ANU's support to JPME at the ACSC

John Blaxland

Congratulations to the team at The Forge for setting up a hub for Australian JPME intended to build and hone the intellectual edge. 

We here at ANU and in particular, the SDSC, are proud of our association with the Australian Defence College and of our contribution to the JPME continuum through the Military and Defence Studies Program (MDSP) taught as part of the Australian Command and Staff College (ACSC-J) program at Weston Creek.  In this fast-paced world of continuous change, we value research-based scholarship and teaching and the need to never rest on our laurels. Working hand in hand with military practitioners as directing staff, we set out to challenge mid-career military officers and public servants (along with a healthy mix of foreign students), to place their earlier experience in a broader context and prepare them for the challenges they can expect to face in the next chapter of their careers.

The MDSP places considerable emphasis on learning about, and understanding the application of, strategy and military operations in a way informed but not constrained by lessons from the past. Ranging from the works of Thucydides, Clausewitz and Sun Tzu through to modern writers in the field such as Eliot Cohen, Hew Strachan, David Horner, Joan Beaumont, Hugh White, Evelyn Goh and Brendan Taylor, students are steeped in the basics of strategy, leadership, military history and international security with a contemporary edge and with a practitioner’s needs in mind.

The works of these writers set the tone for a considered reflection on command and leadership, Australian strategic and defence policy and the Art of War. MDSP students graduate with an understanding of military operations and strategy taught by scholars and practitioners with a depth of research, writing and experience that is second to none.

Along with the new Director of the Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at ANU, Professor Toni Erskine, I recently presented a five volume set of the official history of Australian peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and Post-Cold War operations to the Commander ADC, Major General Mick Ryan. The history project was jointly managed by the SDSC and the Australian War Memorial with funding from Defence. Emeritus Professor David Horner was the series editor for these volumes:

  • David Horner’s Australia and the ‘New World Order’: from peacekeeping to peace enforcement 1988-1991 (CUP & AWM, 2011)
  • David Horner and John Connor’s The Good International Citizen: Australian Peacekeeping in Asia, Africa and Europe, 1991-1993 (CUP & AWM, 2014)
  • Jean Bou et al, The Limits of Peacekeeping: Australian Missions in Africa and the Americas, 1992-2002 (CUP & AWM, 2019)
  • Bob Breen, The Good Neighbour: Australia’s peace support operations in the Pacific Islands, 1980-2006 (CUP & AWM, 2016) and
  • Steve Bullard’s In Their Time of Need: Australian overseas emergency relief operations, 1918-2006 (CUP & AWM 2017)


Those volumes provide encyclopaedic insight into a broad spectrum of Australian military operations with enduring relevance for today’s ADF. With unfettered access to cabinet records and senior officials, as well as soldiers, sailors, airmen and women and public servants involved at all levels, these books provide grist for the JPME mill. Lessons learnt and forgotten from previous operations in the Persian Gulf, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Aceh or Papua may well resonate into the future. This project, researched and written over more than a decade, represents a significant return on the investment in deep historical research and writing.

SDSC also is mindful of the need for history not to blind us to change. History does not repeat, but there is a certain rhyme to it that merits careful reconsideration. In the age of artificial intelligence, cyber-attacks and prospects of conflict in space, there remains a need to be nimble minded to adapt and adjust to what happens next and what happens after that as well.

We look forward to working to maintain the relevance and focus of the education program we deliver, listening intently to feedback and to the ebb and flow of cutting-edge ideas that help shape the future direction of JPME, informed by a deep knowledge of what has gone before.  We intend to do so, working hand-in-hand in the months and years ahead with the staff of the ADC and in particular the New Australian War College headed by Air Commodore Matt Hegarty, as part of the ADC.

Professor John Blaxland

Head, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre

14 December 2018