Defence launches new ICT, cybersecurity plans

The Department of Defence has launched a new ICT strategy that recognises the criticality of technology for warfighting capability in an increasingly networked world.

It has also used the key planning document stressed the importance of local industry post-COVID to plug vulnerabilities in Australia’s supply chain.

The strategy, released alongside a new cybersecurity strategy on Wednesday, outlines Defence’s organisation-wide vision for “mission capable ICT” amid a changing national security landscape.

The document follows last year’s inaugural data strategy, which saw the creation of a new Data Division to spearhead a plan to take a more sophisticated approach to the collection and use of data.

Image: Department of Defence

With more than $20 billion on the table for Defence ICT over the next decade, the 2022 ICT Strategy seeks to ensure Defence can harness data and use it to deliver “lethal and non-lethal effects”.

“Achieving decision superiority on the battlefield is not just about gathering more information – information must be exploited effectively,” Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlewaite said.

“Building faster and more sophisticated ICT capabilities means Defence can make better decisions by pushing the right information to the right people at the right time.”

Mr Thistlewaite, who made the announcement at the Defence Chief Information Officer Group Industry Engagement Day, said the strategy shifts focus from ICT as a corporate enabler to warfighting.

“Previous editions of the Defence ICT Strategy focused on the function of ICT as a corporate enabler. That approach is a thing of the past,” he said.

“The… strategy recognises that ICT is central to the ADF’s ability to generate warfighting effects on the modern battlefield and puts in place an action plan to achieve these capabilities.

“It will ensure Defence is able to harness the power of data and leverage it, so that our people on the ground have the best information at all times, so that their leaders have the best information to guide decision-making, and so that a connected Australian Defence Force can defend our country and its interests.”

According to the ICT strategy, Defence will increasingly seek to ensure its single information environment (SIE) allows “commanders to delivery joint force effects across warfighting domains” and share intelligence with allies securely.

Investment in “next generation wireless networks and sovereign satellite capabilities” will also ensure Defence can remain “connected to securely communicated, collaborate and co-ordinate where and when it is required”.

Defence is currently progressing a project to replace its existing satellite communications system with the Australian Defence satellite communications system (ADSS), known in military circles as JP9102, and is expected to select a supplier in the coming months.

The consolidation and rationalisation of “multiple disparate systems into standardised and connect military and enterprise capabilities” is also set to continue in a bid to reduce technical debt and improve cyber security across the organisation.

The strategy indicates “contemporary methods of processing and storing… data across all security levels” are on the table, including hybrid cloud services and edge computing. There is no mention of  in-flight work to adopt secret cloud services.

Elsewhere, Defence is hoping to have a “portfolio view of ICT… including transparency of spend”, while supply chain risks witnessed over since the pandemic will see “better collaboration with industry to uplift security resiliency and sovereign capabilities”.

“For Defence to be able to fight and win in the digital age, we need to fully integrate our ICT services and our cyber security – and to achieve that, we need the expertise of industry and academia,” Mr Thistlewaite said.

“Defence is not just a procurer of technology. It is a creator and a maker and a developer of sovereign capability.

“To do what we need, at the speed we need, at the scale we need, Defence needs to build genuine partnerships with organisations, large and small, that have the expertise and skills to innovation.”

The 2022 Cyber Security Strategy, meanwhile, will be used to shape Defence’s cyber security over the decade, with priority areas like cyber security governance, capability management, people and future ready the focus for the next three years.

Under the cyber security governance priority, Defence is planning a refresh its cyber security operating model that will see the creation of a “strengthened and empowered cyber security entity”.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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