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.


Outcome 3 strategy

The department continues to place priority on the safety of Australian government personnel overseas, the security of its diplomatic and consular posts and the safeguarding of government information in line with an environment of increasing security risk. Its activities in this area will be underpinned by thorough assessments of security threats and the preparation and implementation of appropriate risk mitigation strategies and security measures.

The department will work to enhance information and communications technology (ICT) capabilities, at home and at Australia's overseas missions. It will continue to respond to emerging influences on its ICT operating environment, including the increasing use of the internet, a greater focus on whole-of-government programs and solutions, a continuing increase in the number of staff from other agencies using departmental ICT systems and a challenging cyber-threat environment.

The department will again manage the government's owned estate in an efficient and effective manner. The department's forward plan for maintaining, upgrading and refurbishing the overseas property estate will continue with the objective of meeting the government's accommodation needs and enhancing the estate's value. In managing the estate, the department will remain focused on providing the best possible protective security, and capability to respond promptly when new or unforeseen security-related challenges arise.

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 capability at Australia's overseas missions.
Program 3.1 Deliverables
  • Enhanced protection through strengthened security measures in line with the evolving security environment, particularly in 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 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's 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 international security environment was again highly challenging, reflecting continuing and emerging threats from terrorism and political and civil disorder. Posts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan continued to be a particular security focus for the department, as were other high-threat posts in the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific. This included arranging and overseeing contract security services to support high-level official visits to the Middle East and deploying our security specialists to supplement post resources in Tehran, Nairobi and other high-threat posts. The department's overseas security arrangements were regularly reviewed and adjusted in response to changing threat levels.

The department continued to manage effectively the government's international communications network—SATIN (Secure Australian Telecommunications and Information Network)—which links 144 sites in Australia and overseas on a 24/7 basis, including Australia's diplomatic posts, ministerial and state offices, and over 40 other agencies.

Despite the challenges of operating an ageing system, we made good progress in implementing the ICT Reform Program and ICT Strategy. We completed forty-two development projects to improve capability, particularly at overseas posts, and to prepare a suitable platform for long-term initiatives. We secured budget funding for the International Communications Network (ICN) program to replace the present SATIN platform from 2013–14.

Our increased focus on service delivery resulted in reduction in ICT support queue waiting times, an increased level of system availability and more support to posts during their local business time zones. We successfully completed the mobility pilot allowing departmental and ministerial staff to access SATIN Low email from iPads and iPhones. The department's work on the development of the smartraveller iPhone app was recognised in the 2013 Excellence in eGovernance awards.

With the Australian Passports Office, we continued work on the Passport Redevelopment Program (PRP) completing the procurement phase.

Security threat assessment

As part of the department's risk management framework, we reviewed threat ratings for all posts and provided up-to-date assessments of the dangers to staff and their families on posting, risks to government property overseas and threats to the department's global ICT network and classified information, including from politically-motivated violence, civil disorder, crime and cyber espionage. Based on this work, the security risk assessment profile for each post was used to determine the ongoing suitability of posts' security mitigation strategies, operational procedures and contingency planning measures, as well as appropriate allocation of resources.

Managing security at overseas missions

The department continued to attach the highest priority to the safety and protection of all Australian government staff, their families and clients overseas. Security overseas was managed on a day-to-day basis jointly by Canberra, heads of mission/heads of post and designated security staff at all DFAT-managed posts. Where necessary, the department continued to engage specialist security contractors to enhance our capability. In extreme and high-threat locations, this included 24-hour perimeter guarding, close personal protection, explosive detection dog patrols, operational planning and logistics, and armoured vehicle management.

Departmental security advisors conducted official security inspections at 25 posts to ensure security mitigation measures and procedures were appropriate to threat levels. Priority was given to posts experiencing increased instability and politically motivated violence, notably Abuja and Nairobi. A number of short-term deployments were made to other posts experiencing heightened threats. The department coordinated security travel and operational support for high-level official government visits to Cameroon, Libya, Mali and Mauritania, where Australia does not have a permanent diplomatic presence.

