Recent Publications on National Security Strategy (NSS)

What would happen if China launched a surprise attack on Australia

Australia’s AUKUS pact was made to shore up peace and presence in the Pacific. But what if China launched a surprise attack, which would make Pearl Harbour look like the work of amateurs? My book, 'Danger on our Doorstep' explores the possibility of conflict in our region and what we can do to prepare. It is a confronting, but necessary, warning against complacency and a call for urgent action both from our leaders and citizens alike. Read an extract here.

Defending investment in armoured vehicle capability

There has been some criticism of the Federal Government’s multibillion-dollar acquisition of armoured vehicles. But what critics need to realise is that we don’t have the next 75 years to muck around with a Gucci military designed to send small token forces to be part of a US force with the aim of showing the flag, rather than winning. Read my full response here.

Intelligence must evolve to meet our growing threats, starting with China

The government machinery that has worked so well to create a prosperous and secure Australia during the past 75 years may need to be seriously tweaked to demand a more sophisticated national security set-up to handle our current and future strategic environment. I explain why in this article.

Jim Talks: COP26 and Australia's plan to deliver net zero

In this special edition of Jim Talks, I discuss my views on climate change, COP26, and the Coalition Government’s plan to deliver net zero, the ‘Australian Way’.  

Jim Talks: Ballistic Missiles - Episode 5

Can Australia defend itself against a missile attack? What would a missile attack look like? I answer these questions in my last episode covering Ballistic Missiles.

Jim Talks: Ballistic Missiles - Episode 4

In Episode 4 of #JimTalks, I’m answering your questions on building up Australia’s missile production capability, and which missile we should produce.

Jim Talks: Ballistic Missiles - Episode 3

What is the difference between a nuclear warhead and a conventional warhead? Watch Episode 3 of my Jim Talks: Ballistic Missiles series to find out.

Jim Talks: Ballistic Missiles - Episode 2

Episode 2 of Jim Talks: Ballistic Missiles covers the different types of missiles and their capabilities.

Jim Talks: Ballistic Missiles - Episode 1

Jim Talks is back, this time looking into Ballistic Missiles. In the first episode on this topic, I cover why missiles are important in our new strategic environment, and if Australia is under threat.

Jim Talks: Nuclear Submarines - Episode 5

My last Jim Talks episode on nuclear submarines addresses what the AUKUS deal gives us and if the nuclear submarines are enough to protect Australia.

Jim Talks: Nuclear Submarines - Episode 4

This episode of Jim Talks: Nuclear Submarines looks at how much the nuclear submarines will cost and how long it will take to build in Australia.

Jim Talks: Nuclear Submarines - Episode 3

In this episode of Jim Talks: Nuclear Submarines, I answer your questions on the French submarine deal and why we had to break it.

Jim Talks: Nuclear Submarines - Episode 2

Are nuclear submarines safe? Do they carry nuclear weapons? Watch my second episode of Jim Talks: Nuclear Submarines to find out.

Jim Talks: Nuclear Submarines - Episode 1

In Episode 1 of Jim Talks: Nuclear Submarines, I answer questions on: What is a nuclear submarine, why does Australia need nuclear subs and how are they different to conventional subs, which design will Australia get?

What does it all mean, and what can Australia do?

The last two weeks have been significant indeed for the national security of Australia, but the China problem has not been solved. In this article, I analyse the new AUKUS partnership, and explain why Australia needs to develop a comprehensive national security strategy in preparation for increased greyzone conflict and war.  

War-gaming tomorrow: ‘It’s possible this will end in an all-out invasion’

Australia is large enough and rich enough to defend itself in these frightening times; we just choose not to. What are the options if China succeeds in pushing the US and its allies out of the region?

In this article, I analysie the 'Taiwan Scenario' and what it means for Australia.


