Annual Report 2006-2007

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.2 > Reporting against effectiveness indicators

OUTPUT 1.2: Secure government communications and security of overseas missions

Reporting against effectiveness indicators

On this page: Overview :: Managing security of overseas missions :: Responsiveness to unexpected events :: Protection of official and classified information :: Security clearances :: Information management and secure communications access :: Outlook


The department continued to monitor, maintain and improve security at Australia’s overseas missions in the face of a challenging security environment. We responded quickly to safeguard missions and staff in a number of potentially serious security situations. We implemented substantial new security measures at overseas posts. We completed the relocation of several chanceries and made preparations for relocating others. We strengthened the perimeters and buildings of a number of chanceries. The application of Australian standard security risk management methodology enabled us to better identify, prioritise and combat risks at our overseas missions. Our regular security assessments and inspections of overseas missions underpinned these measures.

We ensured that staff involved in handling classified information were appropriately vetted and trained to maintain a high level of security awareness and vigilance. We updated the skills of our security managers and advisers. We continued to safeguard classified information through revised and enhanced technical and information security measures.

The department significantly improved its ability to maintain communications with Australia’s overseas missions, beginning the rollout of major information and communications technology (ICT) asset replacement projects that will simplify and improve network operations in Australia and overseas. In addition, the development and progressive release over the next two years of the new Consular Assistance and Information System (CAIS) will significantly enhance the department’s ability to use ICT to support consular services in the field.

Managing security of overseas missions

The department’s employees are its most valuable resource and we continue to be committed to ensuring the security of personnel, particularly those working in our overseas missions. We implemented substantial new security measures at overseas posts as part of the Government’s major security upgrade program announced in 2004–05. We relocated our missions in Bali and Port Vila and assisted with the relocation of the Australian Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei to new, more secure properties. We are close to completing the fit-out of a new chancery in New Delhi. We finalised planning for the relocation of a further 12 missions. Each new chancery has been built or fitted out in line with the department’s blast and ballistic guidelines to afford staff and visitors the greatest possible protection from attack. Construction works to strengthen perimeter and building security are under way at another six missions, including Baghdad, as part of an ongoing program. Work commenced on our mission in Kabul, which is to be co-located with the Netherlands embassy.

The department further improved its protection of overseas missions by installing anti-shatter window film at a number of chanceries and residences, and X-ray machines in six additional missions this year, bringing to 22 the total number of X-ray screening systems at posts. Closed-circuit television systems were upgraded at 14 missions.

Additional security measures were provided at staff residences in high-risk locations, including Baghdad, Pretoria, Port Moresby and Jakarta. Thirty-two civilian armoured vehicles were provided to high risk missions this year, bringing the total to 44.

Responsiveness to unexpected events

All staff, visitors and chanceries across Australia’s diplomatic network are protected by a range of proactive security measures. The security countermeasures and procedures we adhere to at our missions, especially at high-risk locations such as Dili, Baghdad and Kabul, have successfully addressed and are designed to protect against a range of current and anticipated threats.

The department attaches great importance to security contingency and scenario incident planning. It is especially important at our missions in locations where there is potential for events to have an adverse impact on our interests, such as in Beirut, Tel Aviv, Suva, Colombo, Honiara and Harare. The department continued to work closely with mission staff, commercial security providers and host government security agencies to ensure the ongoing protection of our missions. This focus on security contingency and incident planning helped ensure staff remained vigilant and ready to respond to security incidents in a coordinated and measured way.

Emergency communications were upgraded at a range of posts. We provided posts with improved bandwidth, backup capacity and alternative secure facilities to ensure the continuity of reliable communications in case of threat.

The department also implemented revised risk management methodology that actively involves missions and attached agencies in the assessment process. This methodology examines all possible threats against missions, and assesses the likelihood and consequences of those threats being realised to determine a level of residual risk. The revised model enables us to better identify, document, prioritise and treat security risks at our overseas missions.

A newly established Inter-Agency Overseas Security Forum for other Australian government agencies represented at overseas missions has significantly enhanced cooperation and coordination on security issues. The regular Forum meetings have promoted dialogue on a range of issues, including the development of protocols for the use of armoured vehicles and residential security standards.

Protection of official and classified information

The department is continuing to focus on practical measures to improve communications with partner agencies. This will enhance the Government’s ability to share classified information. We have had significant technical involvement in the Secure Network Gateway component of the Attorney-General’s Department’s project on government communications, and have helped establish a pilot for secure email communication between Attorney-General’s, ourselves and the Department of Defence.

The department handles a large amount of classified and sensitive information. We continued to ensure that this information was protected against possible computer, electronic and technical attacks. We revised a number of policies and procedures concerning the protection of official information and ICT systems. The revisions ensured our policies and procedures kept pace with evolving technological and threat environments, were consistent with relevant government guidelines and were cost-effective. We inspected ICT systems at five missions and carried out comprehensive technical security inspections at 11 missions for compliance with departmental information security standards.

We continued a program to provide high-security alarm systems at all overseas posts and commenced a program to replace or refurbish safe speech facilities. A trial of a biometrics access control system continued.

