Annual Report 2008-2009

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

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OUTPUT 1.2: Secure government communications and security of overseas missions


On this page: Overview :: Managing security of overseas missions :: Contingency and incident-response planning :: Protection of official and classified information ::Security clearances :: Security training :: Information management and secure communications access :: Availability and reliability of communications :: Outlook

To protect and advance the national interest, the department will sustain and improve security and strengthen communications capability at Australia’s overseas missions

Key Performance Indicators 2008–09 Target
  • Availability to clients, reliability of and client satisfaction with communications through the secure network and secure telecommunications infrastructure, including the Official Diplomatic Information Network (ODIN) cable delivery system
  • Implement the outcomes of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) governance and systems health check reviews

  • Finalise ICT services memorandums of understanding with other Australian Government agencies

  • Implement a strategy to recruit and retain technical staff

  • Plan, cost and adequately maintain critical ICT resources, including effective transitions to new systems and replacement projects
  • Client satisfaction with the level of physical security at overseas chanceries and residences, including responsiveness to unexpected events
  • Enhance further physical security of posts, including through relocation, security construction projects, implementation of new and improved security arrangements and staff security training

  • Ensure project works comply with legal and security requirements and are completed on time to the extent possible
  • Overview

    In close collaboration with other agencies and host governments, the department continued to work to ensure the safety of overseas staff in often difficult operating environments. We put in place significant new security measures at a range of posts. In partnership with the department’s Overseas Property Office, we relocated a number of chanceries and strengthened the structural security of others. Our Australia-based staff conducted a program of security assessments and inspections of overseas missions.

    The department implemented a rigorous system of security clearances and delivered mandatory security training courses to foster a culture of vigilance and alertness among staff handling classified information.

    The department signed new agreements with partner agencies to cover the supply and support of departmental ICT infrastructure and solutions. The department’s ICT systems service some 3000 users in over 100 locations. We provided overseas posts with enhanced communications to ensure continuity of reliable communications in high-risk environments. The department developed a new portable-communications capability to deliver business continuity during pandemics and other unforeseen events.

    The department embarked on implementation of the recommendations from the Australian Government ICT Review (Gershon Review) and successfully completed the first phase of the ICT cost-reduction program. Improved project governance and management have yielded efficiencies resulting in cost reductions in major ICT projects.

    Managing security of overseas missions

    To offer staff, clients and visitors at Australia’s overseas missions the best possible physical protection from attack, the department pursued a program of security upgrades at a wide range of posts.

    We completed 8 of the 11 security-driven chancery relocations. Other relocations and major fit-out works were completed in our missions in Kuala Lumpur, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Madrid, Belgrade and Amman. We undertook additional security-related construction works in conjunction with the department’s Overseas Property Office at our missions in Amman, Kuala Lumpur, Baghdad and Dhaka. We also carried out upgrades in Colombo, Mexico City and Singapore.

    We made significant headway in analysing blast resistance of all of Australia’s overseas missions; this should be completed in 2010. Twenty-eight of our posts are now equipped with a total of 53 civilian armoured vehicles.

    Overseas Security Advisers and other specialist staff made 140 visits to posts to conduct risk assessments as well as inspections of physical and technical security facilities and procedures.

    Client satisfaction with security of overseas missions

    The department continued to provide comprehensive, targeted and timely advice to posts and partner agencies on current and emerging security situations. The department’s successful hosting of the Eleventh Annual International Physical Security Forum led to enhanced cooperation on security standards for chancery construction.

    Dialogue with like-minded agencies, both Australian and international, increased the department’s capacity for the provision of security services and advice. Partner agencies regularly expressed their appreciation of the security services provided by the department and demand remained high for our training services.

    Personal Profile:

    Chantal Grellman

    Photo - See caption below for description
    Chantal Grellman
    Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

    Managing the central hub of the department’s ICT network, Chantal Grellman leads a specialist team providing remote support to SATIN users 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Use of ICT is integral to the department’s successful operation and as a whole-of-government service provider.

    Chantal started with the department in 2006 after 13 years at Telstra. While we already had a strong contingent of women employed as Information Technical Officers, Chantal was the first woman to join the department as a Technical Officer. She brought experience as a data technician, a Diploma in Electronic Engineering and project management qualifications.

    Since March 2008, Chantal has managed the Network Operations Centre (NOC), which supports our extensive ICT network both domestically and internationally. Along with the Global Support Centre the NOC is the first point of contact for staff at posts who are facing difficulties with ICT systems. The NOC monitors the network for faults, responds to requests from Post Systems Administrators when links are not responding and liaises with satellite and terrestrial carriers to ensure communications paths from posts are kept open.