It is traditional in intelligence circles when assessing foreign countries to look at both intent and capability. We looked at Indonesia in those terms for decades, but I don’t believe that we have looked at our great ally – the US – in those terms in enough detail. Who cares how big and aggressive China gets in our region if the US was powerful enough and willing enough to lead its allies to deter extreme Chinese actions, military or otherwise? But since the end of the Cold War in 1991, effective US military power, admitted by their own National Defence Strategy, has reduced by 30 to 50% with worldwide responsibilities. China’s military power, by comparison, has increased exponentially under an authoritarian regime. The CCP says exactly what it intends to do, at some stage it will consider it has the military power to do it, and it has a very narrow focus on its island chains so it can apply most of its hard power to the one geographical area, whereas the US has worldwide responsibilities.

Australia needs a broad and clear national security strategy

How can there be a defence strategy without an overarching and comprehensive national security strategy? What good is it to have a brilliant defence strategy without national liquid fuel, industry, pharma, science and technology, manpower, diplomacy and stocking policies, and a plan to move from peacetime processes that Ohff and Stanford’s article refers to, to the wartime processes that are implied? What good is it for us to be world class at anti-access/area denial based on brilliant materiel solutions if we can no longer feed the people due to a lack of diesel and if we’re unable to move smoothly from a peacetime footing to a wartime footing in government and the bureaucracy because we haven’t thought it through, and because we lack modern plans or processes? And if the government will put $270 billion into defence over the next 10 years because of the strategic environment, what are we doing for the nation as a whole? If we think vaccinating the population is difficult, try mobilising.

Does Australia have a fighting chance?

In one sense, Australia has never been better prepared, given our experience with drought, fires and now COVID. A defence emergency might be easier to handle under federal emergency powers than is a virus under the federation. Of most value is the experience which now reside in our national leaders. They know much better what their powers are and how to use them, and the formation of Home Affairs and how the National Security Committee of Cabinet is being used is significant. But if we think it is difficult to vaccinate our population or conduct quarantine, it is far more difficult to move Australia from a peace time environment to preparation for war and its execution. Regardless of the current emergency, we should be preparing now. Planning costs little.


I am immensely proud that the Morrison government has done more for defence and security than any other government since the end of the Vietnam War, much of that is due to the PM himself. The last years of the Howard government were meaningful for defence but Labor blew that away before it could be consolidated. The basis of our national security is our economy and the stability of our society, with success evident in jobs and health, and the budget was effective there. The government and Australians have been remarkably successful in beating COVID and bringing the economy back, and nothing should have a higher priority.   Despite how well this government is doing, the question that still needs to be addressed is:   Are we doing the right things in national security, and are we doing enough?

Tank talk is all about real warfare, not vague ideas

It was disappointing to turn to my favourite journalist and good friend, Greg Sheridan, and see an attack on the recent announcement that Australia will purchase US tanks.
I had privately predicted that after the attacks on the F-35 and the Attack-class submarines, popular criticism would soon turn to armoured vehicles, unless we as a government and the leadership of the ADF started publicly justifying them.
Greg Sheridan's view is a mistaken view that I suspect reflects the opinion of many armchair warriors in Australia.
This is because we as a government are not prepared to engage with the Australian people and explain our national security strategy, and so people lack the context to assess these questions.
This is a failure and is the reason behind such a divergence of views regarding the likelihood of war, and the nature of that war.

Complacency an Enemy as Reality of Conflict Sets in

Having advocated over the past decade for greater preparation to face war in our region, finally having others, such as our new Defence Minister, the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs and the Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command hear the drums provides satisfaction, but no gratification.
“Many estimate that we have three to five years before conflict begins...even in five years, the ADF will not be strong enough, big enough nor able to fight for long enough against a peer opponent...if we don’t prepare now, we are culpable."

Australia Must Engage with the Region

The main conclusion I draw from Afghanistan should be that not all military interventions are bad. Success was achieved for freedom and democracy in Korea, Malaya, Solomons and East Timor, but it takes time and effort. We did not intervene in Syria and the suffering there is far greater than where we did intervene, such as in Iraq.
Nations such as Australia that are capable of military interventions must learn how to pick when to intervene, how to get out early if necessary and possible, and how to be effective. Effectiveness for government is ensuring that resources match the desired outcome. If we are not prepared to put in the required resources to achieve an outcome, don’t intervene.

