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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

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 protection through strengthened security measures in line with the evolving security environment, particularly at high-threat locations.
  • Protection of classified information and ICT services through effective management of ICT systems and security vetting processes, as well as through staff security training to ensure high standards of security awareness and vigilance.
  • Continued progress in moving the department's ICT systems infrastructure to a common platform that can be more efficiently integrated and supported, and implementation of key elements of the Government's ICT Reform Program and ICT elements of the Government national security policy and objectives.
  • High-quality overseas ICT services to other government agencies.

Program 3.1 Key performance indicators

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

Program 3.1: Foreign Affairs and Trade operations

Program management (security and ICT)


The department allocated substantial capital and operational resources to monitoring, maintaining and improving security at Australia's missions overseas. The international security environment remained highly challenging, reflecting continuing and emerging threats from terrorism, political and civil disorder and criminal violence.

The department manages and operates the Government's international communications network—SATIN (Secure Australian Telecommunications and Information Network)—which is a mission-critical system for the department and the Government.

The SATIN system supports the provision of essential government services, including consular, passport and visa functions, national security arrangements through the exchange of classified information and intelligence, general diplomatic business, and the international component of major government programs.

The network links 145 sites in Australia and overseas on a 24/7 basis, including Australia's diplomatic posts, ministerial and state offices, and other government agencies. Over 40 government agencies use the network to support their business operations.

Departmental information and communications technology (ICT) functions were consolidated under the Chief Information Officer in 2011–12 as part of the ICT Reform Program. This Program aims to improve the department's ICT capability and services. A new ICT Strategy provides a roadmap for modernising the department's ICT environment over the period 2011–14. Progress continued to be made on the two major ICT programs being undertaken by the department, the Passport Redevelopment Program (PRP) and the International Communications Network Program (ICNP).

Managing security at overseas missions

The challenge of the international security environment continued unabated requiring the department to invest further in the development and delivery of enhanced security infrastructure and services to protect staff and families, official visitors, clients, classified information, and government assets across all embassies, high commissions and consulates. Of particular focus were posts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and other high-threat posts in the Middle East, North Africa and the Pacific.

The final transition of security protection for the embassy in Baghdad from the ADF was successfully completed in August 2011. All ADF personnel were withdrawn and security responsibility was transferred to the department, which manages this through its contract with a private security company. Two additional Australia-based security positions were created for the embassy.

In Kabul, the embassy's security infrastructure project was completed and related protective measures were implemented. The embassy was officially opened by the Prime Minister in November 2011.

Security infrastructure works were completed for posts in Chennai, Ho Chi Minh City, Lima and Mumbai. The physical security technical specifications for the new embassy and compound in Jakarta were also completed.

As part of its annual cyclical program of security assessments, departmental security advisers conducted inspections at 24 posts to ensure security mitigation measures and procedures were appropriate to threat levels. Priority was given to posts experiencing increased political instability, threats from terrorism and violent crime, such as Abuja, Addis Ababa, Cairo, Nairobi, Port Moresby and Suva. Security travel and support arrangements were coordinated by the department for high-level official government visits to the Central African Republic, Libya and Yemen where Australia does not have a diplomatic presence.

The department upgraded its counter-surveillance capability overseas. This entailed implementing new surveillance measures and equipment to improve the day-to-day handling and protection of sensitive information, including mitigating cyber intrusion.

Personnel security and clearances

We continued to review and update the department's security instructions to ensure our personnel security policies and practices aligned with the Government's Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF). In implementing the Government's new security classification system mandated by the PSPF, the department modified its ICT systems and provided advice and training to all staff on the changeover.

We continued to attach priority to fostering a culture of security awareness and compliance. The department's security breach system was a key part of divisional, post and individual performance management. Additionally, breaches were regularly monitored and reported to the Departmental Executive. Security awareness training was also key to managing day-to-day security, as were overseas security briefings which were mandatory for all departmental (and attached agency) staff proceeding on posting.

The department applied a rigorous vetting regime to all staff handling classified information. During the year, we granted 317 new security clearances; recognised 118 clearances of personnel from other agencies; and completed 395 security clearance revalidations.

Security training

The department further strengthened security training to address the complex threat environment and to better prepare staff for the often unpredictable and vulnerable locations in which they operated overseas. All security courses placed a heavy emphasis on practical learning, including through the use of simulations, threat scenarios and field exercises to deliver improved knowledge and skills outcomes.

The department expanded the high-threat field first aid training component of the Hostile Environment Awareness course which prepared staff for service in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to Canberra-based training, the department delivered a series of courses to Australia-based and locally engaged staff at four posts in Africa covering personal protection, anti-carjacking and defensive driving, and critical first aid. Specialised guard training was conducted at ten representative posts in the Middle East, the Pacific and India for 310 guards.

Online web-based security training was provided to DFAT and attached agency staff through a purpose designed e-learning and video program distributed globally to all posts on SATIN Low. This included videos on cyber security, defensive driving and personal travel security.

Photo of Departmental staff perform essential maintenance on a satellite dish at the Australian High Commission in Suva, Fiji.

Departmental staff perform essential maintenance on a satellite dish at the Australian High Commission in Suva, Fiji.

