The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) says that its transformation into a statutory authority has left it better placed to compete with the private sector when it comes to recruiting specialist staff.
The organisation has issued its first corporate plan since it became a statutory authority on 1 July, under the leadership of its inaugural director-general, former Telstra CISO Mike Burgess.
The ASD’s transformation into a statutory authority was a major recommendation of the 2017 review of Australia’s intelligence community conducted by Professor Michael L'estrange,
The review found that ASD continuing to operate within the Department of Defence’s employment framework would increase “the risk of losing additional critical talent, skills and capabilities” — noting that ASD had “experienced a net reduction in its workforce over recent years” presenting “significant challenges” for the agency.
“Relevant legislative change should reaffirm and strengthen ASD’s priority role to provide support to military operations for the ADF. It should also explicitly endorse its position as the national information and cyber security authority, including its role in combating cyber crime and providing advice to industry on cyber security matters,” the review said.
Broadening the organisation’s mandate “recognises the increasing difficulty of delineating state and non-state actors in cyberspace as well as the need to be able to shift scarce operational cyber resources to areas of greatest need,” the review said.
The ASD says its new functions, offering cyber security advice and assistance to Australian businesses and individuals, tackling offshore “cyber-enabled” crime and protecting its own specialised tools, won’t distract it from supporting Australian Defence Force operations.
“ASD has delivered strategic advantage to the Australian Defence Force and Government for over 70 years,” defence minister Marise Payne said in a statement.
“Foreign signals intelligence, countering cyber-espionage and defending against cyber threats remain critically important for ASD.”
“At the same time, ASD’s focus will now expand to lead cyber security support and services to industry, government and the community,” the minister said. “To achieve this the Australian Cyber Security Centre now operates as part of ASD.”
The Senate in March passed the Intelligence Services Amendment (Establishment of the Australian Signals Directorate) Bill 2018, and it received Royal Assent in April.
The corporate plan, which covers the period 2018–19 to 2021–22, sets out five strategic objectives for the ASD:
• “Deliver strategic advantage for Australia by providing intelligence that protects and advances Australia’s national interest”;
• “Lead in cyber security, making Australia the safest place to connect online and foster national cyber security resilience”;
• “Support military operations, enabling the war fighter, and protecting Defence personnel and assets”;
• “Counter cyber-enabled threats, protecting Australia and Australians by countering cyber-enabled crime and disrupting terrorists’ use of the internet”;
• “Provide trusted advice and expertise, delivering timely, quality advice to Government, law enforcement, business and the community.”
The document says that as part of its recruitment push the ASD is planning to “design new career pathways and employment opportunities that better reflect the kind of work that ASD does” in order to “better recruit, retain, train and develop its specialist staff.”
“By harnessing a uniquely skilled workforce, empowered by partner agencies and innovative technology, ASD is best placed to master technology and its application,” the document says.
“This will allow ASD to efficiently deliver unique intelligence, leading cyber security advice and assistance, and effects at scale in support of military operations and in countering terrorism and offshore cyber-enabled crime.”