Within Australia, the department completed a number of capital works programs in Canberra and interstate to improve protective standards, including completing an upgrade of the RG Casey building's CCTV system, enhancing diplomatic mail handling facilities, upgrading the classified waste handling system, and installing powder-safe units in all state and territory offices.

The department completed the physical security specifications for the new Jakarta and Bangkok embassies. Security infrastructure works were completed for the new embassy in Brussels. The department undertook physical security works in Kabul in conjunction with upgrades to existing properties and the acquisition and refurbishment of new properties by the Overseas Property Office. These works enhanced existing security measures for staff and provided additional security for an expanded AusAID presence in the country. Security fit-out works commenced for the new embassy in Addis Ababa, and physical security works were undertaken for the chanceries in Paris and Kathmandu. We began security design and planning for the new consulate-general in Chengdu and the new chanceries in Dakar, Nairobi, Noumea and Yangon. The department provided physical security advice to other government organisations on their requirements for relocation, refurbishment and remedial security works at posts in Accra, Bogotá, Dubai, New York, Port Moresby, Shanghai and Tehran.

The department continued to upgrade its counter-surveillance capability overseas, including deploying new surveillance measures and technical equipment to protect the operating environment at a range of posts. This formed part of the department's ongoing improvement program for protective countermeasures, including to combat cyber espionage, with priority given to extreme and high-threat posts.

Security vetting, compliance and awareness

In accordance with the Attorney-General's exemption from using the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency, the department continued to apply its own rigorous vetting regime to all staff handling classified information within Australia and overseas. Our standards were compliant with and, in certain circumstances, exceeded the minimum requirements set by the Government's Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF). We granted 637 new security clearances, recognised 325 clearances issued by other agencies for staff appointed to the department or working overseas with attached agencies, and completed 620 security clearance revalidations. While we oversaw and approved all clearances, we mostly outsourced clearances for contractors and the revalidation of clearances for on-going and non-ongoing staff.

The department ensured its personnel security policies and practices were aligned with the PSPF. We launched an updated Security Manual in February 2013 following a comprehensive review of all departmental security policies and practices. The review took into account the varied and challenging security environments domestically and internationally, particularly for the protection of staff and their families overseas and the protection of official information and systems, including from cyber intrusion. The department transitioned successfully to the revised Australian government security classification system, including by providing mandatory training to all staff and modifying ICT systems.

A strong security awareness and compliance culture remained integral to the department's effective operations. We achieved this through regular security awareness training; a strictly enforced breach monitoring and reporting system, also included as part of the organisation's performance management system; regular security reminders; and mandatory pre-posting security briefings for all departmental and attached agency staff proceeding on posting.

Security training

We continued our emphasis on preparing staff for overseas service through further strengthening of the department's security training program, particularly for staff going to extreme and high-threat locations. Security training was mandatory for all staff on posting, including attached agency staff, and was tailored to meet government legislative workplace health and safety requirements and obligations.

In the past year, 1 200 participants attended the department's security courses of which 287 were from other agencies. Pre-post training covered overseas and personal security awareness, defensive driving, car-jacking awareness and, for staff on posting to Iraq and Afghanistan, specialist hostile environment preparation training, including medical trauma and first-aid training. The department also delivered a series of courses to A-based and locally engaged staff at high-threat posts in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. All training courses placed a heavy emphasis on practical learning, including through the use of simulations, threat scenarios and field exercises.

In-house e-learning packages were made available within Australia and overseas on cyber security, defensive driving and personal travel security.


David Erbacher

I am originally from Queensland and graduated in Asian studies in 1996. I lived in China for eight years studying Mandarin as a foreign student, working for a Chinese insurance company, working for NRMA Insurance, and completing an MBA. I eventually ended up working for the Australian embassy in Beijing as a locally engaged staff member.

