The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) defends Australia from global threats and advances the national interest by providing foreign signals intelligence, cyber security and offensive cyber operations, as directed by the Australian Government.
ASD’s purpose is achieved through the delivery of four key activities, as described in the Defence Portfolio Budget Statement 2021–22:
- providing foreign signals intelligence
- providing cyber security services
- conducting offensive cyber operations
- sustaining and securing future capabilities.
ASD is a statutory agency within the Defence portfolio, reporting directly to the Minister for Defence. It operates under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). All of ASD’s activities are subject to oversight from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS). The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) provides further oversight of ASD’s administration, expenditure and enabling legislation. It also considers other matters within its scope that are referred by the Australian Senate, House of Representatives, or a minister of the Australian Government.
ASD operates under the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (the ISA), which specifies that the organisation’s functions are to:
- collect foreign signals intelligence
- communicate foreign signals intelligence
- prevent and disrupt offshore cyber-enabled crime
- provide cyber security advice and assistance to Australian governments, businesses and individuals
- support military operations
- protect the specialised tools ASD uses to fulfil its functions
- cooperate with, and assist, the national security community’s performance of its functions.
To achieve its purpose, ASD needs to keep pace with the latest technology trends and invest in cutting-edge capabilities to gain asymmetric advantage.
ASD’s activities are enabled by innovative techniques, including specialist tools that probe large volumes of data to detect threats. ASD’s mastery of technology also underpins the formulation of sound advice to protect Australia from sophisticated threats.
Partnerships are critical to the organisation’s success. ASD works closely with the Australian national security community, overseas intelligence and cyber security partners, academia and industry. This level of collaboration is essential to comprehensively understand the threat environment and to stay at the cutting edge of technology.
ASD’s success is founded in the ingenuity of its workforce. The organisation seeks to recruit and develop a curious and imaginative workforce which is not deterred by difficult challenges. Recruiting the requisite specialist technological expertise has become increasingly challenging, given the high demand for staff with these skills.
This combination of a uniquely skilled workforce, empowered by innovative technology, enabled by responsible financial management and leveraging partner capabilities, positions the organisation to deliver trusted intelligence, cyber security expertise and offensive cyber operations for Australia’s national interest.