Australia’s cyber spy agency will receive almost $10 billion over the next decade as the federal government looks to boost the country’s offensive and defensive cyber security capabilities in the face of increasing threats.
Budget papers released on Tuesday night reveal the Australian Signals Directorate will receive $9.9 billion to 2030-31 as part of a new resilience, effects, defence, space, intelligence, cyber and enablers package (REDSPICE).
The package comes amid a worsening international cyber security environment, exacerbated by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict – which has seen Australia provide cyber security assistance to international allies.
The government is also keen to bolster its commitment to the recent AUKUS trilateral security agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as other Five Eyes nations.
The new funding, described as the “largest ever investment in Australia’s intelligence and cyber capabilities”, will see the cyber spy agency “double in size”, with around 1900 staff to join over the next decade.
According to the agency's last two annual reports, ASD had 2303 ongoing employees at the end of the 2020-21 financial year, up from 2034 in 2019-20 and 1876 in 2018-19.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in his budget speech said the funding would lead to “more data analysts, computer programmers, and software engineers to boost our capacity to prevent and respond to cyber threats”.
“REDSPICE will triple ASD’s offensive cyber capabilities and double its cyber hunt and response activities, preserving ASD’s capability edge and delivering strategic advantage for Australia over the coming decade and beyond,” budget papers state.
“The package will help ASD to keep pace with the rapid growth of cyber capabilities of potential adversaries, as well as being able to counter attack and protect our move critical systems.”
Budget papers show that ASD will receive $4.2 billion between the 2022-23 and 2025-26 financial years, with around $3.6 billion of this to be offset “from the Defence integrated investment program”.
REDSPICE is also expected to “support new employment pathways through partnerships with education institutions, particularly in areas of data science and analysis, artificial intelligence, cyber security and ICT engineering”.
“The unprecedented investment will equip ASD with the capabilities to defend Australia in the changing strategic environment. The enhanced capability will help anticipate and deter a crisis and deliver asymmetric capabilities,” budget papers state.