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Key Activity 4: Sustain and secure future capability

Performance Criterion: ASD’s capability needs are met and fiscal outcomes are delivered, while managing ASD’s risk and maintaining a secure internal operating environment.

2020-21 Result: Achieved.

The development and sustainment of secure future capability is critical to enabling ASD to successfully deliver foreign signals intelligence, cyber security and offensive cyber operations. ASD measured its achievement of this performance criterion through qualitative assessment of the value of its capability and corporate services to the delivery of its mission.

Key Performance Indicator 7

ASD provides and sustains a suite of, integrated and optimised technology platforms, products and services that meet the needs of ASD’s signals intelligence, cyber security and effects missions while ensuring interoperability with partners.

ASD’s technology platforms, products and services, including software and hardware for both classified and unclassified systems continue to meet the needs of ASD and ensure interoperability with partners. ASD delivers a TOP SECRET information and communications technology (ICT) environment on behalf of the NIC and ADF users that enables improved intelligence outcomes through better data access, collaboration spaces and streamlined ICT processes.

Achievements and activities delivered during 2020–21 include:

  • providing upgrades to signal intelligence mission systems operated by ASD and selected Defence Intelligence Group systems. These upgrades are vital to ensure alignment with new technologies and prevent equipment degradation, ensuring Australia maintains its signals intelligence technical advantage.
  • meeting the capability requirements of Australian government agencies through the delivery, upgrading, and accreditation of ICT infrastructure and systems suitable for classified communications. This enables government agencies to work with classified material in a secure space.
  • improving foundational ICT services by delivering reliable, high-bandwidth internet connections, and local printing and scanning to all JCSC sites. This enables the ACSC to be timely and responsive when providing cyber security services to Government and the Australian community.
  • engaging domestic and international partners to establish and ensure best practice in the use of ICT and data technology. This helps ASD to maintain a close alignment between technology use and organisational goals and outcomes.

Case Study 6: ASD-ANU Collaboration Agreement (Co-Lab)

ASD invests in a collaborative program of activities with the Australian National University (ANU) for a joint program (known as the ‘Co-Lab’). One of the goals of this program is to facilitate the identification, nurturing, and recruitment of skilled and talented domestic students studying disciplines relevant to ASD’s workforce needs.

Co-Lab activities include participation in outreach events including high school science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities with several delivered through existing integrated learning programs at ANU; collaborative research in areas of data science, vulnerability research, cryptology and secure systems; education and professional training in support of recruitment and upskilling existing ASD staff; and foundational training that is customised for new ASD staff. A new Co-Lab website has also been released to encourage student awareness and to support media opportunities with ANU Open Day, the National Youth Science Forum, and interviews in ANU bulletins. The result is increased interest amongst domestic students in ASD employment, and increased support and interaction for Co-Lab initiatives with an expansion of program awareness into five out of seven ANU schools and colleges.

Key Performance Indicator 8

High quality corporate support required to enable mission outcomes is provided to all parts of ASD and partners (including through Defence shared services arrangements).

ASD provides high quality support to both internal work areas as well as external partners so that mission outcomes are supported. Achievements and activities delivered during 2020–21 include:

  • meeting significant onboarding and recruitment targets and implementing the 2020 Employment Determination.
  • fulfilling ASD’s fraud control and Enterprise Risk Management obligations under the PGPA Act, PGPA Rule, Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy and Framework, and the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy.
  • prioritising medium and long-term accommodation planning for ASD, both in Canberra and nationally. This will ensure that ASD staff are appropriately accommodated and provided with the infrastructure required to maximise performance.
  • delivering a governance reform program, in particular: implementing a new planning and performance framework; streamlining ASD’s enterprise committees; implementing a new policy framework as part of a broader uplift of organisational policy; maturing integrity systems including Public Interest Disclosure arrangements; streamlining and standardising Portfolio management governance; and uplifting the governance of facilities and accommodation decision-making.
  • continuing to build trust through transparency with the Australian public through strategic content release, media engagement and campaigns. The Head of the ACSC has made a number of keynote public addresses since January 2021, notably interviews with 60 Minutes, ABC Radio Network breakfast and Nine News to help educate the public and raise awareness around cyber security and risk.
  • establishing a proactive declassification program (see Case Study 7).

Case Study 7: ASD’s records declassification and public release program

ASD’s records declassification and public release program proactively releases archived holdings to the public. To date, ASD is the only Australian intelligence agency with a proactive declassification program.

Declassifying highly classified files is a rigorous process that strikes a balance between keeping the secrets needed to ensure ASD’s continuing success, and revealing those that can encourage a greater understanding of the nature of our activities. Information relating to national security capabilities, as well as sensitive personal information, is redacted from some documents during the declassification process.

The first release of records occurred on 9 February 2021. This release detailed the support provided by the Defence Signals Directorate—ASD’s predecessor organisation—to deployed operations in Vietnam between 1966 and 1971. The records included documents and photographs from the work area at 547 Signals Troop while deployed in Vietnam. Links to the National Archives of Australia records on the UKUSA Agreement and ASD’s predecessor organisation’s inclusion into this agreement were also included in the 9 February release of documents.

The records declassification and public release program will allow historians and the general public to explore ASD’s history.