Donate $25 for two DVDs of the Cryptome collection of files from June 1996 to the present

Natsios Young Architects

14 July 2003
Source of maps: Mapquest UK.

Defence Signals Directorate:

Deep underground, the military sees all

March 21 2003

As the first bombs fell over Iraq yesterday, Australia's military chiefs sat huddled in a secret war room buried metres beneath defence headquarters in Canberra.

Behind the high, razor-steel fences of the Defence Signals Directorate, the Defence Minister, Robert Hill, joined the chief of the military, General Peter Cosgrove, for a brief tour of the ADF's command and control centre.

From here the military can contact and direct Australian forces anywhere in the world, including teams of Special Air Service commandos operating deep inside Iraq.

Entry requires passage past two security desks and the surrender of mobile phones and laptops.

Behind banks of computers and video screens, military personnel and a scattering of civilians and defence scientists filtered information rolling in from around the world - a process known as de-conflicting.

"They need to work out what the senior commanders need to know and de-conflict that information," an ADF spokesman said. "It just means making sure everything is right."

Under clocks showing the time in the Middle East, Christmas Island, London and the United States, the control centre boasted wall-size maps of Iraq and video conferencing facilities, and screens marked "secret".

From here the ADF controlled operations in East Timor in 1999, the interception of asylum seekers and the "war on terror" deployment to Afghanistan.

"This is a huge command post," General Cosgrove said.

"This is an absolute beehive. They're processing information; they're sending it on.

"With satellite communications we can speak to [the troops] whenever we want."

The war room, called the pit by its inhabitants, will provide information to senior officers, including General Cosgrove and the centre commander, Major-General Ken Gillespie, 24 hours a day. General Cosgrove, other senior officers and the secretary of the Defence Department, Ric Smith, will receive daily briefings early each morning and will in turn brief the Government.

Morning briefings at Parliament House will include the Prime Minister, John Howard, and senior ministers on the National Security Committee of cabinet.

Also in the war room were lawyers ready to advise on the legality of combat missions in Iraq under Australia's tight rules of engagement.

"There are teams of lawyers here 24 hours a day, relating to lawyers in the field, who are relating to other lawyers in allied forces," Senator Hill said.

"From a planning point of view I really think the performance here has been excellent. That leads to the forces in the field having confidence in what's happening here."


Defence Signals Directorate

What We Do

DSD's purpose is to support Australian Government decision-makers and the Australian Defence Force with high-quality foreign signals intelligence products and services. DSD makes Government and Defence policy more certain and more effective by providing the policy Departments and assessment agencies with important information that is not available from open sources. DSD also directly contributes to the military effectiveness of the ADF, and provides a range of information security services to ensure that their sensitive electronic information systems are not susceptible to unauthorised access, compromise or disruption.

The task of an agency such as DSD is increasingly complex and demanding as we prepare to enter the 21st century. Since the end of the Cold War, the world has, paradoxically, become a much more uncertain place, and the Australian Government has to make quick decisions from a wide range of choices as it responds to political and economic imperatives. To do so, it needs timely access to the best information available, and intelligence is one of the sources on which it relies.

At the same time, the revolution in information technology has fundamentally changed the world we live in and the way we all do business. Modern communications technologies have ushered in the Information Age and the electronic marketplace. For DSD, for whom information is core business (we both collect and protect information), the new environment continually challenges us to look for new and better ways to fulfil our obligations to Australia's Government and Defence Force.


The war years

The origin of DSD lies in Australian involvement in the several Signals Intelligence Sigint) organisations formed during the Second World War to support US and Australian forces in the Pacific theatre: the Central Bureau, the Fleet Radio Unit Melbourne (FRUMEL), the RAAF Wireless Units, and the Army's Australian Special Wireless Group. Both Australian and US personnel were integrated in Central Bureau, which was established in Melbourne early in 1942. Late in 1942 Central Bureau moved to Brisbane following MacArthur's Headquarters, and elements of the Bureau deployed with him to the Philippines later in the war. The operations of the Australian Sigint units were gradually wound down after the war, and all archival material relating to their operations has been declassified for interested researchers.

The early incarnations

Approval for the formation of a new peacetime signals intelligence organisation was given by the Australian Government on 23rd July 1946. This new Signals Intelligence Centre, to be located at Albert Park Barracks in Melbourne under the name of the Defence Signals Bureau (DSB) - the forerunner of DSD - began to take shape in late March 1947. Final Australian Government endorsement occurred on 12th November 1947. DSB's role was to exploit foreign communications and be responsible for communications security in the Australian Services and Government Departments. The organisation was retitled Defence Signals Branch in October 1949, a title it retained until January 1964 when it was renamed Defence Signals Division.

DSD's intelligence role was formally acknowledged in 1977 in the Prime Minister's statement to the House of Representatives on the Royal Commission into Intelligence and Security. Part of the outcome of the review was that the organisation was restyled the Defence Signals Directorate and made directly responsible to the Secretary of the Department of Defence. The new Directorate was approved by Cabinet on 13 July 1978, and in 1979 relocated from its long-term "temporary" accomodation in Albert Park to a new purpose-built facility in Melbourne's historic Victoria Barracks.

Moving to Canberra

In June 1988 the Government decided that DSD should be relocated to Canberra to new facilities at the northern end of the Russell Defence complex. This was to enable DSD to establish a closer relationship with, and provide a better service to, its major customers - in the Defence organisation, including the ADF, other intelligence agencies, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The move was completed in two phases over the Christmas period 1991/92 and 1992/93.




DSD at upper left.





Following seven photos from A, June 2002.