Speech: Address to the Defence Chief Information Officer Group (CIOG) Industry Engagement Day

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31 August 2022

Acknowledgements omitted.

Today I am proud to launch both the 2022 Defence Information and Communications Technology Strategy and the Defence Cyber Security Strategy.

The Defence Information and Communications Technology Strategy sets out Defence’s vision for delivering mission-capable information ICT.

The Defence Cyber Security Strategy outlines how Defence is working to enhance cyber security across its entire ICT ecosystem – including by working more closely with industry partners.

We are releasing the two strategies together because cyber security and ICT capability go hand-in-hand.

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 and experience of industry and academia.

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 innovate.

Simply adopting the newest technologies alone will not deliver a capability edge.

Instead, we need to evolve the environment in which technology operates, harden its protection, and at the same time, maximise how we manage our people, processes and systems within it.

That is what these strategies are designed to do.

Friends, this distinguished audience well understands that Australia is facing its toughest strategic environment in over 75 years.

Within our Indo-Pacific region, uncertainty is growing.

China’s military build-up is now the largest and most ambitious we have seen by any country since the end of the Second World War.

Australia’s military capability edge is under challenge.

And grey-zone coercion is blurring the line between peace and conflict.

The implications are clear.

We no can longer assume ten years of strategic warning time for major conflict. 

So our approach to readiness must change.

We need to think harder about the security of our strategic geography.

So our military planning must clearly prioritise Australia’s immediate region.

We need new long-range strike and area denial weapons towards deterrent effects. 

And we need new options to counter grey-zone coercion. 

So we must accelerate building a more potent and diversified ADF ready for this decade.

While Labor strongly supported the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, we have deep reservations about the former Government’s force structure plan.

That’s why the Prime Minister has acted decisively and initiated the Defence Strategic Review.

This review will be independent, akin to Paul Dibb’s seminal 1980s work. 

Professor Stephen Smith and Sir Angus Houston have been tasked to critically assess our force structure, force posture and preparedness, as well as prioritisation in the Integrated Investment Program.

These security challenges include cyber threats.

While the use of information in warfare is as old as warfare itself, cyberspace has made it easier, faster and more effective for information warfare threats to operate on a large scale.

As cyberspace is challenging our concepts of how we will fight in any future conflict, the ADF must remain competitive in the information environment.

This will be an important element of the Review’s considerations and recommendations.

The upshot is that both the Defence ICT and Cyber Security Strategies will be responsive to, and informed by, the outcomes of the Review.

This will ensure that as the Strategies are implemented, they remain relevant and responsive as the future shape of Defence is decided.

Engagement with a wide range of stakeholders is taking place as part of the Review, and interested parties are invited to make submissions regarding the Review for consideration by the Independent Leads.

I encourage you to take a look at the Terms of Reference on the Defence website and consider making an online submission.

They will report next March.

Difficult choices will ensue, but new opportunities will open.

So, friends, let me assure you: the Albanese Labor Government is committed to a generational reinvestment in the capability, structure and size of the ADF. 

We won’t dither for a decade.

We’ll move much faster than the former government.

We’ll make the tough decisions.

And we’re not wasting a moment in making up for lost time.

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.

The 2022 Defence ICT 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.

Technology connects Defence personnel, platforms and systems across an integrated Joint Force.

Achieving decision superiority on the battlefield is not just about gathering more information – information must be exploited effectively.

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.

The Strategy focuses on the nuts and bolts of what Defence needs to do to achieve its goals, but recognises that this can only be done through the strength of our partnerships across academia, industry and our allies.

Last month, I visited RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland.

I met the hardworking base personnel and had a close look at the F/A-18F Super Hornet multirole fighter – a potent, and tangible, example of Australia’s air power.

And I saw the Airpower Teaming System – known as the MQ-28A Ghost Bat – the first military aircraft to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.

Behind these capabilities are sophisticated information and communication technologies that are built to evolve and adapt.

In previous generations, we viewed aircraft like these as the end of a process.

Applauding as they rolled off the assembly line.

In today’s world, they are part of a process that must continue to evolve, to stay one step ahead of threats that are evolving as well.

It is a tangible example of how Defence must engage in continual transformation in response to rapidly changing and disruptive technology. 

We recognise the vital importance of Defence’s ICT systems – and so do Australia’s adversaries.

That’s why ensuring the cyber security of all Defence capabilities is paramount.

Cyber security is a vital element of our national security, and it is a priority for the Government.

We have pledged to work on enhancing cyber resilience across the whole nation,  including through the development of a new national cyber security strategy.

And this really is a whole-of-nation endeavour.

For the first time, Australia has a Cabinet Minister with standalone responsibility for cyber security – Clare O’Neil.

With a new Government comes a fresh approach.

Tackling the complex cyber challenges we face as a nation will require greater collaboration.

We seek to work in close partnership with you, and the organisations you represent, to develop dynamic and responsive solutions that make our networks more secure.

I recently met His Excellency Vasyl Myroshnychenko, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia.

He briefed me on the terrible suffering of the people of Ukraine who are fighting to defend their homeland , and on Russia’s poisonous use of malware and cyber attacks.

It was a harrowing conversation, and a reminder of the critical importance for all Australian organisations – including everyone here today - to urgently adopt an enhanced cyber security posture, a position reinforced by the Australian Signals Directorate’s Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC).

And it underscores the vital importance of the Defence Cyber Security Strategy I’m launching today.

The Strategy details how Defence will strengthen cyber security partnerships between the Government, industry, academia and our international partners.

It details how Defence will combat cyber threats and ensure its capabilities are secure against attacks from adversaries.

This will require a concerted and coordinated effort across the entire Defence ecosystem, from Australian Defence Force and Australian Public Service personnel to Defence’s industry partners and those in our supply chain.

I know – and the leaders of Defence know – that the skills of everyone here today are in unprecedented demand across the economy.

When you choose to work with Defence you are choosing to help keep Australians safe and our nation secure, and I want to thank you for making that choice and contributing your skills, expertise and professionalism to this vital task.

The world is amidst a technological revolution of even greater significance than past industrial revolutions.

This revolution offers great opportunities for Australians, who are natural innovators, to develop the technologies that will transform the way we live, work and play.

But it is also generating threats to our national security and way of life.

Defence’s role will always be to defend our national interest, and the two strategies I am launching today will help to ensure that the organisation can do so, while at the same time developing our sovereign capability.

ENDS

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