Defence to invest over AU$5b in cyber and IT to rectify under-investment

The 2016 Defence White Paper has spelled out a rebalancing of the defence forces that will involve strengthening cyberwarfare capabilities and moving off Windows XP.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Cyber attacks are a real and present threat to Australia's warfighting ability, the 2016 Defence White Paper released on Thursday said, and in the response, the government has said it will strengthen Defence's cyber workforce and systems.

"We take most seriously the cyberthreat internationally, and to Australia," Defence Minister Marise Payne said when launching the white paper.

The Cyber Security Capability Improvement program will see AU$300 million to AU$400 million spent over the decade to the 2025-26 financial year, and forms part of the plan to invest around 9 percent of the Integrated Investment Program to enhance intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, space, and cyber capabilities.

In the areas of intelligence, space, and cybersecurity, 900 new positions within the Australian Defence Force will be created, as well as 800 new positions within the public service.

The government will be creating a research and development capability aimed at strengthening the ADF's military information systems against cyber attack, the white paper said.

At the same time that it is pumping up its cyber capabilities, Defence will also be upgrading its IT systems, with plans to invest AU$5 billion in a modernisation program.

"As a result of under-investment and a lack of coherent enterprise-led strategy, Defence's current ICT systems need urgent remediation," Payne said.

"I know from firsthand experience how retro some of Defence's ICT systems are. Quite retro ... much of Defence's workforce, including me, are using computers that run Windows XP.

"There are people in the room today who had not started school when that was first released. This does inhibit productivity. Our ICT systems must be more flexible and agile, to take advantage of both the rapid change to and improvements in technology."

In the investment program, Defence is slated to spend between AU$400 million and AU$500 million on its Next Generation Desktop program, AU$500 million to AU$750 million for enterprise information management, AU$1 billion to AU$2 billion on an ERP system, AU$100 million to AU$200 million on cryptographic equipment, AU$500 million to AU$750 million on its Deployed and Mobile Single Information Environment, and AU$100 million to AU$200 million on terrestrial communications.

Over AU$2 billion is set to be spent on satellite and terrestrial communications infrastructure, AU$1 billion to AU$2 billion on high-frequency communications systems, and AU$2 billion to AU$3 billion for "next-generation technologies", including quantum technologies and autonomous systems.

"New investment will establish a centralised networked supercomputer capability that will support advanced research, development, modelling, and experimentation across Defence," the investment plan said.

Defence will conduct a Centralised Processing project that will consolidate its 280 datacentres to 11 within Australia and three overseas.

"This project will address obsolescence, lack of standardisation, and the current high costs of ownership of a distributed information and communications technology environment," the paper said.

In order to improve its space surveillance, a US optical space telescope will be relocated to Australia.

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