National Security at Risk Without Unity on Threat Preparation

Greg Sheridan published an excellent opinion piece titled, “We are adrift, lazy and unprepared for any serious threat.” I replied to Greg Shredian's article through my published piece in the Australian. "Sheridan rightly points to the problem of supply chain resilience. If we do not have oil, we stop moving. If we do not have medicines, we can’t remain healthy. If we can’t defend our businesses and government from cyberattack, we go backwards economically and politically. All of these issues — and more, given recent Chinese economic coercion — create undeniable and uncomfortable threats we must confront. Australians need to come to a consensus about the nation we want to be and how we will sustain that in the face of real threat."

Op-Ed: Apache selection tells a broader tale of Australia’s defence mindset

This article congratulates Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds Minister for Defence and the Morrison Government on the announcement of the intention to purchase the Apache Guardian helicopter.
However, as discussed in this article, the purchase of such a small number of aircraft in our strategic environment, without reference to how they might be used and what we are buying them for, proves that we require a national security strategy. Still, this is a great step in the right direction.

Op-Ed: We’re back! Australia prepares for a post-COVID world by focusing on sovereignty, prosperity and resilience

This article comments on the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement of the multibillion-dollar ‘Modern Manufacturing Initiative’ yesterday.
"The Morrison government’s timing is spot on. We must beat COVID first and get the nation open. But as we do that, we need to get ready for the post-COVID world. Being ready means we have a strong economy because that’s the basis for our national security. This announcement, when combined with others like those on banking and foreign investment, provides that essential platform for our future security and resilience."


In this article I explain that I want Australia, for the first time in its history to be PREPARED for its uncertain future. By being prepared, perhaps we will not have to endure the worst. This is not about irrational preppers, not about panic buying toilet paper, and certainly not at the expense of our freedoms or our economy. The preparation I want is logical and calm, and based on facts and knowledge—while we have time to do it. Australia faces threats, there are no two ways about it. We must be prepared to face any danger posed to Australia, and we must prepare early. We have to ensure our nation is ready for increased aggression from China and a number of other authoritarian states. If we wait until the wolf is at our door it will be too late.

No Fuel, No Medicine, No Fertiliser, No Defence: Self-Reliance and You

In my last Newsletter, I wrote about Self Reliance and I said that I would try to explain what the term, so often used now as a result of COVID, means for you, your family, your household, your neighbourhood, your city and your nation. This is a big challenge which is easier addressed by asking even more questions than be providing discrete answers.

J, Molan, 'Has war with China already begun?', The Daily Telegraph, 7 September 2020

Here I make the point that Australians need to begin asking whether we might actually be at war now.
“It’s no coincidence that Australia is being hit with economic punishments by China. Nor that the Australian Government has needed to establish a foreign interference task force. Or that foreign investment into Australia needs a national security test now.”

Australia’s Lack of Self-Reliance

This article  explains the magnitude of the problem we face to achieve self-reliance here in Australia.   We must recognise that our world—particularly in the region where we live and trade—is becoming less predictable and the chances of conflict are increasing. Our trade and supply lines and computer-based communications can be broken—COVID and several large hacks have shown that clearly. We must respond: relying on the market to deliver will not cut it any more.

Musings on Sovereignty

COVID is far more than just a health and economic challenge. It is likely to change our lives in any number of ways that only time will tell. A small thing is the power of being able to communicate through Zoom, Skype or webinars which I hope is here to stay. In a busy life, no less busy due to COVID, there is nothing better than being forced to think issues through because you have to speak on them, and then being immediately questioned on issues that interest listeners. In many ways this is far better than the regimented formal media of some channels and the ideology of others – it is free and personal. Let’s hope Zoom or Skype or webinars are here to stay.

J, Molan, 'We should be careful in pushing Beijing to the brink', The Australian 3 August 2020

This Op-Ed published in the Australian is about Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS) and my concerns surrounding Australia's potential involvement in FONOPS in the South China Sea.
"Australia, our ally the US, and indeed any nation supporting freedom of navigation, should confront China on the issue of the rule of law, but the government needs to consider very carefully if this is the time and the place to do it."

