The AUSMIN meeting last month was a reminder that the Australian Public Service is likely to become increasingly engaged with the nation's changing security environment.
Australian officials flew to Washington, D.C. to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, each of whom lauded the Morrison government's handling of relations with China. Supporting Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds were Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade chief Frances Adamson, and Defence Department secretary Greg Moriarty.
As the two departments grow more preoccupied with determining a course through events in the Asia-Pacific that best serves Australian interests, debate about the resourcing of DFAT and the Defence Department can be expected to grow.
The former diplomat and new Liberal MP for Malcolm Turnbull's old seat of Wentworth, Dave Sharma, amplified the discussion in July.
He wrote in an op-ed that DFAT needed to re-embrace its role in shaping Australia's strategic environment. Perhaps more provocatively, he said it had failed in the bureaucratic struggle for resources, with the consequence that its budget remained relatively unchanged while the government had grown defence spending and created the Home Affairs Department.
In an interview last month, I asked him to elaborate on his views about DFAT. He said the department's failure to win more resources didn't come down to a particular minister, secretary or government. It was more an attitudinal problem, something hard to measure but that Mr Sharma described as follows:
"I think DFAT's still to an extent got a bit of a central agency mindset which it shouldn't have," he said.
"Finance, Treasury and PM&C, they're part of the furniture, you can't move them, you can't do anything without them, Attorney-General's is a bit like that as well."
Meanwhile, DFAT's core work of diplomacy continued to be disrupted by technology and other factors, he said.
"DFAT needs to fight more for its place at the table, it won't always be given it as a matter of right."
Mr Sharma said that by comparison, Defence and other departments had offered governments solutions to challenges and made the case for extra resources.
This might not explain everything about DFAT's resourcing stagnation. One former department employee described a structural reason, namely the posting cycle. DFAT's corporate roles had greater turnover compared to those in other departments such as Defence, as staff often moved on to overseas postings, the former employee said. Their replacements had to build new relationships with the Finance Department, and had less corporate memory of the budgetary process. This put them at a relative disadvantage to both Finance, and departments with less turnover in corporate positions, in the bid for more resources. Overseas postings broadly speaking are more appealing than corporate roles for most DFAT employees, and time back in Canberra is often viewed as something of an interim situation.
Another explanation for DFAT's budget struggle may be that the Coalition government is simply not inclined to give the department more resources, and doesn't recognise its full value.
Aside from the attention Mr Sharma has directed towards DFAT itself, however, his comments raise questions about the bureaucracy.
First, to what extent should departments have to fight for funding increases? And who is more influential in the struggle for resources - public servants, or politicians?
The answers will play out in federal budgets to come.