National security science and innovation strategy

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Australian government

national security science and innovation strategy

Annual Statement of priorities



About this Statement


Updating the Annual Statement

National Security Science and Innovation Priorities

Priority: Cyberspace and Electronic Security

Priority: Intelligence, including Data Mining and Data Management

Priority: Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Detection, Safety and Mitigation

Priority: Explosive Detection Technologies and Blast Mitigation Tools

Priority: Border Security, including Identity Security

Priority: Extreme Environmental Events

Implementing the Annual Statement

About this Statement


Science and innovation has the potential to help us anticipate and respond to new and emerging national security threats. The Government’s National Security Science and Innovation Strategy (NSSIS), published in November 2009 and available online at, provided a framework for enhancing the application of science and innovation to Australia’s national security. The NSSIS identified 12 priority objectives for national security science and innovation and highlighted key tasks for achieving each objective.

The NSSIS foreshadowed the publication by the Australian Government of Annual Statements of National Security Science and Innovation Priorities to inform the science and innovation community of the priority work areas required to achieve the national security science and innovation objectives. This recognised the critical partnership between the national security and science and innovation communities in achieving those objectives.

This first Annual Statement supports this ongoing partnership and is intended to enable the focus of effort on high priority issues and strengthen cooperation in the national security science and innovation community. The first Annual Statement of Priorities has been prepared by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s National Security Science and Technology Branch taking into account the views of the national security community, developments in the national security field since the publication of the NSSIS and the outlook for a range of national security challenges.

Improvements to capability, or ‘capability gains’ are tools, technologies, practices, infrastructure or knowledge that help those with security responsibilities do things they have not previously been able to do, or perform their existing tasks with less risk to personnel or the public, at lesser cost, or faster and more easily.

This Statement identifies six national security themes where a strong national security science and innovation focus is particularly important over the next one to five years to help support our objectives and deliver capability gains to members of the national security community. This will complement existing efforts to apply science and innovation to national security goals. The themes are not listed in priority order and do not seek to represent the full suite of Australia’s national security science and innovation requirements. There are a number of important national security areas not listed in this Annual Statement where science and innovation can make a great difference to capability. However, it is important in providing guidance to the national security science and innovation community to note those areas of particular emphasis over the next one to five years.

Most of the sought-after capability gains identified in this Annual Statement represent the requirements of national security agencies, however it is important to recognise that security is everyone’s responsibility and some of the priorities identified here will also be relevant outside government. Some of the capabilities listed will also be useful to critical infrastructure owners and operators, those with statutory security responsibilities (for example Aviation Industry Participants), the energy sector, business and the general public. Researchers considering working on the priorities may wish to take into account other potential end-users in addition to the national security agencies.

Within each Annual Statement theme, the priorities are expressed in terms of national security outcomes and capabilities that Australian national security agencies are seeking to achieve. The priorities are deliberately not expressed as science and innovation tasks requiring specific equipment or system solutions so as not to limit or restrict the application of novel technologies and ideas. They represent areas of interest that can be used to direct long-term, basic research. Development of specific research requirements for particular security requirements needs to take place in consultation with end-users.

Detailed information on how the national security science and innovation community can provide advice and partner in the implementation of the Statement is contained in the Implementing the Annual Statement section from page Error: Reference source not found.

Updating the Annual Statement

This first Annual Statement identifies six national security science and innovation themes of priority over the next one to five years. However, it is intended that these priorities be reviewed annually and updates published to take account of developments in Australia’s strategic and operating environment, including from scientific and technological advances relevant to national security. Future iterations of the Annual Statement will also take account of and complement the evolving national security architecture, including the National Security Capability Plan once it is mature.

National Security Science and Innovation Priorities

This Section addresses the six priority themes for national security science and innovation effort. As noted earlier, the themes are not listed in order of importance. Priorities focus on defining a problem space and desired outcomes and leaving scope for innovative solutions to be delivered by the research community.

Priority: Cyberspace and Electronic Security


Our community and economy are increasingly reliant on electronic systems for all aspects of daily life. Improvements in the handling, retrieval and communication of information have delivered significant benefits to the Australian economy as well as social benefits and it is expected that this ‘digital dividend’ will continue in the future. These systems are not always readily apparent to the community; for example electronic systems are essential to the supply of utilities to most homes and businesses. The very efficiency of many electronic systems can lead to greater vulnerability because redundancies have been eliminated.

Enormous amounts of information, including personal and financial information, can now be stored and transmitted very easily using electronic systems. Information is vulnerable to unauthorised disclosure while being stored or transmitted. Information obtained without authorisation can be misused for ideological, criminal or commercial purposes that are harmful to Australia and the interests of Australians. This vulnerability extends beyond communication to the ‘internet of things’ such as networked systems on cars and commercial vehicles. Data holdings and transmissions are potentially a rich source of intelligence and evidence for law enforcement and counter-terrorism purposes but the transmission speed, anonymity, transnational nature and sheer volume of data that must be processed for these purposes presents a significant challenge for agencies. The growing use of cloud computing in the public and private sectors requires measures to ensure security and to provide assurance of that security to users.

Securely sharing information between agencies in the national security community, including the states and territories is essential. Technologies that can facilitate this sharing while protecting against unauthorised access and disclosure are critical in enabling responses to national security incidents, and in protecting the privacy of personal information.

A large proportion of Australian information, electronic systems and networks is owned by the private sector. There is a potential private sector as well as government market for the right science and innovation responses to these challenges.

Security outcomes we are looking to achieve:

  • Build trust and confidence in the online environment.

  • Preserve the confidentiality, integrity and availability of Australian IT systems, including those used by government, business and the general public.