David Erbacher

In 2004, I moved to Canberra and joined the department as a corporate lateral recruit. After working in staffing and recruitment, I participated in the Administrative Officer Development Program which allowed me to gain broad knowledge of many areas of the department. I have been posted to Tokyo as Second Secretary and to Beijing as First Secretary and Consul. In between, I spent two years in Finance Management Branch.

For me the great attractions of DFAT as an organisation are the opportunities to participate in really interesting projects, the variety of the work, and the many professional development opportunities.

In 2013 I have been working on the opening of the new Australian Consulate-General in Chengdu, where I will be posted as the first Senior Administrative Officer, including the role of the post's security officer. Starting a new post from scratch and building a new team overseas is a challenging and unusual project but one with which I am very pleased to be involved.

ICT capability building

The department's ICT Reform Program recognises that our ICT systems are increasingly ill-equipped to support the changing needs of the department and its client agencies.

The growing risk inherent in the ageing ICT systems became more apparent in 2012–13. Failures in the department and provider networks affected services for citizens and staff on a number of occasions. The most critical of these incidents resulted in the Australian Passports Office website (www.passports.gov.au) being unavailable for several days in June 2013. The department continued to manage such system failures on a regular basis and with the highest priority. (See also 2.2)

Despite the challenges, we implemented the ICT Strategy to help improve the department's ICT capability and services. We undertook 42 development projects to address specific business needs, mitigate immediate performance issues overseas, and to prepare a suitable platform for long-term initiatives from 2013–14. Business continuity management practices for the RG Casey building which hosts the department's core ICT systems were improved.

The department continued the global upgrade of the standard ICT operating environment at 64 sites, taking the total sites completed since early 2012 to 78. The upgrade involved implementing Windows 7 operating system, Microsoft Office 2010 suite and more powerful servers and faster desktops. The roll-out utilised an improved deployment method that halved the time previously taken to deliver global upgrades. The new deployment method will assist the department to deliver future capability more efficiently.

Consistent with the aims of the ICT Reform and Strategy, a range of other projects continued to focus on reducing reliance on legacy technologies in key areas such as email and online services.

A key component in building capability was initiating the move from the department's congested computer rooms to a modern, purpose-built data centre. The department secured a new facility which will host a scalable central server environment and communications systems required to progress major programs and to improve performance and stability. In time, the new data centre will also help lower departmental emissions through more efficient use of power and cooling, and the eventual decommissioning of the present facilities.

We secured budget funding in May 2013 for the ICN program to replace the ageing SATIN network and provide the department and client agencies with a modern global ICT platform and a range of new and enhanced ICT capabilities from 2013–14.

Global Support Centre staff, Andrew Graham (left) and Dane Hayes, providing ICT end-user support. The centre fields over 11 000 emails and calls every month from the department and client agency users. [DFAT]

Global Support Centre staff, Andrew Graham (left) and Dane Hayes, providing ICT end-user support. The centre fields over 11 000 emails and calls every month from the department and client agency users. [DFAT]


Availability and reliability of communications

Under the department's global telecommunications contract, we delivered improved network performance at 61 posts through provision of increased bandwidth, installation of network acceleration appliances, and conversion from satellite to terrestrial links.


International Communications Network program

Under the 2013–14 Federal Budget, the department's proposed seven-year $215.9 million program to modernise and upgrade the existing Secure Australian Telecommunications Information Network (SATIN) was approved. The new International Communications Network (ICN) program will enable DFAT and other client agency users to better meet changing business needs, address known issues and keep pace with evolving expectations of technology. The first year of the ICN program will largely involve preparatory activity to undertake procurements and redesign our core systems, but the pace will increase in 2014–15.

