Annual Report 2003-2004

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.2 > Reporting against effectiveness indicators

OUTPUT 1.2: Secure government communications and security of overseas missions

Reporting against effectiveness indicators

On this page: Overview :: Information management and secure communications access :: Security of overseas missions :: Physical security :: Technical security :: Security awareness and practice :: Staff training :: Security clearances :: IT security


The department continued to attach the highest priority to the security of its overseas missions and the people who visit and work in them. The challenging security environment in which our overseas missions operate continued through 2003–04, with little prospect for improvement in the foreseeable future.

We used regular risk assessments of terrorist and other threats to build a program of physical security upgrades focused on higher-risk posts and to provide security advice to posts. One post temporarily curtailed operations as a result of specific and credible threats, but subsequently resumed normal operations. The Government's decision to provide an additional $74.5 million over five years enabled us to upgrade physical security standards in our overseas missions and to begin relocating a number of missions on security grounds.

Staff security awareness and practice remains a critical factor in managing security risks. For this reason, we continued to give priority to promoting a high level of security awareness and practice among staff in Canberra and at posts. In addition to our regular courses, we designed and implemented a new training course for staff and their families working in higher-threat environments. In September 2003, we issued the final tranche of the revised departmental Security Instructions.

Photo - See caption below for description
The Secretary, Dr Ashton Calvert AC, spoke at a function in May 2004 celebrating the completion of the Secure Australian Telecommunications and Information Network (SATIN) project. Also pictured is Malcolm Skelly, Assistant Secretary, Information and Communications Technology Branch.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department completed the rollout of the Secure Australian Telecommunications and Information Network (SATIN) in 2003–04. SATIN is the global communications network that provides the communications backbone for the Government's international operations. The deployment of the SATIN project was completed within budget and slightly ahead of schedule. The SATIN network now provides secure communication links to 98 sites including 87 overseas. A total of 19 other government agencies have access.

Building on the efficiencies delivered by the SATIN system, we restructured the department's Information and Communication Technology Branch to focus efforts on maintenance and support of the standard operating environment and provision of client services.

Information management and secure communications access

The rollout of SATIN was the major focus of the department's information and secure communications program during the year. The Government provided the department with $19.3 million in the 2003–04 Budget (as part of a $45.2 million program over three years) to expand Australia's secure diplomatic communications network, SATIN. The ageing Australian Diplomatic Communications Network (ADCNET) and non-national secure (NNS) systems have now been replaced by the SATIN system at all posts. The rollout was completed on time and within budget. The SATIN system delivers an enhanced information management and messaging system and provides all posts, large and small, with access to the full range of the department's information technology (IT) resources.

Extensive development work was completed on a new formal messaging system (ODIN) to replace the current cable message system, which evolved from the department's former telegram communications system. The new system is less manually intensive and provides faster delivery times. It is due to be released across the department by the end of 2004.

We worked to provide improved business continuity and disaster recovery capability for the department. An appropriate off-site facility was identified to provide back-up for our secure communications and classified network (called SATIN High). The site could also provide for some infrastructure to allow for minimal unclassified communications and software architecture (called SATIN Low) in order to maintain email facilities should this be identified as a critical requirement in the future.

SATIN deployment

The SATIN rollout was completed, slightly ahead of schedule, in 34 months. These were the highlights.

Security of overseas missions

The threat of global terrorism continued to pose a challenge for the department in safeguarding the security of Australia's missions overseas. The operational environment in 2003–04 was characterised by a stream of direct and indirect terrorist threats to our missions and staff. Criminal violence remained a major threat to a number of our posts.

We streamlined the process of security risk assessments of threats to Australia's overseas posts. This ensured security funding decisions continue to give priority to our higher-risk posts. Based on these assessments, we focused physical security upgrades on 33 higher-risk posts, predominantly in the Middle East and South-East Asia. At the same time, we continued an across-the-board program of improvements to our lower-risk posts. We provided ongoing security advice and assistance, including through inspections of physical security arrangements at 37 posts.

We also helped Austrade review security at a number of their posts.

One post temporarily curtailed operations as a result of specific and credible threats, but subsequently resumed normal operations. In response to specific, credible terrorist-threat reporting, we temporarily suspended visa processing in Islamabad in May 2004. We continued to observe strictly the principle of consistency between the advice we give to posts and the advice we give to the Australian public through consular travel advisories.

