Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

OUTCOME 3: A secure Australian Government presence overseas through the provision of security services and information and communications technology infrastructure, and the management of the Commonwealth’s overseas owned estate

Program 3.1: Foreign Affairs and Trade operations

Program 3.1 Objective

  • To ensure a secure Australian Government presence overseas by sustaining and improving security, and strengthening information and communications technology (ICT) capability at Australia’s overseas missions.

Program 3.1 Deliverables

  • Enhanced security measures at a number of priority overseas posts in line with the evolving security environment.
  • Classified information safeguarded through effective management of ICT systems and security vetting processes, as well as through security training to staff to ensure a high level of security awareness and vigilance.
  • Continued implementation of the department’s ICT Standardisation Program, to move the department’s ICT systems infrastructure to a common platform that can be more efficiently integrated and supported.
  • Implementation of key elements of the Government’s ICT Reform Program, including strengthened ICT capability and governance, an enhanced Australian Public Service ICT skills base, and more sustainable and efficient use of ICT.
  • High-quality overseas ICT services to other government agencies.

Program 3.1 Key performance indicators

  • Security risks relating to safeguarded classified information are minimised to the extent possible, as evidenced by a low number of sensitive security breaches.
  • Effective risk-mitigation strategies in response to heightened security risks.
  • Client satisfaction with the accessibility, reliability and effectiveness of the secure cable network (Official Diplomatic Information Network - ODIN) and the secure telecommunications infrastructure.

Program 3.1 Foreign Affairs and Trade operations

Program management (security and ICT)


The department continued to face a volatile international security environment. It continued to strengthen the physical, technical and operational security at embassies in Baghdad, Islamabad, Kabul and other high threat posts. Following an internal review, the department introduced more targeted security training for staff. We maintained a strong focus on the rigour and quality of security clearance processing, and the safeguarding of government information.

The department is mandated to manage and operate the Government’s international communications network—SATIN (Secure Australian Telecommunications and Information Network)—in accordance with the Prime Minister’s Directive on the Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas.

The department continued to ensure the security of SATIN links to 140 sites in Australia and overseas. Over 40 government agencies use the network. SATIN supports the international component of Government programs, the Government’s official diplomatic messaging system, and the transmission of classified information.

The department established the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO), with responsibility for the department’s information and communications technology (ICT) systems. An ICT Reform Program has been developed to improve the department’s ICT platform and enhance its role as the Government’s international ICT service provider.

Managing security of overseas missions

Increased investment in security overseas has seen the development of new and enhanced security infrastructure and the introduction of related physical and operational security measures. These measures aim to strengthen personal security for staff, families and official visitors as mandated by the Prime Minister’s Directive on the Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas. This includes delivery of services by commercial security providers contracted and managed by the department, an enhancement of our overseas armoured vehicle fleet and a strengthening of ICT security and technical counter-surveillance protection.

In Baghdad, the department and Australian Defence Force officials oversaw the transfer of embassy security from a military to a civilian operation. In Kabul, the department undertook major refurbishment of the chancery and an annexe for accommodation. Delays were experienced as a result of difficulties in obtaining appropriate materials and qualified labour and supervision, coupled with operating in a high-threat environment. We, nevertheless, expect staff to move into the new Chancery in August 2011.

As part of the ongoing review of post security, formal security assessments were conducted at 38 posts, which identified measures to strengthen threat mitigation against prevailing threat levels. Security equipment used to screen pedestrians and incoming mail at all posts was reviewed, and a strategy for the procurement and maintenance of the Government’s overseas armoured vehicles fleet commenced.

Personal Profile:

Photo - See caption below for description
Rob Getreu

Rob Getreu

Rob Getreu brought 30 years of technical experience in procurement and project management in the private and public sectors when he transferred to the department from the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) in mid 2010.

During his nine–year career with DMO, Rob led complex projects to create specialised and armoured vehicles used by Australian Defence Force personnel in Australia and while deployed in war zones overseas. Rob joined the department to help develop its next generation of armoured vehicles. These vehicles incorporate sophisticated communications and electronic equipment that significantly improve protection of DFAT staff living and working in complex threat environments, as well as visitors to diplomatic posts.

“With my broad project management and manufacturing experience, I am grateful for the opportunity to use my skills and knowledge to develop and manage the department’s new fleet of armoured vehicles. These are an important security resource that will assist staff and other Australians as they go about their work promoting Australia’s national interests in challenging locations.”

Personnel security

The department continued to ensure personnel security policies and practices align with the Government’s Protective Security Policy Framework. Day-to-day security awareness and vigilance among staff were encouraged through compulsory security awareness training; mandatory security briefings for all departmental and attached agency staff proceeding on posting; a strengthened security breach-monitoring system; and the introduction of a breach database to provide more timely and accurate statistics for security reporting. The department ensured all staff involved in handling classified information were rigorously vetted. In total, 505 security clearances were granted to new staff, 162 clearances were recognised for personnel transferring from other agencies and 440 security clearance reviews were completed. Overseas posts processed an additional 47 initial clearances and renewals. As at 30 June 2011, all staff held current security clearances.

Security training

Photo - See caption below for description
As part of the pre-posting Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) course, staff complete a close personal protection drill which simulates evacuation from danger.

An internal review of security training resulted in the redesign and development of courses to align them more closely with the prevailing international security environment and emerging threats, including cyber attacks and the security needs of staff posted to high-threat locations.

A total of 83 courses covered overseas security awareness, personal security awareness, security management for senior locally engaged staff, defensive driving, post security officer training, and introduction and refresher security training for departmental and attached agency staff proceeding on posting.

