The department undertook a number of major operational activities in 2015–16 to ensure the security of staff and protect global property assets and official information.

We provided security advice to posts across the network and finalised contracts with private sector companies for the delivery of security services in the high-threat posts of Kabul and Baghdad. In Australia, the department signed and implemented the new national guarding contract with Fields Security. Concluded under the Government’s new Indigenous Procurement Policy, this was the largest indigenous security contract in Australia at that time. We continued significant electronic and physical security upgrades across the department’s premises domestically.

The department made good progress in upgrading the clearances of former AusAID staff. We provided a range of targeted security training, including for those proceeding on postings overseas, but need to further build a strong culture of security awareness.

The department improved the accessibility and reliability of ICT systems and support arrangements internally and for partner agencies. Major long-term change programs continued, including the International Communications Network (ICN). This investment is essential to the Government’s ability to deliver Australia’s international security, services and productivity objectives.

The ICN is on schedule with major procurements completed including a contract for telecommunication services. We have developed capabilities which will enable the ICN to provide accessible and reliable ICT systems with enhanced security to better protect and share our information. A Department of Finance gateway review in August 2015 gave the program a delivery confidence assessment of Green/Amber. Our pilot post in Manila received the ICN upgrades in June 2016.

We also increased technology and procedural security controls and network performance within Australia and at overseas posts. This will enhance the strength of the Government’s global communications network in the face of cyber threats.

We recommenced a Technical Officer Development program to deepen technical capacity in our workforce in Canberra and at overseas posts in support of our global infrastructure.


Keeping government communications secure, Australia’s global property assets in good order, and ensuring the security and health of our staff

Security breaches


Security breaches

There were 503 breaches across our network over the year, a 4 per cent decrease from the 2014–15 reporting period. We completed 534 clearances and 596 security revalidations—a critical function which ensures compliance with the Government’s Protective Security Policy Framework and enables staff to commence and continue in position. All our staff were required to complete the annual Security E-quiz which reinforced each individual’s key security responsibilities and 1,395 officers participated in security training programs.

We provided advice to staff on a range of security issues and responded to an estimated 31,000 enquiries on security clearance and general security policy issues. We responded to over 80 enquiries relating to security threats and risks overseas and issued over 20 travel approvals to remote areas or ‘do not travel’ destinations.

Keeping government communications secure, Australia’s global property assets in good order, and ensuring the security and health of our staff

The accessibility and reliability of the secure cable network


The accessibility and reliability of the secure cable network

Over 12,000 users from the department and 47 government agencies relied on our secure cable network in 2015–16.

We improved the resilience of our systems and strengthened business continuity by relocating critical equipment to a purpose-built external data centre. We continued our upgrade of satellite communications equipment, encryption devices and emergency radio systems at posts. We completed ICT fit-outs at several new and relocated posts, including Jakarta, Makassar, Phuket and Ulaanbaatar.

The department focused on 24/7 support services for end-users and introduced new service management tools for technical staff. An ICT user satisfaction survey conducted in April by an independent provider reported modest improvements. Implementation of our new helpdesk software enabled the automation of many ICT support processes and facilitated a greater degree of self-service. We expect these investments will result in improved user satisfaction in the years ahead. Almost 300 staff received training in the effective administration of our systems.

We expanded the accessibility of our systems, including through enabling remote access to the diplomatic cable system and the department’s intranet from mobile devices. This work supports both our growing international presence and the departmental priority to provide flexible working arrangements. The progressive rollout of WiFi throughout our network of posts will also enhance accessibility.

We improved the interoperability of our systems to enable productive collaboration with other government agencies by facilitating the exchange of email and diplomatic cables at the PROTECTED classification level. We also adopted the whole-of-government Parliamentary Document Management System for ministerial correspondence and submissions.

Using innovative technology we developed a secure portable communications capability. This provided essential communications to staff responding to international events, with minimal lead time required for deployment.

Analysis and outlook

The department undertook a range of reforms over the year by implementing recommendations arising from the 2015 Review of Diplomatic Security, all designed to advance our corporate security objectives in a global environment where security challenges are increasing. This included the need for stronger institutionalised governance, a greater focus on threat trends and risk assessment, building better working relationships across the department and other agencies and embedding security awareness more deeply throughout the organisation. We constituted a Departmental Security Committee, chaired at deputy secretary-level, to provide a structured governance framework for managing security. We restructured the security branches to better align policy and operational functions, headed by a chief security officer—a new position created as a result of the review. We also improved our training program by streamlining and better targeting courses to meet evolving training needs. Together with the Overseas Property Office we developed new physical security standards.

Against the backdrop of an increasingly challenging security environment, the department increased its collaboration with like-minded countries, including through the new Diplomatic Security Colloquium and enhanced bilateral sharing and cooperation.

We delivered high quality ICT services to 170 locations in Australia and overseas. Through the ICN, we progressively improved the accessibility of our systems from mobile and remote locations to support our increasing diplomatic footprint. We enhanced the resilience of our network to accommodate a 24/7 global presence.

We supported the departmental economic diplomacy agenda with the development of the award-winning FTA Portal which connects Australian businesses with export information.

We focused on service delivery to the public while progressively updating and replacing ageing infrastructure. We redeveloped ministerial and departmental websites and enhanced our suite of mobile and web-based consular applications.

In the year ahead, we will innovate in the area of security vetting, moving to a paperless, electronic security clearance processing system. This will accelerate significantly the clearance and revalidation process. We will develop in-house positive vetting processing and undertake new outreach activities to raise security awareness.

We will also continue work to replace the department’s SATIN network with the ICN. The transition to a new global telecommunication contract will provide better performance and greater reliability to domestic and international locations.

We will maintain our ongoing work to keep government communications secure in the face of complex and emerging cyber threats, through effective controls and strong governance. Our efforts will be consistent with relevant whole-of-government policy and best practice, including guidance from the Australian Signals Directorate.

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