The federal opposition has questioned whether the government will be able to double the size of the Australian Signals Directorate given the country’s already stretched cyber security talent pool.
In the budget last night, the government set aside what it described as the “biggest ever investment in Australia’s cyber preparedness”, providing $9.9 billion to ASD over the next decade.
The resilience, effects, defence, space, intelligence, cyber and enables (REDSPICE) package includes $4.2 billion over the next four years – less than 15 percent of which is new funding.
ASD will use the funding to double in size, growing from approximately 2300 staff at present to more than 4000.
It is expected to lead to a doubling of ASD’s defensive cyber capabilities and a tripling of its offensive cyber capabilities.
But shadow defence minister Brendan O’Connor and shadow cyber security assistant minister Tim Watts are unconvinced the government will be able to find the necessary staff.
While broadly welcoming the new funding, the pair said the cyber security sector is “already faces a massive skills shortage”, and called on the government to detail where it will source the recruits.
“There are many questions the government needs to answer about how it intends to deliver REDSPICE,” they said in a statement.
“The government needs to outline where it will find the 1900 extra cyber professionals it plans to recruit to ASD from an already heavily contested talent pool.”
The pair also called out the “massive backlog in security clearances that the government has allowed to develop, leaving many recruits waiting more than a year before they can begin roles”.
“The government has tripled the spend on for-profit security clearance contractors with no commensurate improvement in times,” they said.
“REDSPICE would significantly increase the pressures on this already clogged process.”
With around $3.6 billion of the REDSPICE funding to be offset from the Department of Defence, O’Connor and Watts have also asked the government to “explain what Defence cuts it has planned”.