J, Molan, ‘Op-Ed: Addressing concerns about the future submarines from a general's perspective’, Defence Connect, 21 July 2020.

In this Op-Ed I have summarised my position on the Attack Class Submarines project and how they fit into a National Defence Strategy. “Because of the war we may have to fight in the future and how we have decided to fight it, Australia needs submarines just as we need a range of surface ships and aircraft. We also need big submarines”

J Molan, ‘Give it everything we can': the case for putting winning first and expense second in national security’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 July 2020

This article published in The Sydney Morning Herald discusses my views on Australia's previous Defence strategies. "The problem with strategy in Australia is that for the last 75 years, Australia has not had to produce a national strategy nor a defence strategy that was ever tested. Our strategies have been just words, and for decade’s officials, commentators and bureaucrats have believed that just saying you have a strategy is the same as actually having a strategy."

J Molan, ‘We’re going to need a defence force with real bite’, The Australian, 1 July 2020

In this article I highlight to our nations unpreparedness and how our nation needs to build self-reliance as well as developing a National security strategy. "I have been saying for years that we should welcome the rise of China, but only from a position of strength. The national security strength that we should have encompasses economic, financial, diplomatic, governance, social and military factors. If we were appropriately strong in all these areas of national power, we could call ourselves self-reliant."

J Molan, ‘Op-Ed: The intersection of a Grand Strategy and a National Security Strategy’, Defence Connect, 25 June 2020.

In this Op-Ed I have commented on Peter Layton’s article titled ‘Designing an Australian grand strategy for China’ "It is a blessed relief that Peter Layton is writing about Grand Strategy and China in ASPI’s The Strategist because so few people do so." In my response I explain that what Peter calls ‘grand strategy’ is what I have been writing about as being central to a National Security Strategy, an overarching mechanism for conveying to those responsible for every aspect of a nation (the economy, finance, diplomacy, governance, society and the military among others), what a government’s guidance is on policy integration to achieve or maintain national sovereignty as a free and prosperous liberal democracy.

J,Molan, 'Defence Supplement', 20 May 2020

Optimism is at the centre of the Australian character. We tend to downplay things that might go wrong, insisting that “she’ll be right” and that we will find a way through whatever happens.

J Molan, ‘Op-Ed: The importance of a national sovereignty strategy’, Defence Connect, 29 April 2020

In this article I argue that in order for Australia to maintain its sovereignty in an even more demanding world, it must embrace widespread reform as it comes out of the COVID-19 crisis. Medium to longer-term reforms must be shaped by an overall sovereignty strategy.

J Molan, ‘Getting the balance right in Australia’s coronavirus response’, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 7 April 2020

I have provided a critique of Mark Beeson’s article ‘The revenge of Gaia?’ commenting that: "Beeson suggested that COVID-19 is, like climate change, ‘a product of changes in the natural environment’ and ‘partly a consequence of human activity and our collective impact on the biosphere’…Of course, the pandemic we’re facing is partly a consequence of human activity, but it would be more appropriate to identify the role played by unregulated ‘wet markets’ where anything and everything is up for consumption."

J Molan, ‘Whatever the security question, the answer is a National Security Strategy’, The Centre of Gravity Series, Strategic & Defence Studies Centre: Australian National University, August 2019

Here I have argued that the nature of the world order has changed dramatically in recent times and in particular, that Australian can no longer rely on the US for its national security. I argued that a NSS is necessary in order to address these issues. I also stress that national security is broader than just defence and includes energy, resources and infrastructure. I also called for reforms to parliamentary oversight of defence including a bipartisan defence agreement and a new parliamentary defence committee.

