plurilateral collaboration to reduce their exposure to the changing mix of pressure and reassurance coming from Beijing and Washington.
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