Annual Report 2005-2006

Annual Report home |

Table of Contents |

Userguide |

Download versions

1. Overviews2. Performance3. Corporate4. Appendixes5. Financials6. Glossaries and Compliance Index

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 :: Managing security of overseas missions :: Physical security improvements :: Information and technical security :: Security training :: Security clearances :: Information management and secure communications access :: Outlook


The department continued to devote extensive resources to monitoring, maintaining and improving security at Australia's overseas missions.

The security environment remained highly challenging as a result of continuing and emerging threats from terrorism, political and civil disorder and criminal violence. The department effectively managed a number of potentially serious security situations by providing timely responses to safeguard missions and staff. With the additional government funding allocated following the September 2004 bombing at the Australian embassy in Jakarta, we made good progress on our program of upgrading physical security at overseas posts. We strengthened walls, fences and buildings, installed security equipment such as x-ray machines and explosives detectors, and made preparations for relocating some missions. Our regular security assessments and inspections of overseas missions underpinned these measures.

Promoting security awareness and vigilance among all staff remained a focus for the department. To update the skills of our security managers and advisers, we expanded our range of security training to include new courses in security management, physical security design and defensive driving. The department continued to safeguard official information through technical and information security measures.

The department significantly improved its ability to maintain communications with Australia's overseas missions with the implementation of a number of important upgrades to the communications network, covering satellite links, hardware and emergency radios. We increased the security of our desktop computer systems and conducted a post-implementation review of the new Official Diplomatic Information Network (ODIN) messaging system. The review confirmed that ODIN was providing faster, more transparent cable delivery.

Managing security of overseas missions

A number of events threatened the safety of embassy staff and visitors. They included civil unrest in Honiara and East Timor, violent crime in Zimbabwe and anti-Western demonstrations in Europe and the Middle East following publication in the Western media of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The department responded effectively to these threats by undertaking early analysis and monitoring of the threat to mission staff and families and by providing timely advice and assistance as the situations required.

The department continued a cyclical program of overseas physical security inspections to ensure security countermeasures at chanceries and residences were appropriate to the risks. During the year, departmental security advisers undertook 25 such visits, covering almost one-third of our overseas posts and a range of threat environments including Bali, Cairo, Canakkale, Colombo, Dhaka, Dili, Jakarta, Manila, Ottawa and Washington. The visits strengthened cooperation and planning on threats, risks and countermeasures with missions and with local security authorities and contractors. The department's introduction of desktop incident response exercises also helped posts assess their preparedness and response strategies to a range of security situations.

The department worked in Canberra and at posts to consolidate security planning with other agencies represented overseas such as the Department of Defence, Austrade, AusAID and the Australian Federal Police. We kept all overseas staff and families informed of new security measures, including through production of a newsletter. This helped reinforce to staff and families the need to give priority to security issues.

Physical security improvements

The department implemented substantial new security measures at overseas posts as part of the major security upgrade program agreed by the Government in 2004–05 and separate ongoing security and relocation initiatives. We completed significant new security-related construction at the Jakarta and Baghdad embassies designed to strengthen facade, overhead and perimeter protection, in line with the department's blast and ballistic protection guidelines. Extensive security works required as part of the construction of a new chancery in Colombo and the relocation of four other chanceries were completed. We undertook work on the security features of new chanceries being constructed in New Delhi and Port Vila and on additional perimeter security, including new fences and guard houses, in Rangoon and Nairobi. Security-related construction undertaken as part of the refurbishment of the Harare, Guangzhou, Wellington and Nauru chanceries continued and is due to finish in the first half of 2006–07.

We began advance planning for security works on a further 16 chancery relocations and two chancery mid-life upgrades. The design of perimeter strengthening works, including new guard facilities and vehicle barrier systems, was completed for two other posts.

The department continued to roll out additional safety and security measures to increase protection for people working and visiting overseas posts. We installed anti-shatter window film at 50 chanceries and residences, x-ray machines at eleven posts and explosive detection equipment at a further eight posts. We upgraded closed-circuit television systems at 33 posts and emergency communication systems at 29 posts.

The department finalised arrangements for the supply and delivery of 24 civilian armoured vehicles to high-risk posts. Six were completed during the year, with the rest scheduled for delivery by December 2006. The vehicles help protect official visitors and staff engaged in official in-country travel and consular work from terrorist and criminal attack. Specialised training is being provided to staff who need to drive these vehicles.