J Molan, ‘Whatever the security question, the answer is a National Security Strategy’, The ANU, August 2019

In this Centre of Gravity Series, I examined why the current uncertain strategic environment should be of utmost importance to Australia. I also argued that priority of government should be the development of an effective, open and honest National Security Strategy, covering the nation as a whole as well as a new parliamentary committee for effective oversight of the proposed national security strategy function

J Molan, ‘Running near empty’, The Daily Telegraph, 24 June 2019

I cited liquid fuel import and export figures to back his argument that Australia lacks fuel resilience and requires a NSS. I noted: "Despite the good work conducted by the Coalition government in Defence over the last six years, our lack of resilience in liquid fuels is a symptom of a larger national security problem that extends to food, water, energy, transportation, defence, extreme emergency management and our alliances."

J Molan, ‘National security strategy key to linking new ADF capabilities together’, Defence Connect website, 29 April 2019

In this article I have highlighted changes in Australia’s national security since 2003 (the release of the last NSS). I also argued a national sovereignty strategy would improve Australia’s ability to defend itself against potential military, economic and social threats.

J Molan, ‘Australia’s defence and security: are we doing enough?’, The Strategist blog, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 1 February 2019

In this article I praised the recent rise in defence expenditure, discussed the need for Australia’s maritime security and argued the biggest regional threat Australia faces is the rise of China. "The Coalition government’s spending on defence is wise, but a root-and-branch analysis resulting in an Australian national security strategy is the only way that Australia can assess whether our spend is enough, whether what we are buying is appropriate, and if we can afford to wait decades to rearm our military to deter conflict."

J Molan and M Wesley, ‘Correspondence: "Dangerous proximity" by Michael Wesley’, Australian Foreign Affairs, February 2019

Here I have provided a critique of Michael Wesley’s article, Dangerous proximity: the collapse of Australia's defences in a contested Asia including the following: "Michael's article is a reminder that for decades Australia has lacked a national security strategy beyond hoping that a "great and powerful friend" will come to the rescue in the event of conflict. In retrospect, this approach worked. But I agree that it is no longer viable when the Indo-Pacific is emerging as one of the most important theatres of great power competition."

J Molan, ‘Parliamentary defence committee needs the power to pursue a national security strategy’, The Strategist blog, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 13 December 2018

In this article I called for better parliamentary oversight of defence by the creation of a joint parliamentary committee on defence. I argued that current oversight, including examples from my role in the sub-committee of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, is hampered by a lack of transparency and lack of access to classified information. I stated: "Why is it that intelligence and security are considered more worthy of effective parliamentary oversight than is defence? Those days have passed. Strategy should be its focus because nothing is more important than strategy. In the absence of a national security strategy, the sub-committee at its last meeting has resolved that, regardless of who is in government, its task during 2019 will be to hold an inquiry into the need for a national security strategy. The sub-committee can do this sub-optimally by using unclassified sources such as think tanks and academia. But imagine how much more effective parliament could be if it could also receive classified information from officials."

J Molan, ‘Getting real about Australia’s security’, The Strategist blog, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 19 November 2018

In the context of a discussion about the lessons of the Second World War for contemporary national security, I stated: "Australia now needs to match its rearmament program with a brutally realistic national security strategy, not one based on hope and delusion as we did in December 1941."

J Molan, ‘Australia needs a clear national security strategy’, The Strategist blog, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 12 October 2018

In response to an ASPI article by Bob Moyse, Winning battles and losing wars: the next force structure review "At present, the fundamental problems are that Australia doesn’t have a comprehensive national security strategy despite a relatively good level of defence spending, and there’s only limited consensus on the main security challenges we will face in the years to come."

J Molan, ‘A stronger Australia can be a more useful U.S. ally’, The Australian, 4 January 2018

In this article I argued that US military capability is not as large as it once was and Australia cannot rely on the US alliance in the way that it has. Australia should be able to defeat any threat against it, but at the moment it would take a ridiculously long time to realise its amazing defence potential. And time is likely to be the one thing we do not have. I agree with Michael that our "approaches to defence planning are inadequate", but there should be a rule in commentary such as ours: no comment is to be made about tactical issues, in which we are all brilliant, until we actually have a national security strategy.