International Communications Network program team. (Left to right): Andrew Heldon; Warren Prentice; Glenn Wadham; Michelle Scully; and Paul Allen, June 2013, Canberra. [DFAT]

International Communications Network program team. (Left to right): Andrew Heldon; Warren Prentice; Glenn Wadham; Michelle Scully; and Paul Allen, June 2013, Canberra. [DFAT]

From 2013–14 the program will deliver a range of benefits including:

  • Faster and more stable ICT services to posts through a new telecommunications network contract and new data centre.
  • A more responsive around-the-clock ICT support service with additional staff located in the regions and in the Global Support Centre in Canberra.
  • The introduction of a Protected classification network to meet government security requirements.
  • A streamlined desktop computing solution that will allow users to access Secret, Protected and Unclassified networks from one machine.
  • Improved mechanisms for exchanging data between classified government networks.
  • Expanded video conferencing capabilities for classified and unclassified communications.
  • A more agile ICT platform to keep pace with changing business needs and to provide stronger security assurance.
  • Contemporary mobile computing and communications solutions which will securely connect staff to DFAT systems.

The program is a major, whole-of-government initiative that will transform the overseas ICT capabilities and provide a modern technology platform into the next decade. Along with the PRP, the ICN program is a key plank of the department's long-term reform agenda.

We played a central role in the development of the smartraveller iPhone app to improve access to key travel information and services for the travelling public. The app features location-awareness travel advice and access to smartraveller advice without the need for an internet connection, along with easy repeat registration using stored information. The department was a finalist in the 2013 Excellence in eGovernance awards for its work on the smartraveller app.

The department successfully completed the mobility pilot allowing departmental and ministerial staff to access SATIN Low email from iPads and iPhones. iPads and laptops that met strict security requirements were deployed to UNSC staff in New York to assist their activities, and a new SATIN High communications capability was installed in Addis Ababa to support operations while the new chancery is under development.

IMD worked with the department's ICT service desk provider to improve outcomes against performance indicators. This increased focus on service delivery has seen a reduction in queue waiting times, an increased level of system availability and more support to posts during their local business time zones. Overall, providing effective 24/7 global ICT support continued to be a challenge particularly as the present SATIN reaches the end of its operational life.


Passport Redevelopment Program

Departmental staff from the Passport Redevelopment Program and the Australian Passport Office discussing details of the program. (Left to right): Gardner Murray, Scott Knight, Jo Hardie, Adeel Khan, Tony O'Sullivan, Paul Morgan, Joanne Huynh, James Neilson, Canberra, June 2013. [DFAT]

Departmental staff from the Passport Redevelopment Program and the Australian Passport Office discussing details of the program. (Left to right): Gardner Murray, Scott Knight, Jo Hardie, Adeel Khan, Tony O'Sullivan, Paul Morgan, Joanne Huynh, James Neilson, Canberra, June 2013. [DFAT]

Working together, the Australian Passport Office and the Information Management and Technology Division (IMD) commenced development of a contemporary passport service for Australia through the Passport Redevelopment Program (PRP). The PRP will deliver a new Australian travel document issuance system that will enable the Passport Office to respond to the projected growth in passport issue rates; with capacity to produce at least 3.5 million passports a year. The system will deliver an enhanced online application process, more efficient workflow and a faster and higher-capacity print solution. It will also include a strengthened fraud case management and data analytics capability. On 22 March 2013, the department contracted Fujitsu Australia Limited to deliver the program, with full system implementation scheduled for 2016.(See also 2.2)

SAP redevelopment program

We commenced the next phase in a multi-year program of work to modernise the department's financial management processes. The program will deliver enhanced functionality to all staff, regardless of their location, in relation to procurement processes, travel management, cash management, financial reporting and budget planning.

Cyber security

In response to the evolving nature of cyber threats, the department strengthened its internal cyber governance, management and response frameworks. We contributed to the whole-of-government response to cyber issues through membership of key bodies such as the newly formed Cyber Security Operations Board.

To protect information and systems, the department continued to implement all appropriate mitigation strategies to prevent cyber attacks as prescribed by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). We enhanced our relationship with ASD to ensure the new systems and capabilities delivered by major change initiatives such as ICN and PRP will continue to protect government and client information into the future.

Records management

The department has a global information and records management framework to support operations in Australia and overseas. In 2012–13 we upgraded the electronic document and records management system (EDRMS) to meet the increasing information management needs of the department and align with government direction. Utilisation of the system continued to increase with the creation of 2.7 million new electronic documents in EDRMS during the year.

