ASIO is giving a defence academic nearly $1.8 million to write its history, it has admitted to a Greens senator.

ANU Professor David Horner, a former soldier and high-profile military historian, was commissioned to write the first history of ASIO earlier this year.  What was missing from the attendant publicity around the announcement in June was the cost.  In response to a question from Greens senator Scott Ludlam, ASIO has said the project will cost $1,757,981.

It will be a two-volume history and will take at five years.  Horner will employ a second historian to assist him.  Horner and the second historian will remain ANU employees during the project.

An ASIO spokesperson told Crikey this morning that the contract “was entered into after a tender process that considered a range of factors, particularly the ability to produce an independent, accurate and well-researched manuscript. The Australian National University (ANU) was selected after consideration of several high quality applications.

The fee over the life of the contract is $1,757,981 and accounts for the substantial effort involved in producing a comprehensive and extensively researched history of ASIO, including the employment of authors and researchers for five years, their employment on-costs, facilities and other expenses.”

ASIO’s budget has more than doubled since 2005-06 and it has also received over $200 million in capital.  A giant new headquarters for its 1700 staff (expected to reach 1800 by mid-2011) is being built at Campbell in Canberra, at a current cost of $589 million.

It was originally to house ASIO and the much smaller Office of National Assessments, but ASIO’s remorseless growth forced ONA to abandon plans to share the building and move into a refurbished heritage building near Parliament House.

ASIO also told Ludlam that it had originally proposed to build a complex higher than the 25-metre limit imposed on buildings by the National Capital Authority, and been forced to scale it back to comply with NCA requirements.

Peter Fray

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