Australia’s intelligence agencies navigate challenging operating environment

Department of the House of Representatives

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Australia’s intelligence agencies are operating at their best, despite challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, a deteriorating strategic environment and rapidly evolving threats, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has found.

Today the Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee tabled its report of the reviews No.18 and No.19 of the administration and expenditure of Australian intelligence agencies for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 financial years, fulfilling one of its key statutory oversight responsibilities, and bringing to a close a review of shifting intelligence agency priorities and capability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Committee found that the Office of National Intelligence, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation and the Defence Intelligence Organisation are managing their administration and expenditure appropriately.

Committee Chair Senator James Paterson noted that the National Intelligence Community (NIC) continues to mature and develop after its formalisation in 2018 and the Committee is continuing to analyse the evolution of the enterprise and how shared capability and outcomes can be achieved within the parameters of the law and the six agencies’ appropriated funds.

‘Australia’s intelligence agencies are operating in a rapidly deteriorating security environment. With foreign interference, cyber intrusion and espionage at levels not seen even throughout the Cold War. Australians can be encouraged to know that our intelligence agencies have risen to the challenge and are operating at their best.’

‘The Committee was particularly pleased at how agencies continued to achieve their mission despite the disruption caused by the pandemic and public health restrictions which impact their workforce,’ Senator Paterson said.

The Committee has made a number of recommendations to investigate options for shared services to support staff complaints and resolution mechanisms, as well as psychological support. The latter was a focus of the Committee’s review and recognises the importance of supporting the dedicated men and women who ensure our nation’s intelligence capabilities are delivered.

The Committee also recommended that the Archives Act 1983 be amended to ensure that agencies could address ongoing matters, as well as ensuring that a review of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic are captured and shared across the NIC.

/Public Release.