Defence Signals Directorate

Defence Signals Directorate


 The Defence Signals Directorate is the primary defence collector of signals intelligence, and provides both intelligence and communications security to the government as a whole. It operates major signals intelligence facilities, and has a key role in overseas ADF deployments. In January 2010 DSD announced the opening of the Cyber Security Operations Centre in Canberra, to emply 130 personnel. Ian Mackenzie, former Director of DIGO, was appointed Director of the Defence Signals Directorate in May 2007, succeeding Stephen Merchant, who was promoted to the position of Deputy Secretary Intelligence and Security (DepSec I&S) in the Department of Defence. Mackenzie was still in office in January 2010 was Ian McKenzie. In 2009 an inquiry by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) yielded no evidence that DSD personnel had been involved in a covert investigation of the Minister of Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, in a sequence of events that ultimately lead to his resignation.

Government sources

Defence Signals Directorate (DSD)

“DSD is Australia’s national authority for signals intelligence and information security. DSD has two principal functions: one is to collect and disseminate foreign signals intelligence (known as Sigint); the other is to provide Information Security (Infosec) products and services to the Australian Government and its Defence Force.”

Defence Signals Directorate, Resourcing and effectiveness of the agencies, Chapter 7, Report of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies (Flood Report), Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 22 July 2004.

The Defence Signals Directorate is Australia’s signals intelligence agency. Situated within the Intelligence and Security Group of the Department of Defence, DSD provides both a vital Defence and national-level capability through the interception and reporting of foreign communications. Signals intelligence has special intelligence value. It conveys directly the views of the target, in contrast to the second-hand accounts usually provided in humint reporting or the expressions of view or position in public statements or diplomatic exchanges. Supported by sophisticated technology and large elements of automated processing, sigint is also often the timeliest source of information for analysts and decision-makers. The national-level intelligence provided by DSD is important, and is becoming increasingly so as part of the government’s overall response to global terrorism. But it is the key role played by sigint during war and other military operations that is the principal driver for the significant government investment in DSD – it has the largest budget and number of staff within the intelligence community.

DSD’s current activities have their origins in the development of Australian military sigint capabilities during World War II. Following the war, Australia joined with Britain in the Commonwealth Far East sigint organisation with a headquarters in Melbourne. The Defence Signals Bureau was established in 1947, as part of the Department of Defence, with responsibility for maintaining a national sigint capability in peacetime. DSD’s functions were subsequently defined by legislation with the enactment of the Intelligence Services Act 2001. DSD’s foreign partnerships, dating back to its wartime origins, have been a central factor in its development. Today these intelligence alliances remain strong, dynamic, and of immense value to Australia.

DSD is the largest of Australia’s intelligence agencies, both in terms of its annual budget and personnel numbers. Resources available to DSD have increased by around 60 per cent since 2000-01. Resourcing is provided for DSD’s operations through two mechanisms – through the Defence budget and supplementation through government-wide budgetary processes. While the former accounts for the bulk of DSD funding, it has received additional funding from government over recent years, including for counter-terrorism. An increasingly large component of DSD’s budget is allocated to its capital expenditure programme. DSD currently has four major projects which, in some cases, involve capital expenditure extending out over more than a decade. Together these projects will ensure access to required communications and the capacity to process the resultant intercept. These are supplemented by a large number of minor capital projects, typically targeted against specific challenges.

DSD is an impressive agency that provides a first-class sigint capability and represents a major national security asset for Australia. Its response to regional counter-terrorism has been excellent, and its support for Australian Defence Force operations highly valued. It is producing high-quality product with strong customer satisfaction levels. Its management and planning processes are effective and forward looking, and its investment programme well tailored to the technical challenges facing the organisation.

Cyber Security Operations Centre

Cyber security operations centre officially opened, Media Release, John Faulkner, Minister for Defence, MIN1/10, 15 January 2010

“The establishment of the Cyber Security Operations Centre within the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) is a major step in meeting the Government’s 2009 Defence White Paper commitment to provide comprehensive understanding of the cyber threat,” Senator Faulkner said. “Cyber security is one of the Government’s top national security priorities and the Cyber Security Operations Centre is a key part of a national cyber security initiative set by Government. Cyber attacks on Government and critical infrastructure constitute a real threat to Australia’s national interest.”

The Cyber Security Operations Centre will have at its disposal the DSD’s high powered computing resources and advanced analytic techniques. “The Cyber Security Operations Centre will employ around 130 highly-skilled information technology experts, engineers and analysts drawn from the DSD. There will also be representatives from the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the ADF and scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation as well as representation from the Attorney-General’s Department, ASIO and the AFP,” Senator Faulkner said.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS)

Annual Reports

Report of the igis inquiry into the alleged improper investigation of the Minister for Defence by the Defence Signals Directorate, Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), Annual Report 2008-2009, Appendix 5.

Parliamentary committees

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security

Australian parliamentary committee with limited powers of oversight over the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence service, and the Defence Signals Directorate, providing annual reports and reports on matters referred to it by the government.

Government inquiries

Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD, Inquiry into Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, Commonwealth of Australia, 2004.

Report of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies (Flood Report), Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 22 July 2004.

Commentary and analysis

The Ties that Bind – Intelligence Cooperation between the UKUSA Countries, Desmond Ball & Jeffrey Richelson, Allen & Unwin, 1985

A Suitable Piece of Real Estate, Desmond Ball, Hale & Iremonger 1980

Cyber Security Operations Centre operational but details lacking, Trevor Clarke, ComputerWorld, 2009-11-23

Australia and Cyber-warfare, Gary Waters, Desmond Ball and Ian Dudgeon, Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 168, July 2008

See also

Updated: 17 January 2010