Safeguarding classified information

ICT capability building

In 2010–11 the department completed a number of ICT projects that enhanced the security and efficiency of the Government’s international communications. The department migrated departmental email accounts to a new email application as part of a wider move to update and standardise the department’s ICT operating environment. Other projects delivered video conferencing and internet-based television, upgraded network communications protocols, data storage, and recordkeeping, as well as expanding secure telecommunications capabilities.

Planning continued for the replacement of the SATIN global communications network, core components of which will begin to reach end-of-life in 2014. Consistent with government ICT and national security policies and objectives, and in consideration of the department’s ICT service-provider role, planning is based on whole-of-government principles. The department is working with key agencies in this exercise, including AusAID and Austrade within the portfolio as well as the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Department of Defence and Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

As part of the ICT Reform Program, the department has started addressing shortcomings by establishing an ICT Program Management Office to improve guidance, direction and oversight for the department’s major ICT investment initiatives.

Availability and reliability of communications

During 2010–11, diverse links and back-up satellite facilities enabled the department to maintain communications during crises, natural disasters and equipment failures. ICT capabilities were tested when the Crisis Centre was required to operate continuously from the end of January 2011 until the end of March 2011.

Passport Redevelopment Program (PRP)

The PRP, which will introduce new passport systems and technology to improve client service and the efficiency and security of passport production, is the department’s largest ICT program in progress. In accordance with the department’s strategy to consolidate its ICT services to enable standardisation and leverage of ICT capability across the department, the PRP was transitioned from the Australian Passport Office to the department’s Information and Technology Management Division.

ICT training and development

To ensure staff have the necessary skills to provide and maintain support services to posts and partner agencies in future years, the department:

  • continued to convert ICT contract positions to Australian Public Service staff to ensure better staff retention, in line with the Gershon Review recommendations
  • continued to provide tailored on-the-job and technical college training through the Technical Officer Development Program. Selected staff complete a two-year program to broaden and improve their skills and prepare them for posting as a Regional Technical Officer who will deliver critical, on-the-spot service for our communications network at overseas posts
  • recruited apprentices to train as entry-level ICT officers in line with the whole-of-government Strategic Workforce Plan
  • planned to create a number of cadetships and to recruit ICT graduates to attract entry-level ICT officers in line with the whole-of-government Strategic Workforce Plan.

ICT client services

In 2009, the department implemented a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which provided a framework of services offered to other government agencies. In 2011, we continued to strengthen ties with our partner agencies and reached agreement with a further six organisations. Forty agencies have now signed the ICT MOU.

Since completing the tender for a new ICT Service Desk provider, we continued to transform the role of the Global Support Centre to a single point of contact for all ICT services, including voice support, equipment loan services, desktop refresh and audit services. The focus in 2011 was to implement a continuous improvement program, enhance the 24/7-service-desk coverage, improve call pick-up times and develop performance reporting. Service-desk support for new services such as SATIN High voice, EDRMS and web services also started in 2011.

The department managed client requirements on a number of successful partner agency programs in 2011, including two domestic relocation projects and an installation at an Austrade-managed post.

This year, we also administered the completion of a ‘refresh’ of SATIN High infrastructure equipment at 35 domestic sites managed by partner agencies. This equipment upgrade supported the new network design with the objective of improving the user experience through increased performance in availability and reliability.

Following the 2010 Federal Election, SATIN systems were installed in four new Electorate Offices in Morningside and Woodridge, in Queensland, Tweed Heads, in New South Wales, and Geelong, in Victoria along with two new Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Brisbane. SATIN systems were also relocated to the new Trade Minister’s Office in Parliament House.

See Appendix 9 for more information about arrangements to provide ICT services to other Australian government agencies.

Table 11. security and information communications technology: statistics

  2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Number of posts and Australian Government entities
with access to the secure communications network and
secure telecommunications infrastructure
142 145 148*
Number of client agencies receiving ICT services** 42 42 44
Number of cables 168 113 166 580 160 137
cables to overseas posts 80 766 83 221 74 590
cables from overseas posts 87 347 83 359 85 547
Number of security-related visits to overseas missions 140 187 127
Number of security clearances and reviews processed 1 029 849 1 154

* Quantity shown as number of sites. Detailed breakdown as follows: DFAT-managed posts 92; non-DFAT-managed posts 3; DFAT state and territory offices, including Thursday Island 8; R G Casey Building 1; Passports 1; Partner Agency Sites 36; Parliament House 1; Electorate Offices 4; Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices 2.
** Number of government business entities across portfolios.


The department will develop and release e-learning modules to provide desktop training for staff in Australia and overseas. Revision of the department’s Security Instructions will be finalised.

Security specification planning will continue for new chanceries in Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta and Lima as well as the new department-managed Consulates-General in Chennai and Mumbai. Counter-surveillance measures at posts and in Canberra will be enhanced to combat further international cyber attacks.

The ICT Reform Program will run over the next three years. It will develop the department’s underlying ICT capability and enhance ICT governance to improve the delivery of services expected by Government. Immediate priorities will include: consolidation of the department’s ICT, improved business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities, improved mobility solutions and improved performance and reliability.

The Passport Redevelopment Program will be a key focus, providing the department with a system capable of meeting forecast demand, replacing redundant technology and improving our fraud detection and investigation capabilities. The department will issue an RFT for this program and expects a contract to commence with an industry solution provider in 2011–12.

Next page: Program 3.2: Overseas property
Previous page: Outcome 3