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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

OUTCOME 3: A secure Australian Government presence overseas through the provision of security services and information and communications technology infrastructure, and the management of the Commonwealth’s overseas owned estate

Program 3.1: Other departmental (security and IT)

Program 3.1 Objective

  • To ensure a secure Australian Government presence overseas by sustaining and improving security, and strengthening information and communications technology (ICT) capability at Australia’s overseas missions.

Program 3.1 Deliverables

  • Enhance security measures at a number of priority overseas posts in line with the evolving security environment.
  • Classified information safeguarded through effective management of ICT systems and security vetting processes, as well as through security training to staff to ensure a high level of security awareness and vigilance.
  • Continued implementation of the department’s ICT Asset Refresh Program to 2010–11, which will lay the foundation for the progressive upgrade of the department’s ICT network infrastructure.
  • Implementation of the agreed recommendations of the independent Review of the Australian Government’s Use of ICT—the Gershon Review—including strengthened ICT capability through the recruitment of skilled ICT professionals and implementation of ICT training and development programs.
  • High-quality overseas ICT services to other government agencies.

Program 3.1 Key performance indicators

  • Security risks relating to safeguarded classified information are minimised to the extent possible, as evidenced by a low number of sensitive security breaches.
  • Effective risk mitigation strategies in response to heightened security risks.
  • Client satisfaction with the accessibility, reliability and effectiveness of the secure cable network (Official Diplomatic Information Network—ODIN) and the secure telecommunications infrastructure.

Program 3.1 Other departmental (security and IT)


The department intensified its overseas protective security activity during the year in light of developments in the international security environment, particularly the terrorist bombings in Jakarta on 17 July 2009. We put in place a consolidated threat-rating reporting system, combining foreign intelligence service (FIS) ratings with threat ratings for politically motivated violence, crime and civil disorder for all DFAT posts. Contingency and incident-response planning continued in cooperation with relevant agencies for all posts and in particular for posts in high-threat security environments, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

The year saw continued growth in demand for DFAT ICT services. We provided global ICT systems services to some 6700 users on our in-confidence network (Satin Low) and to 4800 users on our secret network (Satin High). Of these two groups, 3000 users access both systems. We introduced a new remote log-in solution. The new solution is used by Ministerial staff and other staff who have regional responsibilities. This compliments the pandemic solution developed in 2008–09. We also finalised the implementation of the key findings of the Gershon review and completed the three-year ICT Assets-Refresh Project at overseas posts.

Managing security of overseas missions

The department maintained its program of security inspections to ensure physical, operational, technical, and information and communications technology (ICT) security measures matched security threats to chanceries and residences. We put in place significant new security measures at a range of posts, and relocated or refurbished five chanceries (Abu Dhabi, Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Kabul). Through our training programs, we continued to give priority to ensuring a high level of security awareness and practice among staff in Canberra and overseas.

We advised agencies on international security threats and countermeasures, including through the maintenance of appropriate guidelines and standards. These covered the development of personnel security, protective physical, technical and operational security, and the formulation of ICT security policy both within Australia and overseas.

Effective risk mitigation

The department sustained efforts to improve security at all posts, but also directed greater focus and resources to the security needs of three high-risk posts (Baghdad, Kabul and Islamabad) and nine security-critical posts (Abuja, Bali, Beirut, Colombo, Dili, Harare, Jakarta, Nairobi and Riyadh). In support of Australia’s expanding relations with Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, we established a new work unit specialising in high-threat environments, to provide an increased level of security advice and strategic support.

New and enhanced security measures were implemented in Kabul, including physical-security development and the commencement of the fit-out of new embassy headquarters and accommodation for staff. An accelerated security-measures package was delivered in Islamabad, including the installation of anti-ram perimeter walls at the chancery. Work continued with the Department of Defence on the shape and scope of the transition to a civilian-led security operation in Baghdad. Security fit-out works were completed for posts in the Holy See, Nicosia, Stockholm and Suva, while security planning and design work continued on the development of a new chancery for Jakarta. We improved security at other posts by enhancing guarding arrangements, installing additional walk-through metal detectors, increasing the number of armoured vehicles and upgrading building exteriors, perimeter fences and barriers. We also improved operational systems, such as access control and CCTV monitoring.

Safeguarding classified information

In June 2010, the department completed the installation of a new internet gateway. This will further enhance security and provide greater ease of access for the department’s remote working capability, which was developed in 2009.

ICT capability building

Photo - See caption below for description
Washington-based Local Area Network Administrator Mr Edward Yardley assisting with the deployment of the REACH (Remote Emergency Auxiliary Communications Hub) Satellite Antenna at the Ambassador’s residence during the
REACH/Business Continuity Plan trial in Washington in February 2010.

During 2009–10, Satin High use increased by 60 per cent among other government agencies in Australia, reflecting the increasing whole-of-government interest in the system. Partner agencies at 35 other sites now access Satin High on 597 terminals. The growth of Satin High, Satin Low and complementary web browser-based access systems accounts also increased significantly in 2010 among non-DFAT users. We are currently commissioning additional high-capacity servers to prevent delays in the system and to provide additional capacity for expansion.

In June 2010, we completed the three-year ICT Asset-Refresh program for overseas posts, on schedule and under budget. This provides enhanced communications to missions, and ensures continuity of reliable communications in high-risk environments. We implemented the legal Knowledge and Matter Management System project, which now provides the department’s legal branches with a flexible and user-friendly information and case management system.

