Location of a Cyber-warfare Centre

Location is a factor of organisational, technical and operational considerations. A Cyber-warfare Centre would be a national asset, serving grand strategy as much as tactical encounters. It would have to respond to direction from, report to, and interact with agencies at several levels. Its central role in operations has to be reflected in ADF command arrangements. Robust connectivity with the rest of the NCW infrastructure and the NII is fundamental. The physical proximity of all its components is not necessary, so long as functional coordination and cooperation can be organised. Networking enables elements to be distributed, across agencies and geographically. There will inevitably be offices in more than one place, as well as out-rider units in high-tech centres such as the Salisbury/Edinburgh area in north Adelaide.

A Cyber-warfare Centre would have at least two new elements that would require accommodation. One comprises the executive, coordination, planning and management functions, which extend across the whole of government. This is the purview of the National Security Division of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPM&C), which has a mandate ‘to foster greater coordination of, and a stronger whole-of-government policy focus on, national security’ and which has greatly strengthened the whole-of-government approach to counter-terrorism. There are many aspects of cyber-warfare that require coordination at a national level. This includes all cyber-activities aimed at influencing adversary political and strategic agencies and processes. Covert operations in peacetime must be endorsed at this level because of the risks and consequences of possible exposure. In time of war, the whole-of-government approach would be a crucial feature of the simultaneous application and progressive interaction of kinetic and cognitive effects.

The second element is the operational facility, the place where the cyber-warriors would work. Technical intelligence collection stations, EW centres and cyber-warfare capabilities will remain dispersed, but a place devoted to cyber-operations would promote interaction of the specialist personnel in these areas, where close cooperation is not only essential to operational success, but is likely to encourage future technical advances at the interstices.

It is important to have a place where defensive and much-enhanced offensive activities are co-located. Those working on defensive matters need to keep the offensive planners apprised of the avenues they are finding most difficult to protect. Those working on offensive plans should obviously keep the defensive side informed as they discover potential vulnerabilities in national systems while exploring avenues to exploit. The symbiosis should enhance the security, reliability, capacity and endurance of national networks while maximising the potency and perniciousness of Australia’s cyber-warfare capabilities against hostile systems.

The question of location is complicated by the decision to locate the Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQJOC) near Bungendore, 29 km east of Canberra (and about 28 minutes to drive), rather than at HMAS Harman or somewhere else close to the Defence complex at Russell Hill. An obvious place would be in or near the DSD building—the main centre for the collection, processing and analysis of intercepted telecommunications, the main repository of certain specialised cyber-skills, the manager of some of the most secure networks in the world, and the national agency responsible for the defensive cyber-warfare mission, protecting the Australian Government’s communications and information systems. However, a component element will now have to be located at Bungendore to serve the Chief of Joint Operations (CJOPS), requiring some bifurcation of the Cyber-warfare Centre and very difficult decisions about which capabilities and activities to maintain at Russell Hill and which to repose at Bungendore.

A component element might also be located at HMAS Harman, 11.4 km southeast of Russell Hill (and 19 minutes to drive). It hosts the Defence Network Operations Centre (DNOC), the hub of the third largest communications network in Australia after Telstra and Optus, which provides network support for military operations. The operational elements of the DNOC include the Naval Communications Station Canberra (NAVCOMMSTA), which provides UHF satellite services in support of the RAN and other ADF users; the Naval Communications Area Master Station Australia (NAVCAMSAUS) which supports RAN fleet communications; and the Defence Information Systems Communications Element (DISCE), which provides a secure and survivable communications network to support strategic and tactical operations of the ADF and selected Government departments. Under Project JP 2008 (Phase 3F), a new ground station is to be constructed at HMAS Harman, together with two new terminals at the Defence communications station at Geraldton, to upgrade ‘the entire Australian Defence Satellite Communications Capability (ADSCC) Ground Segment’.[58]

The HQJOC will have a dedicated fibre-optic cable extending 27 km to the DNOC at HMAS Harman. Redundancy will be provided by ‘four links into the local carrier network’. The facility will also have ‘a back-up satellite link’.[59]

[58] ‘Projects: JP 2008 Phase 3F—ADF SATCOM Capability Terrestrial Upgrade’, 9 March 2007.

[59] Department of Defence, Executive Summary. Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): Defence Headquarters Australian Theatre, Department of Defence, Canberra, September 2003, p. ES-8.