Physical security

To reduce the risks associated with the increased threat from terrorism, the Government approved an additional $74.5 million over five years. This has enabled the department to increase physical security standards at overseas missions and to relocate six missions on security grounds. Eight million dollars was provided for measures in 2003–04.

Consultation with posts meant that the additional resources were deployed effectively and tailored to posts' specific circumstances, and that measures were implemented in a timely manner.

The additional physical security measures introduced included the provision of detection equipment, the upgrading and hardening of perimeter security and surveillance, and the wider application of ballistics and bomb-blast protection (see box on page 116).

Concurrently, funding of $16 million was used to complete the existing schedule of physical security upgrades and fit-outs. The program enabled upgrades of physical security at a number of missions, and fit-outs were completed in Abuja, Beirut, Dublin, Honiara, Pohnpei, Taipei and Port of Spain. In total, security upgrades were completed at 55 overseas missions.

Physical Security—supporting Australian innovation

With terrorism a serious risk in several parts of the world and the possibility that Australian missions overseas could become the targets of terrorist attack, the department has been considering new ways to improve the protection accorded staff working in our missions abroad and members of the public visiting our posts.

In particular, we have been exploring new and innovative security products that can be used to improve physical security in the construction of new chanceries and in retro-fitting existing missions. An Australian company, Stop Shot, has developed a ballistic and blast resistant glass system which meets Australian and international bullet-resistant standards. Stop Shot has also sought blast accreditation for the product, with tests undertaken in conjunction with the Australian Defence Forces in May 2004.

The department, in partnership with Stop Shot, recently undertook a major retro fit of one of our missions in South-East Asia. We found the product easy to install, with minimum disruption caused to the work of the mission. We are currently examining the further use of the product in overseas missions where the threat level warrants it. The use of the product in one of our missions is expected to help in its acceptance by major users overseas.

As part of the department's program to upgrade security at our overseas missions, we delivered explosives detection equipment to selected posts in higher-risk environments. The equipment is similar to that used in airports across Australia. It can detect trace amounts of a range of dangerous substances on people, vehicles or mail items. We produced a training video in six languages to help posts develop procedures for using the equipment.

Technical security

To protect Australian missions against technical attack, the department carried out physical and technical inspections at 18 posts, including four recently relocated missions. We provided technical security support for five Prime Ministerial overseas visits. A program to install intruder alarm systems at posts continued, with systems installed or upgraded at four posts. We evaluated a pilot biometric access control system installed at a post, which indicated very favourable acceptance by users. Its possible broader use is subject to further evaluation.

Security awareness and practice

The department places the highest priority on ensuring staff observe appropriate standards of security awareness and practice in Australia and at overseas posts. The release, in September 2003, of the final tranche of the departmental Security Instructions marked the completion of a thorough review of our security policy. The final document brings together existing security instructions in a consistent and practical way, making it an effective and user-friendly reference tool.

Staff training

The department continued to ensure staff were appropriately trained in security practice. The Protective Security Coordination Centre used the department's security training and management model as a best-practice case study at the March 2004 Security in Government Conference in Canberra.

We provided mandatory overseas security awareness training to 134 staff from the department and 212 from other agencies before their overseas postings. A total of 182 staff attended the regular introductory and refresher security awareness courses. We also contributed speakers to training courses run by other agencies.

In October 2003, we introduced a custom-designed personal security awareness course to help staff and families working overseas in higher-threat environments to develop personal strategies to reduce the risk of violent harm. We delivered these seminars across a number of regions, including South America, South-East Asia and the Pacific. The course was attended by 187 overseas and 58 Canberra-based departmental and other agency staff and their spouses.

Security clearances

An external review by a management consultant of the department's security clearance processes found that our processes were highly competitive compared with other agencies and external providers. We granted 346 initial security clearances for new starters and approved 150 re-evaluations for existing staff in 2003–04. Overseas posts processed a further 63 initial clearances and re-evaluations for locally engaged staff. The department also recognised 62 security clearances issued by other agencies. All active departmental employees had current security clearances at the end of the financial year.

IT security

The management of security risks remains an integral part of the department's development and implementation of information technology and telecommunications (IT&T) systems. Our revised Security Instructions incorporated a review of IT security policy in view of the rapidity of technological change in the area. We continued to place a high priority on providing IT&T security awareness training to staff, including conducting, on request, special briefings for other agencies.

We inspected aspects of secure communication systems at several overseas missions to ensure they continued to comply with Government standards.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2003–2004
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