Replacing emergency radio networks at 13 posts helped enhance staff security. Uninterrupted power supply upgrades at 16 overseas locations further improved business continuity capabilities.

We carried out an initial assessment of our ICT project management capability, and drafted our capability improvement plan, in line with Australian Government Information Management Office guidelines.

Availability and reliability of communications

During the reporting period, diverse links and back-up satellite facilities enabled us to maintain communications during crises, natural disasters and equipment failures.

Security clearances

All staff who handle classified information must have an appropriate level of security clearance. During the reporting period, the department granted 313 security clearances to new staff; recognised 92 clearances for personnel transferring from other agencies; renewed the security clearances of 232 existing staff; and completed 185 other security-related procedures, including police checks, reactivations and upgrades. In addition, our overseas posts processed 27 initial clearances and renewals for existing staff. In consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department, we developed procedures to allow the immediate employment of personnel holding Top Secret (Positive Vet) clearances issued by other agencies.

All but two active departmental employees had current security clearances as at 30 June 2010. We continued to align our personnel security practices with the Government’s Protective Security Policy Framework. We maintained a high level of security awareness and vigilance among staff, including through a briefing program for all officers travelling overseas, staff security training and advice, and a rigorous clear desk policy and security breach reporting system.

Security training

To ensure a high level of security awareness and practice among staff in Canberra and overseas, we provided security awareness and related training to 790 DFAT and other government agencies office staff, anti-carjacking training to 80 staff at posts in Africa and armoured vehicle training to 47 drivers at various locations around the world.

We review our courses regularly to ensure they remain relevant to, and consistent with, the changing overseas security environment. Officers within the Diplomatic Security Branch sharpened their skills by attending a range of professional courses and conferences. Specialist recruitment rounds ensured we continued to employ professional security experts to enhance our capacity to deliver targeted and effective security programs.

Government ICT review outcomes

The department successfully implemented key elements of the Government’s ICT Reform Program, which incorporates the outcomes of the Gershon Review. These included converting ICT contract staff to permanent APS positions, and reducing costs in line with agreed savings targets. We secured funding of $3.4 million from the ICT Reinvestment Fund, to cover the migration of a number of legacy software applications to our standardised development platform. We also began planning to replace the global communications network, in the light of whole-of-government and national security policy and operational considerations.

ICT training and development

To ensure we have the necessary skills to provide and maintain support services to posts and partner agencies in future years, we:

  • continued to convert ICT contract positions to APS staff to ensure better staff retention rates, in line with the Gershon Review recommendations
  • provided tailored on-the-job and technical college training through the Technical Officer Development Program. Selected staff complete a two-year program designed to broaden and improve their skills and prepare them for posting as a Regional Technical Officer (RTO). The RTOs deliver critical, on-the-spot service for our communications network at posts
  • planned to create a number of apprenticeships in the coming year to attract and train entry level ICT officers in line with the whole-of-government Strategic Workforce Plan.

ICT client services

We implemented a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a new ICT services framework in 2009–10. This is based on industry best practice, and we have reached agreement with 34 partner agencies that need to use our ICT services.

After tender, we appointed a new ICT Service Desk provider and the transition of services progressed smoothly. A program began in 2010 to transform the role of the Global Support Centre to a single point of contact for all ICT services, including voice support, equipment loan services, desktop refresh and audit services. This will continue in 2011. As at 30 June 2010, the ICT service desk had received 121 450 contacts, including service requests and follow-up telephone calls and emails.

Our Client Services Section managed the successful implementation of a number of partner-agency programs in 2010. These included the refresh of 125 Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) desktops at post, the transition of DIAC to a new inbound voice solution at post and the installation of 55 Satin High terminals at the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. We also coordinated the migration of Australian Education International users to Satin services at post.


In protecting government officials serving overseas and Commonwealth assets, the department will sustain efforts to focus on new and improved security activities. This will be underpinned by the thorough assessment of international security threats; the preparation of appropriate risk mitigation strategies; the establishment of reliable and workable minimum security standards and guidelines; and the research, promotion, and testing of security products and technical specifications and performance criteria. We will implement further specialist training to ensure staff serving in high-threat environments are as well-equipped as possible to carry out the Government’s expanding role in these locations.

We will aim to provide enhanced service, while also improving operational efficiency and reducing costs. We will closely scrutinise the technology used for the networks and other underlying capabilities 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. We will initiate the ICT Capability Improvement Plan, in order to improve our capability to commission, manage and realise benefits from our ICT-enabled business change initiatives.

We will work to provide enhanced secure phone capability, extended secure video conferencing and enhanced data storage capacity. Our ICT operating environment will be influenced by the increasing use of the internet, a greater focus on whole-of-government programs and solutions, a continuing increase in the number of staff from other agencies using our ICT systems and environmental considerations.

PROGRAM 3.1 ADDITIONAL information

Number of posts and Australian Government entities
with access to the secure communications network
and secure telecommunications infrastructure
* 145
* 142
Number of client agencies receiving ICT services
** 42
** 42
Number of cables
166 580
168 113
185 423
cables to overseas posts
83 221
80 766
83 766
cables from overseas posts
83 359
87 347
101 657
Number of visits to overseas missions to address protective security issues
Number of security clearances and reviews processed

* Quantity 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; 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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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade