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Global shifts

Australia’s security and prosperity rely on a secure, stable, prosperous, rules-based region. As communicated in the Defence Strategic Update 2020, our region is in the midst of the most consequential strategic realignment since the Second World War. The Indo-Pacific is at the centre of a greater strategic competition, making the region more contested and apprehensive: military modernisation has accelerated faster than expected, major power competition has intensified, and the conduct of ‘grey zone’ activities has expanded. 

ASD’s capabilities provide the Australian Government with intelligence, covert effects and cyber security expertise that deliver strategic advantage, policy and advice that protects national security and sovereignty, and practical support that informs law enforcement and military operations. Across the life of this corporate plan, ASD will continue to invest in developing its workforce and technology to ensure it responds flexibly to the changing priorities of the Australian Government.

Technological change

Technological advances provide great benefit to society, but these advances also introduce risks.

ASD’s mastery of technology enables it to protect Australia from global threats. But technology is evolving rapidly. State and non-state actors can access increasingly sophisticated communication technologies and the tools to exploit them. 

ASD has a dual role as a trusted adviser in assisting the Australian Government to navigate major technological change, and to exploit technology to deliver foreign signals intelligence, cyber security and offensive cyber operations in support of Australian Government priorities.

ASD has always evolved its capabilities in response to technological change. In the years covered by this corporate plan, the challenge of maintaining mastery of technology will become more complex and demanding. To meet this challenge, ASD will enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in its workforce and invest in new and emerging technologies.

Public trust

As an intelligence agency, ASD has been entrusted with sensitive powers. ASD takes this responsibility very seriously.

ASD’s functions are set out in the ISA, along with the limitations on these functions. Under this legislation, ASD is accountable for its actions to the Australian Government, the Minister for Defence, and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) – which has the powers of a standing Royal Commission – to provide independent assurance that ASD acts legally and ethically.

ASD recognises the importance of maintaining the trust of the Australian Government and the Australian public.

While, for security reasons, ASD may not be able to share the details of its operations, ASD seeks to increase the information it shares with Australians about its functions. ASD is committed to assisting Australians in understanding the principles on which ASD makes decisions, the way it protects the privacy of Australians, and its strong culture of operating within the spirit and letter of the law.

Fiscal environment

The Australian Government has made a significant investment in building ASD’s foreign signals intelligence, cyber security and offensive cyber capabilities. 

ASD is continuing to refine and enhance its governance and accountability frameworks, including enterprise performance management and fit-for-purpose financial management systems, to ensure it is operating efficiently, sustainably and responsibly within its forward budget.