J Molan, ’Defeating IS: We need a good strategy, not just more troops’ , ABC News, 18 December 2015

In this Article I have written about Australia’s involvement in defeating IS. As I have explained, “Australia should demand from the US a coherent set of tactics for defeating Islamic State before deciding whether to make a greater contribution to the war effort or commit boots on the ground.”

J Molan, ‘Reader response: Reserves, force structure and need’, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 17 January 2013

In this piece I provided a critique of Nic Stuart’s article Reader response: Reserves, force structure and budget cuts. I have commented that "like so many people with very little firsthand experience of creating and using defence capability at any sophisticated level, Nic Stuart has effortlessly come up with yet another answer to the financial problems of Defence—Reserve manpower."

J Molan, There’s a price to pay to be a US ally, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 23 August 2013

In this article I have commented on our defence relationship with the United States. "The US is very important to us. In the short- to medium-term, the US alliance remains critical to Australia, but while we refuse to provide adequately for our own defence, as an ally we’re really a supplicant."

J Molan, ‘Why Our Defence Forces Face Terminal Decline’, Quadrant Online, 1 March 2013

In this article I have discussed the previous defence policies developed by the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments from 2007 to 2012. I have commented that “The process is broken, the strategic thinking is confused, the denial of the world and regional situation is dangerous, the management of our allies and others has been confusing, the leadership team is dislocated, the delivery of anything except the most simple capability or those purchased directly from the USA is bumbling, the constant policy disruption is grossly wasteful, and the explanations to the Australian people about ADF capability and risk are duplicitous. The result is a defence force in terminal decline and a people blissfully unaware. Australia is operating in a strategy-free environment. Even more than tanks and ships and planes, Australia needs a strategy and a government that can deliver it"

J Molan, ‘Andrew Davies and Jim Molan talk strategy: round 2’, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 5 February 2013

Over the course of several blog posts and tweets, Andrew Davies and I decided to get together in person to hash out the issue of Need and strategic planning face to face. What ensued was a spirited discussion, the end of which, to my surprise, we found ourselves in violent agreement.

J Molan, ‘Andrew Davies and Jim Molan talk strategy: round 1’, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 5 February 2013

Over the course of several blog posts and tweets, Andrew Davies and I decided to get together in person to hash out the issue of Need and strategic planning face to face. What ensued was a spirited discussion, the end of which, to my surprise, we found ourselves in violent agreement.

J Molan, ‘What is the strategic environment telling us about what the ADF needs to be able to do?’, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 23 January 2013

In this article I have responded to one of Andrew Davies comments on my ‘Reader response: Reserves, force structure and need’ article. In this article I make it clear that "apart from the discussion on the efficacy of Reserves, I made one simple point and I stand by that point. There is no point in coming up with single solutions such as a greater use of the Reserves, a sub or JSF or amphib-heavy force until there has been an assessment of the strategic environment. Rule No 1 for Force Structuring: It does not matter what you put in your force structure if you don’t know why you are force structuring."

J Molan, ‘Reader response: Defence is different’, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 11 September 2012

In this article I replied to Alex Tewe’s piece Neither democracy nor defence planning, which was originally commenting on my article On democracy and defence planning. In this article I addressed the specific comments Alex has made. I commented that "Alex Tewes has created a ‘straw man’ version of my argument in his rejoinder rather than dealing with my serious suggestions."

J Molan, ‘On democracy and defence planning’, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 6 September 2012

In this article I propose to make Defence leadership’s views public, as well as Government’s final decisions. This proposal is intended to give the people a chance to hold the government to account.

J Molan, ‘Less is not always better: in defence of Force 2030’, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 16 August 2012

In this piece I have commented on Mark Thomson’s article How much is too little? Learning to live with a smaller force. Here I have argued that "while Mark Thomson believes the reduction in defence funding is retrievable, I believe that we must assess What the ADF needs to be, based on the world as it is and not the world as you want it to be, honestly assessing the current capability of the ADF not as you imagine it might be, but from actual operational output. And then we can start to fit it into whatever the government is prepared to pay. Strangely, the last time this was thoroughly done, the force structure that came out was called Force 2030."