    ‘Providing support for over 100 international locations and for DFAT staff as well as other departments with staff at post involves the use and understanding of new and emerging technologies. Opportunities to enhance and further your knowledge base are always present in this dynamic environment.’

    Contingency and incident-response planning

    We continued to work closely with other agencies to develop robust physical and personnel security policies, to respond to emerging threats and to mitigate security risks. We remained closely focused on contingency and incident-response planning for high-risk posts such as Kabul and Baghdad. In response to increased local threat levels, the department put in place new and enhanced security measures at high-risk posts.

    We enhanced communications at a number of posts by using multiple diverse connections to ensure the continuity of reliable communications in high-threat environments. To improve the department’s responsiveness to business-continuity challenges, we developed a remote-working capability. This capability greatly reduces risks of interruptions to business operations in uncertain international security or health environments.

    Protection of official and classified information

    The department continued to focus on practical measures to improve secure communications among Australian government agencies. We remained vigilant in our efforts to protect classified and sensitive information against possible computer, electronic and technical attacks. The department revised a number of policies and procedures concerning the protection of official information and ICT systems. The revisions ensured our policies and procedures kept pace with evolving technological and threat environments, were consistent with relevant government guidelines, and were cost-effective. The trial of a biometrics access-control system continued, with encouraging results for use at overseas posts.

    Security clearances

    In accordance with Government policy, staff who handle classified information must have an appropriate security clearance. The department granted 388 security clearances to new staff, up from 336 in 2007–08; formally processed and recognised 101 clearances for personnel transferring from other agencies, a slight decrease from 104 in 2007–08; and renewed the security clearances of 454 existing staff, up from 351 in 2007–08. Our overseas posts processed 86 initial clearances and renewals for existing staff, up from 55 in 2007–08.

    Security training

    The department continued to attach the highest priority to fostering security awareness and vigilance among its staff, in Australia and overseas. We delivered introductory and refresher security-awareness courses to 405 staff, down from 575 last year. We arranged pre-departure overseas-security-awareness training for 219 staff, up from 208 in 2007–08, and for 202 staff from other agencies, a decrease from 281 in 2007–08. To prepare staff and their partners being deployed to high-risk posts, we arranged training in defensive driving techniques for 57 people and personal security-awareness training for 199 staff. Addressing the more specialised training needs of security managers and advisers, we arranged job-specific security-training courses for 92 staff posted to security-related positions overseas, an increase from 46 in 2007–08. We also provided specific training for 164 guards at our overseas missions.

    Information management and secure communications access

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    With the launch of REACH (Remote Emergency Auxiliary Communications Hub), commissioned as a part of the Consular Enhancement Program, Emergency Response Teams (ERT) are able to take a Deployable Post with full satellite interoperability anywhere around the world. DFAT staff Mr Mark Wassell and Mr Paul Daley are pictured setting up REACH in Davos, Switzerland in January 2009 for the World Economic Forum which the Deputy Prime Minister attended.
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    The department’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Asset Refresh Program consists of four projects mandated to: replace desktop equipment; replace data switching/routing equipment; consolidate the department’s servers; and roll out a new telephone system. The program was in its third year in 2008–09 and is being delivered within budget and on schedule. This year, 35 posts had their ICT systems upgraded, up from 24 in 2007–08. With over 70 per cent of posts refreshed, this project is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

    The implementation of the voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) telephone system has enabled us and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to provide Call Centre capability for DIAC at overseas posts.

    To ensure the department has the skills to deliver and maintain support services to our overseas network and partner agencies in future years, we identified two opportunities for improvement. First, and in line with the Gershon Review recommendations, we began progressively converting a number of ICT contract positions to Australian Public Service (APS) staff. This will deliver a long-term financial saving to the department and broaden the number of staff available for posting as a Regional Technical Officer (RTO). The RTOs deliver critical, on-the-spot service for the department’s communications network at all posts in a specific region. Second, we introduced a technical officer development program. Through a two-year program of tailored on-the-job and technical college training, selected staff will broaden and improve their skill sets and prepare for posting as an RTO.

    Growth of the Secure Australian Telecommunications Information Network (SATIN)

    The use of SATIN High (the department’s classified communications system) by other government agencies has continued to increase. In Australia, 30 partner agencies (27 last year) now use SATIN High on 363 terminals. At overseas missions, there are 2671 non-departmental user accounts on SATIN High and Low (the department’s secure, unclassified system); an increase of 8 per cent from the previous year.

    Client relationship management

    The department managed the successful implementation of a number of partner-agency programs in 2009. Each year, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) replaces one-third of the overseas desktop equipment used by immigration officers at Australian missions overseas. We coordinated the refresh of 761 DIAC desktops. We also managed the transition to a new DIAC telephone solution at missions, which efficiently delivers in-bound telephone enquiries on immigration and visa services.

