The Department

4.2 Security Services

Table 31: Resources Summary for Sub-program 4.2

Figure 39: Security Services Program and Organisational Structure as at 30 June 1998

Sub-program Objectives

In 1997-98, the objectives of sub-program 4.2 were to:

  • maximise the protection of personnel, physical assets, official information and the premises of the Department in Australia and at all overseas missions in a cost-effective and efficient manner
  • safeguard the integrity and security of the Australian communications network, residences, offices and information against hostile or unauthorised attempts to gain access to classified or official information through a program for developing expertise, regular inspections, testing and advice
  • advise management on preventative measures and new countermeasures and technology to reduce security risks in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

Description

The Diplomatic Security and Countermeasures Branch of the Passports, Services and Security Division administers the sub-program. All Australian overseas posts contribute to the sub-program.

The sub-program pursues strategies designed to help achieve two of the Department’s corporate goals: to enhance Australia’s security; and to provide clients with highly professional, efficient and effective services. These strategies include protecting Australia’s diplomatic and consular posts and their overseas staff, and protecting classified and sensitive information the Department handles both in Australia and abroad.

Performance Information

In 1997-98, the Department indicated that it would evaluate its performance using:

  • the number of outstanding security clearances and reviews
  • completion within budget of the protective security works overseas posts require
  • completion within budget of the technical security inspection program
  • successful implementation of risk management methodology
  • a positive attitude by staff towards security
  • successful implementation of the recommendations of the sub-program security review
  • endorsement of an information technology security policy.

Performance Outcomes

The Department responded effectively to all identified threats to its security and continued to strengthen security measures both in Australia and at overseas posts. It gave priority to preventing and detecting unauthorised disclosure of information, and by seconding an Australian Federal Police agent, it improved its investigation methods. The Department’s security works and inspections schedules were completed within budget, and efficient operation of the security systems in the RG Casey Building resulted in two prosecutions for theft of government property.

An external review of departmental security affirmed the Department’s risk-based approach to security management and recommended greater staff participation in the risk management process. The Department now is considering ways to do this. The Department also applied risk management methods to achieve major cost savings for overseas office projects, including for the construction of a new chancery in Apia.

The Department provided security awareness training for all staff prior to overseas postings, holding nine courses for over 180 departmental officers; this successfully heightened staff awareness of security and provided practical advice on dealing with specific overseas situations.

The Department through its Crisis Centre facilitated the services-assisted evacuation of Australians and others during the Cambodia crisis in July. The centre also assisted posts to take appropriate action against possible chemical and biological attack in the Persian Gulf in early 1998 and managed the facilitated departure by charter of Australians and Australian permanent residents from Indonesia in May.

With reduced numbers of officers authorised to carry out personnel security clearances and fewer permanent staff being recruited to the Department, the number of new staff security cleared fell from 353 in 1996-97 to 294 in 1997-98. The need for vetting officers to concentrate on security clearances for newly-engaged contractors and local staff overseas resulted in the Department undertaking 230 fewer periodic security clearance reviews. In June, the Department outsourced the security clearance processing of contractors to the Australian Security Vetting Service, a business arm of the Attorney-General’s Department.

The Department, through its Information Management Strategic Planning Project (see also subprogram 4.1), is currently considering its information technology security policy. This review process should be concluded during the coming financial year.

Photo: Technical Officer, Robert Scott, tests the security of computer equipment. (photo: Michael Jensen)

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