With the release of the federal government’s Cyber Security Review looming, the Department of Defence is preparing for an increasing workload across Australia’s Defence Intelligence Agencies (DIAs).
A Pre-Request for Tender (RFT) released by the department outlines the next iteration of the Technical, Project Management, Documentation and Training Services panel, which will be known as the Technical Support Services (TSS) Panel. The new panel will be used to source business management, technical ICT and related skills (including ICT security personnel) for “the development and support of capability used by the DIAs in the conduct of their core functions,” according to tender documents.
Although principally designed to “support ICT operations and capability development undertaken by the Australian Signals Directorate” (ASD), the panel will also be made available to other DIAs with similar requirements, such as the Defence Intelligence Organisation and Australian Geospatial Organisation.
The existing panel, which was originally established in 2009, was primarily for Defence’s then Intelligence and Security Group (now the Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group following the First Principles Review). It reflected the requirements of the time across three categories of skills: technical services; project management, administration and support services; and technical documentation, graphical design and training services.
591 contracts worth a total of $222.3 million have been signed through the panel, according to Intermedium’s Analyse IT tool. The panel consists of 36 suppliers, including Optus, Lockheed Martin, IBM, CSC, Boeing, Fujitsu and Accenture. The most successful supplier on the panel is Lockheed Martin with $54.7 million in total contract value (spread over 113 contracts), followed by Hewlett-Packard with $27.4 million (58 contracts), and UXC Limited with $16.2 million (66 contracts).
The next iteration will collapse all categories into a single steam, inviting panellists to respond to all requirements, and will reduce panel membership from 36 to 10 organisations that have “the capacity to attract and manage a significant workforce…” Despite this, it is expected that personnel numbers may grow to 400, due to increased capability requirements.
“The new TSS panel seeks to significantly reduce the number of panel members for reduced administration and to enhance the ability to provide an accessible varied depth of evolving specific skill sets.”
Proposed changes to the panel’s supplier composition and categories of services follows the completion of the government’s Cyber Security Review, led by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and pre-empts the long-overdue Cyber Security Strategy, which is expected to be released shortly.
The ASD is responsible for providing cyber security advice and assistance to the government, as well as responding to cyber threats, which increased from 313 to 1131 between 2011 and 2014.
Along with providing the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) with “high-powered computing resources” to ensure “the centre is able to process large volumes of data to identity cyber threats”, the ASD is also tasked with providing the ICT services and capabilities to support other top secret DIA systems.
ASD also works with Defence’s Chief Information Officer Group, which provides ICT services to non-DIAs ICT users that operate in the Secret and below ICT domains.
The TSS panel will operate with the ASD’s Strategic Industry Partnership Arrangement, which focuses on providing below the line work, to deliver required ICT capability. As such, personnel will have, or be capable of obtaining, top secret positive vetted clearance across a range of ICT skills for the provision of services at ASD’s Canberra premises and other locations across Australia.
ASD is also “increasingly exploring means of undertaking contractor development and support activities at lower than TOP SECRET Positive Vetted level to better leverage industry capacity.”
The 2016 Defence White Paper identified cyber security as one of six key drivers that will shape Australia’s future security environment and be increasingly crucial to ensuring the availability of ICT networks and systems during conflict. Up to $400 million will be provided between 2016 and 2025 under a Cyber Security Capability Improvement Program.
The purpose of the pre-RFT is to assist potential suppliers prepare for the RFT which is expected to be released in December 2016, however, the department also welcomes submissions to the pre-RFT which it will use to inform the RFT. A four-year panel arrangement with a four-year extension is being proposed by the department.