    We assisted DIAC with the effective engagement of the ICT resources required to implement DIAC’s Security Referral Service (SRS) project. SRS represents a vital improvement to Australia’s border security arrangements.

    We worked closely with the Attorney-General’s Department to migrate users of their secure network to an alternative departmental application. Our application can now be accessed from any Attorney-General’s Department secure desktop and provides users with access to classified departmental cables without the need for complex client site installations.

    We continue to enhance the support services provided to our two ministers and three parliamentary secretaries. New services to their offices include the deployment of secure video-conferencing to domestic and international locations.

    This year the Information Technology Strategy Committee decided a new strategic direction for the department. This will require email and business applications to be moved to a shared support and development platform, streamlining development and operations and reducing the associated risks and costs to provide these services.

    During the year more than 89 000 service requests were raised by SATIN clients (72 000 last year). The ICT support areas resolved over 82 per cent within the service-level timeframe.

    Availability and reliability of communications

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    Mr Peter Rowe, First Assistant Secretary, Diplomatic Security, Information Management and Services Division (centre), with the first signatories to the department’s new memorandum of understanding (MOU) for ICT Services, First Assistant Secretary, Systems Division, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Mr Peter McKeon, (left) and Chief Information Officer for AusAID, Mr Shane McLeod, (right), on 5 May 2009.
    Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

    To improve communications reliability, a new international network design has been completed and implemented. This new design reduces the risks for potential single points of failure and performance issues. The network design allows for the continuation of communications during major failures by bypassing major network points, and providing dual active communications using diverse links to many posts.

    See Appendix 9 for more information about arrangements to provide ICT services to other Australian Government agencies.

    New ICT MOU signed with partner agencies

    The development and negotiation of a new ICT services framework in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was completed in 2009. On 5 May 2009, the department signed the new ICT MOU with AusAID and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The agreement for the supply and support of departmental ICT infrastructure will also be signed with over 40 other partner agencies.

    The MOU is based on industry best practice and agreement has been reached with a number of key partner agencies that require the use of the department’s ICT services. As ICT systems evolve rapidly, the MOU provides us with a strong framework to improve existing services and the flexibility to provide new services as they develop.

    The MOU ensures efficient and cost-effective delivery of ICT services by the department in support of Australia’s national interests globally. It reflects the increasingly central role of ICT in supporting and sustaining those interests and ensures Australia presents a coordinated whole-of-government presence in host countries.


    The department will continue to operate in an uncertain and often dangerous international environment. To safeguard Australian staff and assets overseas, particularly in high-risk locations, we will continue to work closely with other Commonwealth agencies and like-minded governments. The department will give high priority to improving and enhancing the security of our diplomatic missions in Baghdad and Kabul. Our security training program will be enhanced to provide more location-specific information to deployed staff, including against the possibility of hostage situations.

    Over the next two years, we plan to complete upgrades, supplementary works or relocations in Seoul, Suva, Honiara, Phnom Penh, Nairobi, Port Moresby, Ho Chi Minh City, Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur.

    The department’s ICT activities will be driven by the need to provide improved service delivery, while at the same time improving operational efficiency and effectiveness and reducing costs. The technology used for the networks and other underlying capabilities will be examined to identify and remedy any areas which need improvement to keep abreast of rapid changes in ICT. Emerging technology will be evaluated to provide improved business tools and strengthen the alignment of ICT with business priorities.

    There are a number of factors influencing the department’s operating environment with potentially significant implications for how the department uses ICT in future. These factors include the increased use of the internet, and the opportunities and threats this entails, a greater focus on whole-of-government programs and solutions, a continued increase in the number of staff from other agencies using our ICT systems, and environmental considerations. A major challenge for the coming year will be managing the implementation of the recommendations of the Gershon Review.

    output 1.2 additional information

      2008–09 2007–08
    Number of posts and Australian Government entities with access to the secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure * 142 116
    Number of client agencies receiving ICT services ** 42 33
    Types of services:    

    Number of cables

    168 113 185 423

    • cables to posts

    80 766 83 766

    • cables from posts

    87 347 101 657

    Cables printed and distributed to other agencies

    212 126 323 594
    Number of visits to overseas missions to address protective security issues 140 125
    Number of security clearances and reviews processed 1029 846

    * Figure for 2008–09 shown as number of sites. Detailed breakdown as follows:
    DFAT-managed posts 91; Non-DFAT-managed posts 2; DFAT state and territory offices, including Thursday Island, 8; DFAT R G Casey Building 1; Passports 1; Partner agency sites 32; Parliament House 1; Electoral offices 4; Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices 2.
    ** Number of government business entities across portfolios.

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