The $10b REDSPICE cyber showstopper: Labor has questions

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The federal government has questions to answer about its record $9.9 billion investment in the Australian spy agency’s cyber capabilities, including where the additional highly skilled workforce will come from, according to the Opposition.

The federal budget, handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night, included the “biggest ever investment in Australia’s cyber preparedness”, with $9.9 billion pledged to the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) over the next decade.

The project has been dubbed Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber and Enables (REDSPICE).

It means the spy agency will double in size with 1900 new staff members, and will ‘triple’ its cyber offensive capability.

In a joint statement, shadow Defence minister Brendan O’Connor and shadow assistant minister for cyber security Tim Watts said that Labor welcomes the funding boost for ASD’s cyber capabilities, but said there are several questions posed by the announcement.

Tim Watts

These centre on how the ASD will actually find 1900 new cyber workers over the next 10 years.

“Despite the flashy announcement, there are many questions the government needs to answer about how it intends to deliver REDSPICE,” the shadow ministers said.

“The cybersecurity sector already faces a massive skills shortage after years of neglect under the Morrison-Joyce government. The government needs to outline where it will find the 1900 extra cyber professionals it plans to recruit to ASD from an already heavily contested talent pool.”

The Opposition also pointed to delays in ASD workers receiving security clearances.

“This skills shortage is compounded by the massive backlog in security clearances that the government has allowed to develop, leaving many recruits waiting more than a year before they can begin roles,” they said. “REDSPICE would significantly increase the pressures on this already clogged process.”

A portion of the funding for the cyber expansion will come from the existing Defence budget. Of the $4.2 billion allocated across the next four years, $588.7 million of this is new money.

“The Morrison-Joyce government needs to explain what Defence cuts it has planned,” the Labor Shadow Ministers said.

“As Australians know from this government’s bungling of its submarine acquisitions, announcements alone don’t fill capability gaps. Given the rapidly escalating cyber threats facing the nation, Australians can’t afford for REDSPICE to become the latest major defence capability project that never makes it from announcement to delivery.”

Mr Frydenberg labelled the ASD funding boost as a “game-changer” and one that will come with a “significant opportunity” for the local industry.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

  1. Herman Melville 2 years ago

    Soooo, our strategy basically boils down to “more cowbell”. More offensive cyber, more redundancy/resilience, and more cyber staff. Oh yeah – and we’re gonna put stuff in the cloud.

    If we weren’t planning all that already, we’re in serious trouble. But either way, it reads like the set of obvious responses to the strategic environment which it is. Try as I might, the fancy acronym doesn’t convince me it’s actually a strategy, as such. Hopefully REDSPICE is a framework for actual change, and not what it looks like at first glance: yet another rebrand designed to mask the lack of any actual innovation

  2. Digital Koolaid 2 years ago

    Guys, giving loads more cash (nearly $10 BILLION) to your favorite Big-4 consultancy to write you another cyber “strategy” isn’t an investment. I’m wondering if the planet is big enough to hold yet another “strategy”. Is there room? But the super beautiful, perfect, unbelievably nice thing is – it’s all 100% secret. You will never ever know where one cent went, because you could be one of the baddies. Do you think Labor will fill up the pockets of the Big-4 just like the LNP?

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