Annual Report 2007-2008

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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 :: Managing security of overseas missions :: Responsiveness to unexpected events :: Protection of official and classified information ::Security clearances :: Security training :: Information management and secure communications access :: Outlook


Photo - See caption below for description
The Secretary, Mr Michael L'Estrange AO, meeting with security staff at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta on 17 July 2007.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

In the face of a challenging security environment, the department gave priority to the security of Australian staff and infrastructure at overseas missions.

We safeguarded our staff and missions in a number of unstable security environments. We implemented a range of new security measures at overseas posts. With the Overseas Property Office we completed the relocation of several chanceries and strengthened the perimeters and buildings of various chanceries. We continued our program of regular security assessments and inspections of overseas missions.

We managed security vetting processes and security training that aims to inculcate a high level of security awareness and vigilance among all staff requiring access to classified information. We safeguarded classified information by revising and enhancing technical and information security measures.

The department developed a comprehensive information and communications technology (ICT) strategy in 2007 and invested considerable effort in developing a plan to better deliver robust communications capability into the future. We enhanced and upgraded communications systems and improved communications with partner agencies, including through inter-agency forums and contributions to whole-of-government initiatives.

Managing security of overseas missions

The department is intent on ensuring the security of personnel, particularly those working at our overseas network of missions. We continued to implement substantial new security measures at overseas posts as part of the government’s major security upgrade program announced in 2004–05.

In 2007–08 security-related construction works were undertaken in conjunction with the Overseas Property Office in London, Riyadh, Baghdad, Kabul, Islamabad, Port Vila, Port Moresby and Nairobi. Construction works to strengthen perimeter and building security are under way at a number of missions, including Baghdad, as part of an ongoing program. Work on the joint Australian/Netherlands compound in Kabul is continuing.

The facade hardening of our chanceries in New Delhi, Vientiane, Singapore, Riyadh and Islamabad is now complete. Six of the eleven security-driven chancery relocations are complete or scheduled for completion in 2008. Other relocations and major fit-out works expected to be completed in the next two years are Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Tel Aviv, Madrid, Amman, Dhaka, Colombo, Tehran, Baghdad, Kabul and Abu Dhabi. All works must comply with the department’s blast and ballistic guidelines to provide staff and visitors with the best possible protection from attack.

The department further improved its protection of overseas missions by completing several projects, including the installation of sophisticated alarm systems at 70 missions, and the installation of closed-circuit television systems in 60 missions. X-ray machines were installed in a number of locations. A new project to perform a desktop blast engineering analysis of all of Australia’s overseas missions is under way and is scheduled for completion in 2009.

Additional security measures were provided at staff residences in high-risk locations, including Baghdad, Pretoria, Port Moresby and Jakarta. Forty-four high-risk posts have civilian armoured vehicles.

Specialist security staff made 125 visits to posts during the year to inspect security practices and facilities and to conduct Australian Standard risk assessments.

Responsiveness to unexpected events

Photo - See caption below for description
On 17 July 2007, the Secretary, Mr Michael L'Estrange AO (fourth from right), with the group of seven embassy security guards who sustained major injuries during the September 2004 bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Also pictured are Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Bill Farmer AO (far left) and the then Counsellor, Regional Security Adviser, Mr Robert Scott (far right).
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

All staff and visitors to our premises across Australia’s diplomatic network are protected by an extensive range of protective security measures. The department worked closely with mission staff, commercial security providers and host government security agencies to ensure the protection of our missions. These have proved their effectiveness in high risk locations such as Dili, Baghdad and Kabul during the year.

The 2006–07 program to install anti-shatter window film at a number of chanceries and residences proved its worth following a suicide car bomb attack that killed eight and injured 24 people outside the Danish Embassy in Islamabad on 2 June 2008. Damage to the residence of the Australian Defence Attaché, incidentally affected by the attack, was minimised due to the protection afforded by the film.

We conducted criticial security incident planning at missions where local security conditions have put the safety of our staff and visitors at risk. Emergency communications were upgraded at a number of posts. We provided posts with improved bandwidth, backup capacity and alternative secure facilities to ensure the continuity of reliable communications in high threat environments.

The department has developed its own mobile communications systems—fly-away kits, also known as ‘post-in-a-box’, are a self-contained emergency communications system for use by staff in locations where ordinary communications are poor or not accessible. A fly-away kit is now operational in Kabul. The kits are also highly effective means of rapidly establishing communications during international crises affecting Australians.