Security clearances

Government policy requires that staff handling classified information be vetted and security-cleared to an appropriate level. During the year, the department granted 436 security clearances for new staff and renewed 271 security clearances for existing staff. Overseas posts processed a further 74 initial clearances and renewals for locally engaged staff. We recognised a further 118 security clearances issued by other agencies.

Security training

Photo - See caption below for description
Ensuring the safety of staff and visitors at our overseas posts is among our highest priorities. The guards at our embassy in Phnom Penh are shown here on 20 March 2007 with Mr Garry McGill from HRD Consulting, and First Secretary Ms Barbara Muzic, after graduating from the Guard Training course. The first training course was held in Singapore in March 2007. The course will travel to a total of 63 of our overseas missions with the final course planned for May 2008. Photo: Garry McGill
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department maintained a high level of security awareness and vigilance among staff and continued to develop the specialist skills of security managers and advisers. A total of 341 staff attended our regular introductory and refresher security awareness courses. More detailed overseas security awareness training was provided to 1146 staff from the department and 203 staff from other agencies prior to overseas postings. A total of 81 staff and their partners posted to higher-threat posts attended additional training in defensive driving. We introduced new security courses for locally engaged staff and locally employed security guards at overseas posts.

Information management and secure communications access

The department finalised the design and began the rollout of a major ICT software and equipment upgrade. This involved a substantial redesign of elements of the Secure Australian Telecommunications Information Network (SATIN) to meet the department’s evolving business needs. The projects, which run over four years, will simplify and improve network operations in Australia and overseas by standardising the user experience, streamlining service and support and improving connectivity. The projects include an upgrade of the department’s common applications and business systems, improvement of the availability and reliability of the system to the user, and a reduction of the total cost of the ICT system to the department. These benefits will enable the department to move towards a fleet management approach, whereby its significant ICT assets will be standardised and replaced on a cyclical basis. In turn, this will enhance transparency, accountability and predictability in ICT budget and strategic planning.

During the year work began on: replacing routers (which give posts access to the department’s global network); switches (which connect desktops to the SATIN network) and telephone systems (PABX, voicemail and handsets) at nine posts; improving backup communications at eleven posts; rolling out Windows XP to SATIN Low at 38 posts; and replacing SATIN infrastructure at three posts.

PERSONAL PROFILE: Raymond Powell, Manager, Official Diplomatic Information Network (ODIN) Administration Unit

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Mr Raymond Powell, Manager Official Diplomatic Information Network (ODIN) Administrative Unit, in front of a display of the department’s collection of historical communications equipment.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

For 17 years, Ray Powell has been closely involved with the department’s formal messaging system. As the manager of the ODIN Administration Unit, he is responsible for managing the security and integrity of the Australian Government’s cable or message network.

The department currently generates and receives some 15 000 cables per month on its SATIN Low and SATIN High networks. More than 185 000 cables were sent last financial year 2006–07.

When Ray joined the department in 1990, cables had to be manually analysed and sent to post electronically via the IBM mainframe, a form of technology that was first introduced in 1973. Since then he has overseen the cable system through the introduction of the Australian Diplomatic Communications Network (ADCNET), the Secure Australian Telecommunications Information Network (SATIN) and, since 2004, ODIN. Ray will also be part of the team responsible for the next major redevelopment of ODIN.

Ray joined the department in 1990 after a 21-year career in the Royal Australian Navy.


Crisis Centre and the Consular Assistance and Information System (CAIS)

The new Crisis Centre opened by Mr Downer in March gives the department a modern and sophisticated physical forum for managing consular emergencies and coordinating the Government’s response to overseas crises.

The development and progressive release over the next two years of the new CAIS will significantly enhance the department’s ability to provide consular services in the field. This includes the deployment of new, portable equipment for use by Emergency Response Teams operating in remote locations. The new portable emergency response kits will range from the establishment of a ‘mini-post’ that can be readily transported and installed at remote sites, providing the full range of SATIN Low functions, to robust ‘tablet’ laptops that will allow consular staff to operate anywhere and have access to consular management systems through either local telecommunications systems or by satellite phone. It is expected that the first module of the CAIS application will be ready for use by February 2008.


The international security environment is likely to remain challenging and unpredictable in the year ahead. In conjunction with other agencies and like-minded governments, the department’s focus will be to assure our capacity to anticipate risks posed by emerging threats, maintain preparedness and to respond quickly and effectively to security incidents. Our priority is to complete the program of additional security measures agreed by the Government, and the security works associated with the significant number of planned chancery relocations.

The department is focused on implementing major asset refresh projects, which involve rolling out new equipment and infrastructure to improve the robustness of the global network. We are working towards improving the alignment of the department’s ICT capabilities with our core business requirements and continuing to enhance its capacity to communicate with agencies operating overseas.

We will enhance the department’s client focus through the renegotiation of many of its interagency memorandums of understanding and in further work to improve communications with partner agencies. Building on last year’s enhancements to the Official Diplomatic Information Network (ODIN) and in the context of the current program of asset refresh projects, the department will redevelop the cable system to maximise its accessibility to partner agencies and improve whole of government coordination and service provision.

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