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Annual Report 1999-2000Annual Report 1999-2000 home page

ContentsContents > Overviews > Outcome 1: National Interests > Outcome 2: Consular & Passports > Outcome 3: Public Diplomacy > Management > Financial Statements > Appendixes > Glossaries

YOU ARE CURRENTLY AT: Outcome 1 > Output 1.3 > Effectiveness

OUTCOME 1: Australia's national interests protected and advanced through contributions to international security, national economic and trade performance and global cooperation

Output 1.3:
Secure government communications and security of overseas missions


  • The department’s Information Technology and Information Management Strategy implemented to ensure timely and secure access to information by Australian and overseas-based officers.
  • Steps taken to ensure the department’s communications systems and overseas security responsibilities are Y2K-compliant to prevent disruption of critical services; contingency planning undertaken, and where necessary implemented, to address unforeseen problems quickly and effectively.
  • Risk-based contingency plans for overseas missions maintained; advice and funding for essential physical security measures consistent with threat assessment levels provided.


The department manages the Government’s international diplomatic communications network on behalf of the department and 13 other government agencies. This network, which links Australia and Australian posts overseas, is used to transmit classified and other official information. We are also responsible for ensuring that Australia’s overseas missions are secure against physical threat and attempts to compromise the security of information held in them.

Carrying out these responsibilities was made more challenging this year by increased instability and higher levels of threat.

Despite the crises in East Timor, Fiji and Solomon Islands, we were able to maintain secure government communications services even when local telecommunications systems were inoperative or under threat. We responded quickly to heightened threat levels in the wake of the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) deployment, and upgraded security at Australian missions in Jakarta, Bali and Dili.

The Y2K changeover was a particular challenge for the department because of the critical need to keep the Government’s global communications and security systems and the network of overseas missions fully functional and able to respond quickly to any threat to Australians or Australian interests overseas. All systems were Y2K compliant in time for the changeover, and contingency plans were in place to deal with any emergency.

We deployed a new secure communications system in Canberra that will underpin the government’s global diplomatic communications network in the coming decade. The system will reduce support costs, provide increased flexibility and allow changes in technology to be exploited as they occur. It complements the introduction of leading-edge software to support corporate information systems. The complexity of our information technology (IT) systems and a widely distributed overseas network posed integration issues that initially led to some degradation of service. Effective partnerships with private sector specialists played a major part in resolving these difficulties.

The department is contributing to the Government’s IT Outsourcing Initiative by consolidating our IT infrastructure with that of AusAID and Austrade. In addition, we have taken further steps to outsource, on a selective basis, those elements of the infrastructure where there is a business case to do so.

We have privileged access to a wide range of sensitive and classified material and a responsibility to embrace higher standards of security. A number of initiatives ensured our practices remained the best possible, including:

Dr Calvert and Mr Denis Johnston

Dr Calvert presses the return button to shut down the IBM mainframe computer that has, since 1979, been the backbone of the global communication network while Mr Denis Johnston, Manager, Mainframe Operations, observes. It was replaced by more modern technology that improved the supportability and long-term reliability of the system. Photo by Michael Jensen.

Information management and secure communications

Within the context of the department’s Information Technology and Information Management Strategy, we have developed a new secure communications system called SATIN (Secure Australian Telecommunications and Information Network). The deployment of this system in Canberra was completed in June 2000, on time and within budget. SATIN replaces ADCNET in Canberra, a proprietary system introduced into the department in 1993. ADCNET is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to support. We plan to introduce SATIN to overseas posts progressively and are currently examining associated funding issues.

Unlike its predecessor, SATIN in Canberra is based on commercially available software and standard hardware systems. It allows significant rationalisation and standardisation of hardware and software across the department, which, in turn, will lead to efficiencies in terms of support costs and productivity gains. A particular feature of SATIN is that it allows access from a single desktop unit to both the secure system and its in-confidence corporate system counterpart.

The introduction of SATIN in Canberra complemented a significant upgrade of a separate communications network (the Non-National Secure system) that is used as the main corporate and business system. The upgraded system uses leading-edge software as a platform for key personnel and financial applications. The integration of this software with our complex systems posed a major challenge for the department and the private sector partners working on the project.

