National security studies is a relatively new term and a new concept in Australia. Where has it come from? What is the role for it? How does national security studies differ from international relations, strategic studies and other related disciplines?
And does it make sense to apply focused intellectual effort to national security studies in the period ahead?
The impetus for national security studies springs in part from the modified security focus of most Western governments, senior officials and researchers in recent years. There is now less concentration on narrow defence policy, foreign policy, aid policy or law enforcement policy. Rather, much more attention is being given in all of these communities to the security challenges that involve them all and to the consequent means and methods of working more effectively together. These cross-disciplinary challenges and requirements are usually described as being national security or, sometimes, international security issues.
This significantly altered focus is particularly obvious in Australia, and it signals that new thinking is required. This article argues that there is a need to recognise the altered demands of the changed security environment; to strengthen understanding of the challenges posed; and to develop, debate and refine new, more holistic whole-of-nation approaches. In order to do this effectively, strategic thinkers and policy makers need to look beyond the more narrow domains of international relations, strategic studies, political science, economics and other classical disciplines. While these and other traditional schools of thought still have much to contribute, there is a need to develop a new discipline of national security studies.