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Defence Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group

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First Assistant Secretary, Defence Industry Policy Division

Dr Sheridan Kearnan

Dr Sheridan Kearnan

Dr Sheridan Kearnan commenced in the role as First Assistant Secretary Defence Industry Policy on 22 January 2018. Dr Kearnan’s responsibilities include the Defence Capability and Innovation Branch, which manages a consolidated innovation program and the associated portfolio of innovation investments; the Defence Export Controls Branch, responsible for managing Australia's export control of military and dual-use goods and technologies; and the Defence Industry Branch, which is accountable and responsible for Defence industry policy.

Prior to this, Dr Kearnan was Deputy Director of Australia's Defence Intelligence Organisation (2017); Minister Counsellor Defence Policy at the Embassy of Australia in Washington DC (2014-16) and Assistant Secretary Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the International Policy Division of the Australian Department of Defence (2010-12). Before her appointment as Assistant Secretary, Dr Kearnan was Adviser to the former Minister of Defence, Senator John Faulkner. Between January 2008 and June 2009, she was Director Afghanistan in International Policy Division.

Dr Kearnan's previous appointments also include Director ASEAN in International Policy Division (2005-07), Director Strategic Assessments in Strategic Policy Division (2004-05), and Senior Executive Assistant for Deputy Secretary Strategic Policy (2003). Dr Kearnan has also worked on Papua New Guinea and the Pacific in a number of areas of Defence.

Before entering government service in 1999, Dr Kearnan completed a PhD in International Relations and a Masters of Social Science (Asian Government) at the University of Queensland. Dr Kearnan also attended the 2013 course of the Royal College of Defence Studies in London.

First Assistant Secretary, International Policy Division

Hugh Jeffrey

Hugh Jeffrey

As First Assistant Secretary International Policy, Mr Hugh Jeffrey is responsible for managing Australia's international defence relationships.

Mr Jeffrey was appointed to the Department of Defence in August 2018 with a background in foreign and national security policy and intelligence. Prior to joining Defence, Mr Jeffrey held positions in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Office of National Assessments.

Mr Jeffrey has had four overseas postings, including as Minister Counsellor at the Embassy of Australia in Washington DC, USA, and as a special secondee to NATO in Afghanistan, where he was Senior Adviser to the International Security Assistance Force Commander, General Stanley McChrystal, and the NATO Ambassador.

Mr Jeffrey is married and has two young children.

Acting First Assistant Secretary, Strategic Policy Division

Samantha Higgins

Samantha Higgins

As acting First Assistant Secretary Strategic Policy, Ms Samantha Higgins is responsible for managing the development of policy, military strategy and strategic planning and advice for the Australian Government, senior Defence leaders and other government agencies on the strategic implications of defence and national security matters.

Prior to taking on her current role, Ms Higgins held the position of Assistant Secretary Strategic Capabilities and Security Policy in the Strategic Policy Division of the Australian Department of Defence.  This role includes developing the Defence policy for such strategic capabilities as space, cyber, missile defence and undersea warfare. It also leads the policy for counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism.

Ms Higgins has worked as a civilian for 20 years in Defence, holding director-level positions in International Policy, Infrastructure Division, Strategic Policy and the Australian Signals Directorate.

From December 2009 to December 2011, Ms Higgins was posted on exchange to the United States in the Strategy Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defence, for which she was awarded the Defence Medal for Exceptional Public Service.

Ms Higgins has held other Assistant Secretary positions within the Department of Defence, including critical infrastructure and foreign investment, arms control, and responsibility for the Woomera Prohibited Area – Defence’s premier testing range.

Samantha is married to Robert and they have two children.