Protection of official and classified information

The department is continuing to focus on practical measures to improve secure communications among Australian agencies.

We remained vigilant in our efforts to protect Australian classified and sensitive information against possible computer, electronic and technical attacks. To this end, we revised a number of policies and procedures concerning the protection of official information and ICT systems to ensure they kept pace with evolving technological and threat environments, were consistent with relevant government guidelines, and were cost-effective. We inspected ICT systems at seven missions and carried out comprehensive technical security inspections at nine missions to verify compliance with Australian Government and departmental information security standards.

We completed the program to install high-security alarm systems at every overseas post. A trial of a biometrics access control system continued with good results in the first overseas deployment.

Security clearances

Government policy requires that staff handling classified information undergo a security clearance to an appropriate level. During the year, the department granted 336 security clearances for new staff, validated 104 security clearances issued by other agencies and renewed a further 351 security clearances for existing staff. Overseas posts processed a further 55 initial clearances and renewals for locally engaged staff.

Security training

The department maintained a high level of security awareness and vigilance among staff and further developed the specialist skills of security managers and advisers. A total of 575 staff attended our regular introductory and refresher security awareness courses. More detailed overseas security awareness training was provided to 208 staff from the department and 281 staff from other agencies prior to overseas postings. A total of 89 staff and their partners posted to high-threat posts attended additional training in defensive driving and 72 staff attended personal security awareness training. A further 46 staff posted to security-related positions overseas attended job-specific security training. A total of 1305 guards at our overseas missions attended local guard training.

Information management and secure communications access

We successfully completed the second year of the department’s ICT Asset Refresh Program. The program consists of four projects mandated to: replace desktop and data switching equipment, consolidate the department’s servers, and roll out a new telephone system. The program aims to simplify and improve network operations in Australia and overseas by standardising the user experience, streamline service and support arrangements, and improve connectivity. The implementation of a voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) telephone system positions the department to take advantage of new technology and represents the first consolidated update to its telephone system in 20 years. This year, 24 posts had their ICT systems upgraded. Most were large posts in key capitals.

During the year, a new Offsite Computer Room was established outside the R G Casey Building to provide business continuity in the event of a disaster affecting the department’s main computer system.

See also Appendix 8 on page 310 for information about arrangements to provide ICT services to other Australian government agencies.

Our new ICT strategy

In November 2007 we introduced a new information and communications technology (ICT) strategy for 2007–8 to 2010–11. The strategy aims to lay the foundation for the progressive upgrade of our ICT network infrastructure.

As a department we are aiming to develop better ICT systems and equipment which allow staff to work more effectively and efficiently. An intensive program to upgrade ICT network infrastructure will introduce a regular, cyclical approach to maintaining and replacing core hardware and software assets.

The department’s increasingly mobile staff will have better access to ICT services wherever they are in the world due to enhanced global roaming accounts and greater deployment of portable technologies.

The strategy will also position us to respond to evolving whole-of-government needs by delivering easier ways of sharing information


The international security environment will remain challenging and unpredictable in the year ahead. In conjunction with other agencies and like-minded governments, the department will strengthen its capacity to anticipate risks posed by emerging threats, maintain preparedness and to respond quickly and effectively to security incidents. Our priority is to complete the program of additional security measures agreed by the government, and the security works associated with planned chancery relocations. Protection of embassy staff in high security risk locations will continue to be a particular focus of attention.

The focus of ICT activity in the period ahead will be on continuing the implementation of the ICT Asset Refresh Program, strengthening the alignment of ICT with business priorities in line with our new ICT strategy, finalising the ICT services Memorandums of Understanding with agency partners and implementing a new contract for international telecommunications bandwidth services. Work on redeveloping the Official Diplomatic Information Network (ODIN) cable system and implementing a new department-wide software strategy will also be priorities. This strategy will help to minimise costs and risks and generate efficiencies through adopting a standardised approach to software procurement based on value for money and taking advantage of volume sourcing arrangements negotiated by the Government with major ICT suppliers.

We will continue to participate in the independent Review of the Australian Government’s Use of ICT commissioned by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation in April 2008. Our principal objective in supporting the review is to ensure that we have in place a reliable, flexible, robust, efficient and secure global communications system capable of meeting whole-of-government international communication needs over the long term.

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