Handling Y2K

All of the department’s communications and security systems were compliant in time for the Y2K date changeover, after the completion of an extensive three-year program of assessment and remediation. To coordinate the department’s Y2K effort, we established a Y2K Taskforce, which worked continuously with the Office of Government Online, posts and State and Territory offices to ensure that all communications and office systems, and utilities such as power and water, were compliant and that contingency plans were in place. In the Y2K changeover period before and after New Year’s Day, staff were on 24-hour duty to ensure any contingencies were met promptly. All critical systems remained operational.

Extensive contingency plans to guarantee communications with overseas posts included the deployment and installation of INMARSAT satellite communications at all posts to meet emergency voice and data communication requirements in the event of any Y2K-related failures in the post or local infrastructure. We developed a modified SATIN system to provide Y2K-compliant secure communications with remote posts.

For further information on the department’s handling of Y2K issues, see also sub-output 2.1.1, page 144).

sSecurity of overseas missions

Contingency planning

All overseas posts maintained and updated contingency plans that detail the action that needs to be taken in emergency situations. Updates this year placed greater emphasis on consular assistance to Australians caught up in overseas crises.

Departmental staff visited several locations to review local arrangements and ensure planning was appropriately focused. As a result, contingency plans in these locations were streamlined to place more emphasis on probable scenarios rather than attempting to cover every conceivable emergency. A wide-ranging review of post contingency planning began in 1999–2000. This will look at introducing more structured plans using a standard format and providing for more focused local crisis-specific information.

Physical security

During the year, we continuously updated threat assessments to ensure that we targeted advice and funding appropriately to overseas missions.

We spent $9.147 million on physical security measures at overseas posts. This included an amount of $2.70 million for physical security upgrades in Jakarta, Bali and Dili in response to the heightened threat levels in these locations around the time of the INTERFET deployment in East Timor. We responded quickly to deteriorating security conditions by carrying out a program of security works, including enhancing the bullet-resistant capacity of office windows, strengthening perimeter fences, and improving lighting and closed-circuit TV coverage in Jakarta.

We completed security inspections at 26 posts, including at new chancery premises in Berlin, Warsaw, Harare, Apia, Guangzhou and Abu Dhabi. These inspections help posts meet departmental security standards and ensure that security countermeasures are consistent with threat levels. We provided technical security support for seven overseas visits by the Prime Minister. Installation of specialised intruder detection alarm systems improved security monitoring at seven posts.

Security awareness and practice

The department took a number of initiatives in Australia and at overseas missions to maintain high standards of security awareness and practice.

Staff training

We revised the compulsory training course for staff going on posting overseas to reflect, among other things, new IT security developments. A total of 192 staff from the department and 70 from attached agencies attended the course. Participant feedback revealed a high degree of satisfaction.

We conducted regular security awareness courses. The courses are available to all staff in Australia, including staff from AusAID and Austrade. A total of 245 staff in Australia attended this year. All posts receive the course materials to help them provide regular security awareness briefings for Australian-based staff and security-cleared locally engaged employees.

Work-area inspections

Regular after-hours inspections of work areas prevent possible compromise of classified and otherwise sensitive material by ensuring staff always properly secure such material. Following a campaign to intensify awareness, we achieved a 58 per cent reduction in breaches and infringements compared to last year.

Security clearances

The department processed 259 initial security clearances. Departmental policy is that security clearances must be reviewed after five years. The department intensified our efforts to increase the rate of clearance reviews following a pause in the previous year while the department re-examined the process. We completed 554 reviews.

IT and security

To keep security practices current with technological advances and communications systems, consistent with security guidelines and standards, the department:

  • introduced more rigorous electronic audit and investigative capacity in computer systems;
  • instituted a formal security accreditation process at senior management level to consider proposed communications system changes;
  • continued to consult closely with other Government IT security authorities, in particular the Defence Signals Directorate;.
  • appointed a specialist IT Security Policy Adviser, operating at arm’s length from IT line management, in line with recommendations by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). The adviser provides a dedicated focus on security issues arising from IT developments, including effectiveness of safeguards to meet cyber threats, such as hacking; and
  • conducted IT security inspections at two large posts to ensure compliance with departmental instructions and to provide advice on measures to reduce emerging risks.

YOU ARE CURRENTLY AT: Outcome 1 > Output 1.3 > Effectiveness

Annual Report 1999-2000Annual Report 1999-2000 home page

ContentsContents > Overviews > Outcome 1: National Interests > Outcome 2: Consular & Passports > Outcome 3: Public Diplomacy > Management > Financial Statements > Appendixes > Glossaries


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