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AUKUS Anniversary Invites Celebration and Reflection

15 September, 2023

A Noteworthy Anniversary

Two years ago today, the leaders of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States announced AUKUS, a trilateral partnership designed to strengthen diplomatic, security, and defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region by increasing collaboration and defence technology integration between the three countries.

Since September 2021, AUKUS has hit some momentous milestones. Most notable was the March 2023 announcement of an “optimal pathway” for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered, conventionally-armed submarine capability—Pillar One of the AUKUS partnership. The three countries have also shown some promising collaboration on technologies included under Pillar Two of the partnership. For example, in May, the United Kingdom hosted the first AUKUS artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy trial, which “saw the initial joint deployment of Australian, UK and US AI-enabled assets in a collaborative swarm to detect and track military targets in a representative environment in real time” and “achieved world firsts, including the live retraining of models in flight and the interchange of AI models between AUKUS nations.”

Despite these progressions, the last two years have also brought a number of challenges to the forefront. These challenges, which include the need for International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) reform and upskilling workforces in nuclear energy and other key technical areas, demand increased collaboration between governments, industry, academia, and civil society to resolve—and enable AUKUS’s long-term success.

Expanding Understanding & Awareness of AUKUS

At Security & Defence PLuS (S&D+)—a partnership between Arizona State University, King’s College London, and the University of New South Wales focused on generating transformative, strategically impactful education, research, and public discourse aligned with the shared security and defence priorities of our respective governments, armed forces, and defence industries—we have been laying the groundwork to help enable such collaboration.

Since launching in 2022 under the longstanding PLuS Alliance between the three universities, S&D+ has aimed to develop resources and platforms that expand the conversation on AUKUS and elevate informed and practically focused policy discussions. For example, last year, S&D+ published the inaugural AUKUS Briefing Book, a resource to provide the greater national security community and the public with a better understanding of AUKUS and its initial lines of effort.

The S&D+ collected essay series, Advancing AUKUS Conference, and podcast have also convened leading voices on AUKUS-related initiatives and challenges, while S&D+ leaders and scholars engaged at key security-focused events and trade shows around the world, like the London Defence Conference, Arizona State University’s Forum on Innovating for Competitive Statecraft, this week’s DSEI 2023 event in London, and many more.

In May, S&D+ launched a four-day, expert-led online course hosted by King’s College London, called AUKUS in Context, which brought together government, military, and industry professionals to learn about AUKUS and its potential impact on regional and global security. Also this past spring, students from Arizona State University’s Master of Arts in Global Security program completed an online course at King’s on Intelligence, Espionage, and Surveillance; additional such exchanges are slated to come this fall.

What’s Next?

As we celebrate AUKUS’s 24-month mark and look to its future, S&D+ is doubling down on its commitment to support the partnership’s success. The 2023 update to our AUKUS Briefing Book will be coming soon, as will a new essay series on the top challenges AUKUS faces as it enters its third year. We will also remain engaged at upcoming international events, like the Indo Pacific International Maritime Expo this November in Sydney, Australia.

In addition to these contributions to the public discourse and international forums, the S&D+ partner universities will expand delivery of high impact education offerings in 2024, including a series of self-paced professional development short courses geared towards government, military, and defence industry professionals. These courses will enhance technical literacy in key AUKUS areas— including nuclear, AI, quantum, and hypersonics—as well as explore the strategic-level implications of AUKUS and build the non-technical skills needed to ensure its success. The S&D+ partner universities will also jointly develop postgraduate programmes in 2024 and 2025 in relevant fields.

Lastly, S&D+ will continue to pursue new research opportunities with defence, government, and industry in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with a focus on bringing trilateral research teams together to accelerate from concept to deployed capability in areas of shared national security interest. Our partner universities excel in a number of high priority AUKUS research areas, including nuclear engineering, hypersonics, competitive statecraft, AI, cybersecurity, integrated deterrence, strategic stability, the Indo-Pacific, and many more. Research projects based on these capabilities will aim to inform policymakers, accelerate technological development in respective governments, militaries, and defence industries and enrich academia by harnessing the complementary strengths of the three universities.

Partnership Potential

As these efforts evolve and come to fruition, we welcome partnership with others interested in advancing security and defence collaboration between the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia—both within the spirit and scope of AUKUS and beyond. Please see our S&D+ Prospectus for more details and get in touch at [email protected] to explore opportunities for collaboration.