A near-$10 billion, decade-long investment in Australia’s spy agency which will see it double in size and its cyber capabilities triple is a “game-changer” and a “significant opportunity” for the local industry, the Treasurer says.
Announced in the federal budget on Tuesday, the government has pledged $9.9 billion over the next 10 years to 2030-31 to the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) for the Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber and Enables (REDSPICE) package.
This will see the ASD double with 1900 new personnel, while its offensive cyber capabilities will triple in size.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg touted this as the “biggest ever investment in Australia’s cyber preparedness”.
“It is in recognition of the threats that Australia faces. It’s not the first time we’ve funded this and it won’t be the last. This is a game-changer. It takes it to the next level,” Mr Frydenberg told the media inside the budget lockup in Canberra.
“We need to ensure we have the best technology to keep us safe.”
The investment will equip the spy agency with capabilities to defend Australia in the “changing strategic environment” and help to “anticipate and deter a crisis and deliver asymmetric capabilities”, the budget papers said.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said it will help Australia’s spy agency keep pace with global conflicts.
“REDSPICE will substantially increase ASD offensive cyber capabilities, its ability to detect and respond to cyber attacks, and introduce new intelligence capabilities,” Mr Dutton said.
“REDSPICE ensures Australia keeps pace with the rapid growth of cyber capabilities of potential adversaries. It provides new intelligence capabilities, new cyber defences to protect our most critical systesm, and is a real increase in the potency of ASD’s ability to strike back in cyberspace.”
The federal government is planning to allocate $680 million to the ASD in 2022-23, then $1.2 billion each in the next two years, with the rest allocated across the forward estimates.
Some of this cash will be taken from the Defence Integrated Investment Program.
The near-$10 billion cyber investment will create significant opportunities for local industry, the budget papers said.
“REDSPICE will offer significant opportunities for Australian industry and support new employment pathways through partnerships with educational institutions, particularly in the areas of data science and analysis, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and ICT engineering,” the budget papers said.
Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie said it is a “critical investment in our digital sovereignty”.
“There are growing cyber threats and we are acting to secure our nation. This will create highly skilled jobs, and will equip the next generation of Australians to defend our critical infrastructure,” Mr Hastie said.
“The Morrison government’s investment in the ASD will allow our cyber operators to punch back at our adversaries and protect Australia and our interests online.”
Mr Dutton cited the conflict in Ukraine as evidence of the need for the improved cyber defence capabilities.
“This investment in ASD recognises the deterioriating strategic circumstances in our region, characterised by rapid military expansion, growing coercive behaviour and increased cyber attacks,” he said.
“It acknowledges the nature of conflict has changed, with cyber-attacks now commonly preceding other forms of military intervention – most recently demonstrated by offensive cyber activity against Ukraine.”
The Coalition also plans to provide $151.6 million over five years to the Department of Defence for existing programs focusing on defence industry.
This includes $84.7 million for the Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority Grants Program and $20.3 million for the Skilling Australia’s Defence Industry Grant Program.
“These programs will enable Australian small and medium-sized businesses to supply critical industrial capabilities to Defence, and provide training and skilling opportunities for defence industry,” the budget papers said.
The funding for these measures will come from existing resources from the Department.
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