The many challenges of this year have prompted deep scrutiny and a renewed appreciation of Australia’s relationship with the United States. In turn, the mission of the United States Studies Centre (USSC) — simply stated as “analysis of America, insight for Australia” — has also become all the more relevant and valuable. It has been a privilege to lead a team dedicated to amplifying this message during even the toughest of times.

When the pandemic hit, the need for rigorous, evidence-based insights and analysis of the US response and its implications for Australia sent us into overdrive. As a Centre, we produced more publications in the month of April than ever before in the Centre's history. But that was just the beginning.

In June, widespread unrest in the United States after the murder of George Floyd was a further call to action for the Centre's analysts. We published our Coronavirus and protest report on the day of Floyd's murder. We were honoured to host more than 850 participants for Race relations and the making of the United States with Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway.

In the lead up to the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in July, we published Bolstering resilience, its recommendations stressing joint US and Australian pandemic response in the Indo-Pacific. In Tech wars the Centre's experts examined what is at stake for Australia in US-China strategic technology competition.

While webinars were certainly not foremost in our minds when the year began, our rapid transition to online events let us host more VIPs than ever before. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, former Prime Minister John Howard, and current and former ambassadors such as Arthur Sinodinos and Joe Hockey were part of our events. Our reach into Washington has never been greater with participation from likely key players in a Biden administration such as Michele Flournoy to a bevy of American current or former officials including President Trump's former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's former National Security Advisors John Bolton and HR McMaster as well as former US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and former US Senator Jeff Flake. Thought leaders, journalists and analysts such as Tom Friedman, Phil Rucker, Jonathan Swan, Charlie Cook and Norm Ornstein also joined us.

The US presidential election was always going to be the pinnacle of 2020 for the Centre, but the amount of interest and engagement in the Centre's analysis is unprecedented. I started with the Centre in an intense election year, 2016. Demand for our expertise, web traffic and report downloads have run several multiples over 2016 levels. Our team has worked tirelessly all year long, often on tight deadlines to respond to breaking news and in a shifting and uncertain work environment.

Thank you for your support this past year. We head into 2021 bolstered by your interest and support. We always welcome your feedback, your questions and your suggestions.

On behalf of us all at the US Studies Centre, I wish you a peaceful holiday season, good health and a prosperous new year.