ICT client services and support

The department supported parliamentary staff, facilitated relocations and upgraded equipment in ministerial, electorate and Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices. Regional Technical Officers (RTOs) supported our ministers on 13 overseas visits. RTOs also conducted 156 routine and emergency maintenance short-term missions, with all posts visited at least once in the year.

We completed ICT fit-out of new and relocated sites in Brussels, Brisbane, Addis Ababa, UN New York and Ho Chi Minh City. Emergency Communications (radio) Networks were installed in nine posts and secure area environmental systems were replaced at eight posts. We completed 17 records management projects throughout 2012–13, including 11 at overseas posts. Five Canberra records sentencing and disposal projects were concluded.

The first Regional ICT Manager was deployed to Beijing in December 2012. With the ICN, we envisage the need for a stronger regional ICT support structure and the Beijing appointment will provide a useful model for future recruitment.

We managed a review of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the provision of ICT services to other government agencies. The outcomes of the review informed planning for the 2013–14 renegotiation of the MOU with client agencies. (See Appendix 8, for more information about arrangements to provide ICT services to other Australian government agencies.)

ICT training and development

The department continued to build its ICT workforce while seeking savings through APS capitalisation and contractor conversions. The first ICT apprentice completed his two-year Australian government ICT Entry Level Program Apprentice Scheme. Two graduates were recruited through the Australian government ICT Graduate Entry Program.

Staff training remained a priority in 2012–2013, with a 50 per cent increase in training numbers ensuring a successful transition to the Microsoft Windows 7 and Office 2010 environment. EDRMS training via face-to-face sessions and e-learning was provided to 453 Canberra-based officers and 571 officers at posts.

Lunchtime ICT training courses covering a range of topics were introduced in 2012–13 to meet strong demand for general and specialist ICT training in Canberra.

Table 13: Security and ICT statistics

Number of posts and Australian government entities with access to secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure
Number of client agencies receiving ICT services
Number of cables
Cables to overseas post
Cables from overseas posts
Number of security-related visits to overseas missions
Number of security clearances and reviews processed


New properties acquired recently to accommodate an expanded AusAID presence in Kabul will be security hardened next year prior to their occupation by staff. With the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in 2014, including the Australian Defence Force, and the assumption of responsibility for general security by Afghan National Security Forces, the department will reassess its security support for the embassy.

Security infrastructure works will be scoped for new chanceries in Chengdu and Nairobi, the residential compound in Dili, the relocated embassy in Noumea and the passports office in Melbourne. Security construction works will commence for the new Bangkok embassy project, while security works will continue for the new Jakarta embassy project. Security improvements will be completed for Kathmandu and Taipei, as will the fit-out of the new chancery in Addis Ababa.

An official security inspection will be undertaken in Dakar early next year to scope out requisite security requirements in preparation for the opening of a new embassy there.

The department's Security Manual Change Management Committee will continue its review of our security policies and practices to ensure they remain compliant with the PSPF and responsive to changes in the international security environment.

2013–14 will be a critical year for the department's longer-term ICT Reform agenda as it will mark the transition from the planning to the delivery stages of major change programs such as ICN and PRP.

Delivering immediate improvements to post's ICT services will remain a high priority in 2013–14. Transition to Windows 7, post infrastructure upgrades and network performance improvements will be completed to set the groundwork for ICN. The department will further strengthen its cyber security capabilities and its participation in whole-of-government cyber governance arrangements.

We will renegotiate the MOU for ICT services to over 40 client agencies to ensure appropriate, transparent and responsive service delivery. The new MOU will support a more integrated and modern international ICT service for government over the coming years.

Managing the present SATIN platform as it reaches the end of its operating life will be a top priority; transitioning to its replacement will be complex. We will develop a stronger Global Support Centre and regional support resource, and continue to focus on improving the capabilities of the department's Canberra-based ICT workforce.