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Annual Report 1999-2000Annual Report 1999-2000 home page

ContentsContents > Overviews > Outcome 1: National Interests > Outcome 2: Consular & Passports > Outcome 3: Public Diplomacy > Management > Financial Statements > Appendixes > Glossaries

YOU ARE CURRENTLY AT: Outcome 1 > Output 1.3 > Quality and quantity information


OUTCOME 1: Australia's national interests protected and advanced through contributions to international security, national economic and trade performance and global cooperation

Output 1.3:
Secure government communications and security of overseas missions

Output 1.3 Quality and quantity information

Quality indicators

  • Client satisfaction with the secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure.
  • Availability of communications to clients through the secure network; provision of critical services and effective contingency arrangements; timeliness of cable delivery.
  • Client satisfaction with the suitability and effectiveness of security-related contingency plans at overseas missions, and with the level of physical security at overseas chanceries and residences, including responsiveness to unexpected events.
  • Continuing validity of the department’s contingency and other business continuity plans measured by the extent and frequency of testing and review.

Quantity indicators

  • Number of posts and Commonwealth entities with access to the secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure.
  • Number of clients serviced, types of services provided and volume of traffic handled.
  • Number of overseas missions for which security services are provided, including security review services.
  • Number of security clearances and reviews processed.

Secure communications network

The department sought feedback from clients on the performance of the secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure. We obtained external feedback through contact with ministerial offices, and met monthly with other external clients such as other Commonwealth agencies.

Internal feedback came through formal governance arrangements such as the Information Management Advisory Group meetings (chaired by a deputy secretary every two months), and the Consultative Committee on Information Management, which meets six-weekly. The department also provided assistance to users of both the secure and in-confidence communications systems through a ‘help desk’. The desk provided support services to nearly 5 000 clients during the year, and handled more than 70 000 separate inquiries.

Clients showed a generally high level of satisfaction with the secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure. A major example was the completion of the first phase of a program, Project Merlin, to introduce satellite communications technology to 18 overseas posts. This strengthened the network infrastructure and overcame a number of communications difficulties.

Merlin Satellite Communication System

Members of the Merlin Satellite Communication System project team, Mr Gary Adams, Ms Marilyn Perring and Mr Ravi Vasudevan. Photo by Michael Jensen.

Merlin played a key role in ensuring that the Government’s communications with posts were maintained in both the East Timor crisis in September 1999 and the overthrow of the Fiji Government in May 2000. In both cases, communications were maintained with our posts in Dili and Suva when the local telecommunications infrastructure was inoperative.

The continued expansion of the secure network overseas and domestically met changes in clients’ requirements through the securing of better links and improved bandwidth.

Availability of communications

The department maintained availability of secure communications to clients during the year.

The Prime Minister and ministers made positive comment on communications support provided to them while travelling overseas.

We gave users more timely access to a news summary of foreign media by providing it via the Internet. By removing this traffic from the cable system all users benefited from improved performance.

Other departments have commented about delays in cable delivery. However, investigation of these concerns generally revealed they were related to hardcopy distribution within the receiving department and not to our delivery or collection procedures.

A significant milestone in the efficient delivery of the cable service occurred when the message switch processing cable traffic since 1979, an IBM mainframe computer, was taken out of service and replaced by more modern technology. The new technology improved the supportability and long-term reliability of the system.

Security

The department was in constant contact with posts regarding physical security. We continually updated threat assessments to ensure advice and funding were targeted appropriately. We reacted swiftly to heightened threat levels in Jakarta, Bali and Dili by implementing major security enhancements, and responded in a timely manner to support posts’ efforts to augment personal security assurance measures at offices and residences.

Posts’ comments on security-related contingency planning, advice and support were consistently positive and appreciative. Technical security planning advice and support at posts during seven overseas visits by the Prime Minister were also favourably received.

Contingency and continuity plans

The department has procedures and systems in place that continually provide proactive monitoring of all secure communications systems and services.

The department’s preparations for Y2K were the focus of our contingency planning and business continuity efforts, ensuring that communications systems in Canberra, State offices and overseas posts were up-to-date and able to cope with a range of possible failures. This work will be of enduring value in strengthening the robustness of our systems, as it highlighted a number of issues that required further attention; remedial work was undertaken. We also conducted a separate review of the disaster recovery strategy of the ‘in-confidence’ mainframe.

The adoption of a formal project management methodology for information technology areas of the department during the year ensured that the development of any future systems will include adequate contingency and business continuity plans.

Quantity information

Number of posts and Commonwealth entities with access to the secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure.1

94

Number of clients serviced.2

113

Types of services provided and volume of traffic handled:3

 

cables analysed

168 000

cable pages printed

5 088 000

fax pages

192 000

telememos forwarded

15 600

Number of overseas missions for which security services are provided, including security review services.

80

Number of security clearances and reviews processed.

813

1 We provided 81 posts with secure communications services. Thirteen other Commonwealth agencies have an electronic connection to the department’s secure communications system.

2 This includes the 13 Commonwealth agencies that have an electronic connection to the department’s secure communications system and over 100 clients that receive paper copies of cables.

3 These figures are based on monthly figures averaged out over the twelve month period.


YOU ARE CURRENTLY AT: Outcome 1 > Output 1.3 > Quality and quantity information

Annual Report 1999-2000Annual Report 1999-2000 home page

ContentsContents > Overviews > Outcome 1: National Interests > Outcome 2: Consular & Passports > Outcome 3: Public Diplomacy > Management > Financial Statements > Appendixes > Glossaries

 

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