Information and technical security

The department continued efforts to ensure the protection of classified information against possible computer, electronic and technical attacks. We reviewed a number of policies and procedures concerning the protection of official information on our information and communications technology (ICT) systems. The reviews ensured our policies and procedures remained appropriate to the evolving technological and threat environments and were consistent with relevant Government guidelines. We inspected ICT security at four overseas missions for compliance with departmental security standards.

The department carried out technical security inspections at 18 overseas posts, including five relocated chanceries, and provided technical security support to eight prime ministerial overseas visits and three international conferences in Australia. As part of a continuing program, we installed new back-to-base, high-security intruder alarms at 22 posts. We continued to provide guidance on ICT and technical security as part of general security awareness training for officers working overseas.

Security training

Security awareness training is mandatory for all Australia-based departmental staff and staff from other agencies posted to Australia's overseas posts. Reflecting the need for a heightened sense of alert and preparedness, the department introduced new specialised courses for staff with specific security responsibilities. These included courses for senior officers in charge of security management at posts. We provided security advisers with specialised training to update and consolidate expertise in physical security. We began developing new security courses for locally engaged staff and locally employed security guards at overseas posts.

A total of 361 staff attended our regular introductory and refresher security awareness courses. More detailed overseas security awareness training was provided to 220 staff from the department and 207 staff from other agencies prior to overseas postings. Staff and their partners posted to higher threat posts attended additional training in personal security and defensive driving. We provided security training to relevant staff in European and Asian posts as part of the department's annual Regional Management Conferences.

Security clearances

Government policy requires that staff handling classified information be vetted and cleared to an appropriate level. During the year, the department granted 474 security clearances for new staff and renewed 374 security clearances for existing staff. Overseas posts processed a further 88 initial clearances and renewals for locally engaged staff. The department recognised 107 security clearances issued by other agencies.

Information management and secure communications access

We enhanced our communications network which is now significantly better at maintaining continuity of communications with Australia's overseas posts. This is an important achievement as interruptions caused by a range of factors, such as weak local infrastructure and network load, can impede our ability to manage and assist during overseas crises and can adversely affect normal business operations. We undertook a major upgrade of our communications hardware to meet the growing future needs of both the department and the large number of other government agencies using our communications network. We increased bandwidth at 28 posts and installed dual satellite systems at a further eight posts to improve the redundancy (or resilience) of satellite communications links. We bolstered our capacity to support posts during overseas crises by upgrading the emergency radio network (ERN) which posts use as a communication tool when local networks fail. We developed a 'flyaway' or portable ERN kit that can be deployed to temporary or remote locations.

Enhancements to the ODIN system

In October 2005 the department undertook a post-implementation review of our new cable system, the Official Diplomatic Information Network (ODIN). The cable system is the means of official communication between headquarters and posts and is used to communicate all tasking, reporting and analysis. The review concluded that the ODIN system had delivered all the expected benefits, with cables being delivered faster, more transparently and more consistently than ever before.

Following the review, we further enhanced the ODIN system to improve the accuracy and reliability of cable distributions. As a result, it is now easier for users to validate that cable distributions are correct and to highlight cable action requirements. Cable originators are now also alerted automatically if action recipients of an urgent cable fail to read it within a prescribed time limit.

The department implemented initiatives to improve the security of our desktop computer systems. We began rolling out the Windows XP desktop which is intended to increase safeguards against viruses and 'trojans' and prevent software copyright breaches from the downloading of unauthorised applications. Consistent with the department's obligation to ensure the appropriate use of Government resources, we installed 'Content Keeper' software on the department's desktop system to filter, monitor and manage staff internet access.

In October 2005 the department rolled out the Consular Management Information System on the Austrade network to enable Austrade-managed posts to provide a quicker, better service to Australians abroad requiring consular assistance.


Photo - See caption below for description
The department’s Technical Officer Peter Fox monitors the global communications network in our 24/7 Network Operations Centre.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

We expect the international security environment to remain challenging and unpredictable. A priority will be to finish implementing the program of additional security measures agreed by the Government, as well as the security works associated with the significant number of planned chancery relocations. The department will give continuing priority to enhancing our capacity to anticipate and respond quickly and effectively to a wider range of security scenarios, including through liaison and cooperation with other agencies and like-minded governments.

The department will work to consolidate and standardise our information and communications technology (ICT) architecture, including through our ongoing asset refresh process, which will make ICT systems easier to administer and help reduce management and maintenance costs.

Over recent years the department has seen a rapid growth in its ICT user base among other government agencies, with a five-fold increase in the number of agencies on the department's networks and a ten-fold increase in the number of users. Against this background, we will continue to expand our consultations with other agencies to improve our cost and operating efficiencies in the delivery of whole of government ICT services to overseas posts.

Return to top of page