The Office of National Assessments (ONA) is an Australian intelligence agency. ONA was established by the Office of National Assessments (ONA) Act 1977 as an independent body directly accountable to the Prime Minister of Australia. ONA provides all-source assessments on international political, strategic and economic developments to the Prime Minister and senior ministers in the National Security Committee of Cabinet. It also coordinates and evaluates the work and performance of Australia’s foreign intelligence agencies. ONA is not an intelligence collection agency.
ONA is in the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio of the Australian Public Service. Its financial framework is governed by the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act).
The Director-General of ONA is an independent statutory officer who is not subject to external direction on the content of ONA assessments. ONA has about 150 staff, including 100 analysts. The current Director-General of ONA is Allan Gyngell, a distinguished Australian diplomat, former senior advisor to former Prime Minister Paul Keating, and founder of the Lowy Institute.
The Office of National Assessments is not a producer of intelligence; it collates intelligence data generated by DIO, ASIS, ASIO and DSD to create analytical products. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is the primary consumer of these products, which are designed to assist the Australian Government in strategic decision making and ensure that government is fully briefed on emergent threats both in the region and globally. Its independence from the Defence and Foreign Affairs portfolios is a deliberate attempt to generate balanced and fair analysis.
Although not a secret organisation, ONA usually attracts little attention. However, a striking exception occurred in 2001 when the former Prime Minister, John Howard, publicly relied upon an ONA assessment to support his claims about asylum seekers on the MV Tampa, in an incident which became known as the "Tampa affair". The ONA assessment was later leaked to the public in its entirety, showing that the assessment was ultimately based on nothing more than press releases from various government ministers.
In 2003, in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an ONA intelligence officer named Andrew Wilkie resigned from the agency, citing pressure from the Australian government to exaggerate intelligence on the matter of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
ONA has experienced substantial growth since the release of the report into intelligence agencies by Phillip Flood which recommended a doubling of the agency's budget and staffing resources and formalisation of the agency's role as a coordinator and evaluator of the other Australian foreign intelligence agencies. The only ONA specific recommendation not implemented from the Flood report was the renaming of ONA to the Australian Foreign Intelligence Assessment Agency (AFIAA).
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