  • Empower individuals and businesses with the information, education and skills they need to better protect themselves online.

  • Attacks on IT systems cannot be used to disrupt services or cause damage or inconvenience.

  • Law enforcement and counter-terrorism efforts keep pace with new and emerging technologies.

What we want from the science and innovation community:


  • Prevent unauthorised users from accessing systems while allowing legitimate activity to proceed without delay or interference.

  • Identify, understand and mitigate risks to cloud computing.

  • Secure systems reliant on wireless connections.

  • Improve the resilience of next generation networks.

  • Ensure the continuity of highly distributed and remote infrastructure.

  • Make mobile telephones and smartphones suitable for use in secure areas.

  • Enhance forensic capability to identify a cyber attack or incident, the source and type of attack or incident and collect and preserve evidence.

  • Deliver supply chain integrity, including assurance relating to manufacture, transport, installation and maintenance of hardware and software.

  • Help identify and mitigate potential insider threats.

  • Develop better metrics to understand the scale, cost and consequences of malicious cyber activity to our social well-being, our economic prosperity and our broader national interests.

  • Develop measures to improve the security of domain names.

  • Automated methods for detecting the use of steganographic techniques.


  • Build a strategic partnership between government, industry and the public to address our collective challenges in cyberspace.

  • Deliver a more citizen-centric approach to information and advice on cyber issues.

  • Improve communications between agencies and jurisdictions and with industry and the public. This could include interoperable systems, communications capabilities including secure communications, the ability to access underlying databases, trusted systems and automated systems that facilitate the sharing of information.

  • Measures to reduce the cost of extricating metadata and increase its utility to improve the functionality of very large databases.

  • Novel and improved digital forensic analysis techniques for networks and devices.

  • Tools and techniques to improve the ease of use and accessibility of national security IT systems for national security agencies.

  • Tools and techniques that assist individuals safely control, store and distribute their personal data.

  • Tools and techniques that make use of common or “natural” objects in an individual’s life that can become part of their digital security assurance.

  • Tools that inform individuals about digital activity indicators of their digital security, enabling them to become part of the forensic warning system.

  • Tools to collect quantitative data measuring cyber intrusions and other cyber-security events across government agencies.

  • Improve secure and accountable methods of sharing information across security classification boundaries


  • Increased understanding of:

  • Single points of failure in IT systems.

  • The interdependencies between IT systems, and vulnerabilities that may arise from those interdependencies.

  • The types of vulnerabilities emerging in the convergence of physical, electronic and IT security areas and potential mitigation measures to address these vulnerabilities.

  • The potential for cyber-attack against Australian systems beyond hacking, including distributed denial of service attacks.

  • The scale, cost and consequences of malicious cyber activity to our social well-being, our economic prosperity and our broader national interests (including our national security).

  • The effects of cyber-attack on public confidence and in terms of economic and other opportunities lost.

  • National security impacts of quantum computing and quantum cryptography.

Priority: Intelligence, including Data Mining and Data Management


Accurate, timely, and relevant intelligence is critical to the work of Australia’s national security community. The Australian intelligence community is charged with collecting intelligence and assessing the implications for our security environment. Intelligence provides strategic warning of threats to Australian interests, including from serious and organised crime, terrorism and the proliferation of advanced weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, and can inform the Government’s national security decision-making and policy development. High quality intelligence reduces the danger to the Australian Defence Force, law enforcement and other national security officers as well as the broader community.

The intelligence collection and analysis environment changes as rapidly as technology itself. A particular feature of recent years has been the ever increasing amount of raw information available to the Australian intelligence community from an increasing variety of classified and open sources, including social media. This has been coupled with significant technological development in the communications sector providing much greater real and near real time information to decision-makers and the wider community.

A key underpinning of intelligence community success in supporting decision makers in this faster decision cycle will be tools that can help manage very large volumes of information and support rapid analysis and intelligence product development and dissemination. The challenge of sifting through information to identify useful intelligence will only increase in the future.

Many of the outcomes and priorities in the section ‘Cyberspace and electronic security’ are also particularly relevant to intelligence.

Security outcomes we are looking to achieve:

  • Enhanced ability to collect intelligence while minimising the chance that these activities can be detected or compromised.

  • Make full use of the information that is available for intelligence purposes to support both operational and policy decision-makers and contribute to the evidence base for public policy.

  • Reduce the cost in terms of time and human effort required to distinguish information from valuable intelligence and manage workflows.

What we want from the science and innovation community:


  • High quality and novel tools to help:

  • Improve the efficiency of legal interception of telecommunication protocols.

  • Increase interoperability between systems to better detect suspicious behaviours.


  • Novel techniques for handling and analysing large data volumes of both structured and unstructured data flows and sources.

  • Enhance content analysis, data exploitation and transformation including symbolic analysis and transformation, characteristic analysis, pattern analysis, linguistic analysis, and linguistic transformation.

  • Automatic methods for detecting violence, specific types of extremely violent acts and suspicious behaviours in video footage.


  • Improve understanding of interconnections between people, organisations, resources, operations, events, devices, locations and technologies.

  • Improve understanding of the relationships between different national security threats, such as terrorism and organised crime, and ways to better combine intelligence resources to address these threats.

  • Better understand the causes and pathways for radicalisation as well as for disengagement from violent ideologies.

  • Methodologies to measure the contribution of intelligence to the national security enterprise.


  • Tools to assist with collaborative development and publication of intelligence products, research and other products of interest with as broad a range of national security and law enforcement agencies as possible, including with allied partners.

  • Tools to assist with distribution of intelligence products from, and between, federal and state and territory agencies, including at the operational level, quickly and securely.


  • Novel methods for secure or covert communications.

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