Defence-related research focus areas

Cyber Security

Cyber is emerging as the fifth domain of warfare. We have scholars examining the challenges that arise in this domain for international norms, international law, international ethics and military strategy. We have particular expertise in China's activities in the cyber realm. We also have scholars examining Australia's cyber security strategy, the emergence and negotiation of norms in cyber space, and the risks and opportunities that emerge for our domestic democracy and privacy in this new networked age. UNSW Canberra is fast becoming the "go to" centre for multidisciplinary research into the new challenges of security in cyber space.

Maritime security in the Asia-Pacific

Maritime security issues have in recent years gained unprecedented salience in strategic policy planning and debates among countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The issues include maritime territorial disputes, freedom of navigation, naval expansion, competition over the control of strategic sea lanes, challenges to the law of the sea, piracy and maritime environmental security. In HASS, we focus on the key maritime security issues that have implications for the Australian Defence Force. Current research projects include the South China Sea disputes, East China Sea disputes, rising Asian naval power especially the Chinese navy, ‘grey-zone’ maritime threats, naval history of the region, and ASEAN.  Researchers in HASS include John Reeves, Chris Roberts, Shirley Scott, Carl Thayer, Jian Zhang and the Naval Studies Group.

Australia's Defence Force History

Academics at UNSW Canberra and especially its historians have made major contributions to researching and recording the history of the Australian Defence Force and its constituent services. UNSW Canberra, with its strong association with the ADF and its close working relationships with defence historical agencies, is uniquely placed to work with and for the ADF in this way. HASS historians, notably Prof. Jeff Grey and Prof. Peter Dennis, produced the Centenary History of Defence in 2001, and many HASS post-graduates have been members of the ADF or have investigated defence topics in history or international and political studies. Researchers in HASS and ACSACS include our Air Force Fellows, members of the Naval Studies and Special Forces Studies Groups, Prof. Tom Frame (who has published on the UNSW’s 50-year relationship with the ADF) and Prof. Peter Stanley, who is General Editor of the Army History Series.

China’s military moderation

China’s ambitious military modernisation program aiming at developing a ‘world class’ military is fundamentally altering regional balance of power and posing a formidable challenge to the strategic primacy of the United States and its allies in the region.  Understanding the nature and motivation of Chinese military modernisation is central to ensure regional peace and stability.  
China’s ambitious military modernisation program aiming at developing a ‘world class’ military is fundamentally altering regional balance of power and posing a formidable challenge to the strategic primacy of the United States and its allies in the region.  Understanding the nature and motivation of Chinese military modernisation is central to ensure regional peace and stability. Researchers in HASS are Kai Liao and Jian Zhang.

The Ethics of New Military technologies

Many people have questioned what the future of warfare will be like, or wondered what the soldier of the future will look like. Will the soldier of the future; enter into battle cocooned inside a protective suit of armour laden with gadgets, like the Marvel comic book and film character Iron Man; enter into battle in a virtual sense by piloting a remotely controlled device; or fight merely by managing attacks against the enemy’s computer systems through cyber-warfare? Members of the School of HASS are examining some of the ethical issues which might be raised by new technologies which are currently being developed, or have recently been adopted, for military use. Some new technologies might be thought to lower the political cost of war and thus raise questions about when it is, and is not, ethically justified to go to war, issues that are being examined by researchers such as Tony Burke, Toni Erskine, and Ned Dobos. Technologies which cause new or novel problems for military personnel in combat raise different ethical issues, and these are being examined by researchers such as Toni Erskine, Stephen Coleman, Deane Baker, Lindsay Clark and Tim Aistrope.

Data analysis of military operations

 

The ‘Australia’s Vietnam War’ website project aims to create a web-based, interactive visualisation of Australia’s (and New Zealand’s) involvement in the Vietnam War. The website (https://vietnam.unsw.adfa.edu.au) currently shows approximately 6,500 ground combat incidents involving the Australian Army. Further research is underway to add combat data about Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy operations. Other research will add biographical information on all Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died during the campaign, Australian Civil Affairs projects and social structure of each of the villages in the Australian Area of Operations. Related research includes work on US combat operations in Vietnam and assistance to Vietnam in identifying the burial sites and other details relating to those of their soldiers who died as a result of battle with Australian and New Zealand forces.

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

After a series of failed interventions in the 1990s to protect civilians from war crimes and mass atrocities, a new doctrine was adopted by UN-member states in 2005 termed “The Responsibility to Protect” (RtoP), and new high level advisors appointed by the Secretary-General. The doctrine holds that state sovereignty includes a responsibility to protect populations from war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that international society can assume that responsibility if a state is unwilling or incapable of doing so. This growing norm has provoked numerous political and conceptual complexities that have inspired researchers around the world, including HASS Researchers such as Anthony Burke, Ned Dobos,Toni Erskine, and a number of graduate students, who are working on the ethics and politics of intervention, global governance and RtoP, and cyber effects and genocide prevention. This is a part of the work pursued by members of the International Ethics Research Group.

Climate Security

Since 2006, concern about dangerous anthropogenic climate change as a national and international security threat has been growing in prominence. It has been debated in the UN Security Council, been the subject of numerous think tank studies, and is shaping defence strategy and preparedness in many states. In particular, interest has focused on concerns that global warming beyond 1.5C will cause major direct threats from more intense drought, disease, fire and storms, and also be a ‘threat multiplier’ for conflict, disease and food insecurity. HASS Researchers working on climate change and security include Anthony Burke, John Connor, Shirley Scott, and a number of graduate students. HASS research includes the role of the Security Council, theory and ethics in climate security, historical climate-related conflicts, and global security governance and climate.