ICT capability building

In 2011–12, the department took a number of steps to improve its ICT capability. Upgrades to the department's desktop computer and back-end server and data storage environments improved system performance, reliability and security. The availability of mobile applications was expanded to provide better support for a mobile workforce, as were secure telephone and video-conferencing facilities. Legacy systems and infrastructure continued to be phased out where practicable to improve efficiency, reduce costs and better position the department to take advantage of new and emerging technologies.

A mobile version of the smartraveller website was developed to make it more easily accessible on smartphones and mobile devices for the travelling public. A prototype iPhone application for smartraveller was also built (see Consular services 2.1). In doing so, the department successfully established a mobile web development capability, an important step in meeting demand from the public over coming years.

Completion during the year of the Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) project enhanced the department's ability to manage its records efficiently and comply with legislative requirements.

Availability and reliability of communications

In 2011–12, essential communications upgrade work was carried out to improve the performance and reliability of communications with overseas posts. The renegotiation of the department's primary international telecommunications contract enabled network bandwidth to be doubled at a number of posts. Improvements to the department's business resumption site increased the level of remote access by staff to the SATIN system, strengthening the department's disaster recovery, business continuity and teleworking capabilities.

Passport Redevelopment Program

The department advanced work on the Passport Redevelopment Program (PRP) which will introduce new passport systems and technology to improve client service and the efficiency and security of passport production. A request for tender was released on 30 September 2011 for an industry supplier to develop and build the Australian Travel Document Issuance Solution (see Passport services 2.2).

International Communications Network Program

The International Communications Network Program (ICNP) is planning the replacement and upgrade of core SATIN infrastructure over the period 2013–17. The objective of the program is to deliver a secure, reliable and cost-effective global network that meets the rapidly evolving business needs of the department and other government agencies with an international presence and interests.

ICT client services and support

The department's Global Support Centre (GSC), which provides a single point of contact for all ICT services and faults, was strengthened through increased resources and better training for IT service-desk staff. This enabled more jobs to be logged and problems rectified quickly. New shift-work arrangements were put in place to provide better and more timely technical support for posts outside Australia's time-zone.

The department supported the Foreign Minister including through required upgrades to ministerial, electorate and Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices as well as the NSW State Office. The ICT Memorandum of Understanding covering the provision of ICT services by the department to other agencies was extended for a further two years.

See Appendix 8 for more information about arrangements to provide ICT services to other Australian government agencies.

ICT training and development

The department developed an ICT Workforce Management Plan to ensure that it has the skills needed to support the required ICT capabilities over the medium term. The plan includes participation in entry-level recruitment programs managed by the Australian Public Service Commission and the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), and the continuing conversion of ICT contract staff to permanent APS positions.

The first two ICT cadets to join the department commenced during the year as part of the Cadetship Program coordinated by AGIMO. The cadets worked in the Information Management and Technology Division while completing their ICT studies and, subject to successful completion of those studies, will be offered ongoing employment.

The department continued to provide on-the-job and TAFE-based training through its Technical Officer Development Program to maintain support services to posts and partner agencies in the future.

Personal Profile:

Tuan Dao

Photo of Tuan Dao

As the department's Chief Information Officer (CIO), Tuan leads the Information Management and Technology Division (IMD) which delivers ICT systems and services to support the international and Australia-based operations of the department and over 40 client agencies.

In the role of DFAT CIO, Tuan has initiated a program of reform involving consolidation of ICT functions under a single governance framework, to support a multi-year modernisation and enhancement of departmental capabilities. In 2011–12, the operational focus has been on improving core ICT services for posts, by upgrading network communications and rolling out the latest desktops and a new operating system for staff.

Over his 25-year career Tuan has worked in the private sector and in federal and state government departments. Most recently, Tuan was with Centrelink (now Department of Human Services) in various senior executive roles in ICT. During this time Tuan was responsible for the delivery of several major IT change programs to support the delivery of Federal Government policy including; Welfare to Work, Families Assistance and Child Care Reforms, Northern Territory Emergency Response, and Pensions system enhancements.

Table 11. Security and information communications technology: statistics

Number of posts and Australian Government entities with access to the secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure
Number of client agencies receiving ICT services*
Number of cables
166 580
160 137
145 021
     cables to overseas posts
83 221
74 590
67 290
     cables from overseas posts
83 359
85 547
77 731
Number of Security-related visits to overseas missions
Number of security clearances and reviews processed

* Number of government business entities across portfolios.


The department will expand its security capability in Kabul to meet planned attached agency staff increases. In consultation with other agencies, the department will act as the lead agency in addressing the implications for future post security in preparation for the graduated transfer of national security to the Afghanistan Government. With the opening of new posts in Chengdu and Dakar, security requirements will be evaluated and appropriate measures implemented.

Domestically, a major security upgrade program will commence for the R G Casey Building and state and territory offices, including installing new access control systems and a full security fit-out for the new office in Brisbane.

The department will maintain its focus on building underlying ICT capability to improve network performance and the range and quality of services to clients. Priorities will include strengthening 24/7 support services, focusing on the needs of posts, consolidating and building up the skills of the department's ICT workforce, enhancing business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities, and developing better mobility solutions for staff.

The Passports Redevelopment Program will enter the design phase in 2012–13 while the focus of the International Communications Network Program will be on developing and refining the International Communications Network business case.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade