Budget Review 2022–23 Index
notable budget measure concerning Defence is a significant investment in the
Australian Signals Directorate (ASD, Australia’s signals intelligence agency),
intended to expand the agency, boosting its offensive and defensive
capabilities and recognising cyber as a key warfighting domain.
Announcing a project called REDSPICE, Budget measures:
budget paper no. 2: 2022–23 states that the ‘Government will
provide $9.9 billion over 10 years to 2030–31 to the Australian Signals Directorate
(ASD) to deliver a Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber and
Enablers package (REDSPICE)’ (p.42).
Budget documents do not detail specific REDSPICE projects, which will almost
certainly be classified, they do note that this investment will double ASD’s
size by adding 1,900 new positions over the coming decade, triple ASD’s
offensive cyber capabilities and double its cyber hunt and response activities.
While it did
not use the term REDSPICE, a 22 March 2022 media release by the Minister for
Defence Peter Dutton highlighted that a new ASD facility at Majura Park in
Canberra would expand ASD’s capabilities, drawing on the expertise of
the Australian Defence Force, Australian Federal Police and other agencies.
resourcing for REDSPICE is considerable, though Budget paper no. 2
highlights that funding for this measure will be mainly offset
from funding taken from the Defence Integrated Investment Program. According to Budget paper no. 2 (p. 3),
it appears that $588.7 million of new money will be invested in REDSPICE over
the forward estimates, while an additional $3,619.9 million will be reassigned
from existing funds. As the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Marcus Hellyer
observes, ‘[o]ver 85% of ASD’s additional funding is coming out of …
Defence’s capability acquisition program’, suggesting perhaps that the
Government is reassigning existing resources to cyber rather than increasing
the overall sum of money available. At least some
of this funding has been reassigned from the cancelled purchase of an
unmanned aerial vehicle system.
In a further
expansion of Australian cyber capability, the creation of a multi-agency Cyber and Critical Technology Intelligence Centre
led by the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) was announced by Prime
Minister Scott Morrison on 28 March 2022. Perhaps due to its classified nature,
few details about this centre are currently available and there does not seem
to be any mention of it in the Budget papers, though Prime Minister Morrison
suggested it will have a broad purview. The Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio
budget statement notes that ‘ONI has no new Budget measures in the 2022–23 Budget’
(p. 283), suggesting the centre will be supported by existing funds.
The decision to
expand ASD so significantly acknowledges that cybersecurity is integral to the
defence of Australia. This includes not only defending Australia from cyberoperations
conducted by sophisticated state actors, such as those which compromised the Australian parliament in 2019,
but also from malicious activity by actors including cybercriminals seeking to extract ransoms and
issue-motivated groups, such as the Anonymous collective and terrorist groups.
offensive perspective, cyberespionage is a crucial source of information
about intelligence targets, and future conflicts will almost certainly
increasingly see offensive cyberoperations integrated into conventional
operations. Australia will be at a strategic disadvantage if it does
not remain on the cutting edge of such developments.
with any ambitious project, REDSPICE is likely to face some significant
challenges. For example, doubling ASD’s size by adding almost 2,000 employees
will likely prove difficult. As Australian Cyber Security Magazine
observed in October 2021, the Australian cybersecurity industry is constrained by a
severe shortage of workers. Indeed, a 2019 assessment by AustCyber,
a non-profit supported by Australian Government funding, stated that there
could be a shortage of 18,000 cybersecurity workers in
Australia within the decade.
ASD will therefore
be competing with private companies and other government agencies for the best
candidates. Compounding this challenge is the fact that cybersecurity positions tend to be well-remunerated,
meaning that ASD may struggle to attract the most desirable candidates who are
also likely to be courted by companies able to offer lucrative salaries. If
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s prediction that unemployment will fall and wages will rise as
a result of the 2022 Budget is correct, ASD will likely face an increasingly
competitive marketplace for talent. Similarly, retaining skilled personnel who
can parlay their training and experience into lucrative private sector work may
also be a challenge.
workforce challenge is that evidence suggests the majority of cybersecurity workers are working fully
remotely or visiting the office sporadically, and that this
workstyle coincides with record levels of job satisfaction. Due to security
considerations, ASD is unlikely to be able to offer candidates the option of
working from home, possible further challenging its ability to recruit skilled
and sought-after candidates who may value flexible working conditions.
identifies a suitably skilled candidate, that individual is required to undergo
an invasive psychological assessment and security clearance process
that may deter some potential applicants.
candidate passes the psychological assessment, the security clearance process itself
can be time consuming – William A Stoltz, a senior adviser at the Australian
National University’s National Security College, has noted that processing high-level clearances can, in some cases, take
years. And the Shadow Minister for Defence, Brendan O’Connor, has
argued that the cyber skills shortage facing defence is exacerbated by ‘the massive backlog in security clearances that the government has
allowed to develop’. The most sought-after candidates might blanche
at waiting such a long time for a clearance with no guarantee that it will be
granted, especially if they are made a lucrative offer of employment by a
private sector company in the meantime.
this funding will no doubt be welcomed by ASD as it seeks to respond to a strategic environment it has described as deteriorating,
and which is characterised by a rapidly developing technological landscape in
which cyberspace plays an increasingly important role in warfare and national
security. However, its ability to absorb this new investment and exploit it to
its fullest potential will likely be challenged by workforce constraints.
All online articles accessed April 2022
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