Australian Signals Directorate
Logo of the Directorate
Slogan: Reveal their secrets ... Protect our own
Agency overview
Formed12 November 1947; 76 years ago (1947-11-12)
JurisdictionCommonwealth of Australia
HeadquartersCanberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
35°17′43″S 149°08′55″E / 35.2952°S 149.1487°E / -35.2952; 149.1487
Employees1,900 (14 September 2017)[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
Parent agencyDepartment of Defence

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), formerly the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), is the federal statutory agency in the Australian Government responsible for foreign signals intelligence, support to military operations, cyber warfare, and information security. ASD is part of the Australian Intelligence Community. ASD's role within UKUSA Agreement (Five Eyes) is to monitor signals intelligence ("SIGINT") in South and East Asia. The ASD also houses the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

The unit was established in 1947 by executive order as the Defence Signals Bureau within the Department of Defence, and underwent several name changes until its current name ASD was adopted in 2013. ASD was converted to a statutory body by the Intelligence Services Act 2001. ASD is based in Canberra, at the Defence Department Headquarters at Russell Offices.[2] As of February 2020, Rachel Noble is the Director-General of ASD, replacing Mike Burgess, who was appointed Director-General of Security in September 2019.

In April 2018, a proposal to empower ASD to collect intelligence on Australians was backed by former Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, but was strongly opposed by some in Cabinet who argued it was not necessary.[3] Under legislation, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are already allowed to seek assistance from ASD in conducting investigations on Australian citizens and businesses.[3]


The Directorate has operated under a number of different names since its founding:[citation needed]

ASD commissioned an official history in 2019, which will cover the organisation's history from its establishment to 2001.[6]

Roles and responsibilities

The principal functions of ASD are to collect and disseminate foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) and to provide information security products and services to the Australian Government and Australian Defence Force (ADF), its foreign partners and militaries.[7]

ASD operates at least three receiving stations:

ASD also maintains a workforce at Pine Gap in central Australia.[9]

ADSCS and Shoal Bay are part of the United States signals intelligence and ECHELON analysis network.[10][11] These stations also contribute signals intelligence for many Australian Government bodies, as well as the other UKUSA partners.

Electronic warfare operators in the Royal Australian Corps of Signals work closely with ASD. 7 Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare) at Borneo Barracks, Cabarlah, Queensland is also associated with ASD.[citation needed].[12]

In addition, it has been reported that many Australian embassies and overseas missions also house small facilities which provide a flow of signals intelligence to ASD.[13]

UKUSA Agreement (Five Eyes)

Further information: Five Eyes

Australia joined the UKUSA Agreement in 1948,[14][15] a multilateral agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The alliance is also known as the Five Eyes.[16] Other countries, known as "third parties", such as West Germany, the Philippines, and several Nordic countries also joined the UKUSA community.[17][18] As the Agreement was a secret treaty, its existence was not even disclosed to the Australian Prime Minister until 1973, when Gough Whitlam insisted on seeing it.[19] The existence of the UKUSA Agreement was discovered by the Australian government during the 1973 Murphy raids on the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). After learning about the agreement, Whitlam discovered that Pine Gap, a secret surveillance station close to Alice Springs, Australia, had been operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[20][21][22][23] Pine Gap is now operated jointly by both Australia and the United States.

The existence of the Agreement was not disclosed to the public until 2005.[24] On 25 June 2010, for the first time, the full text of the agreement was publicly released by the United Kingdom and the United States, and can now be viewed online.[17][25] Under the agreement, ASD's intelligence is shared with UKUSA signals intelligence partner agencies:

Organisational structure

The Australian Signals Directorate is led by a Director-General and a Principal Deputy Director-General who oversee strategy. The ASD also comprises the Australian Cyber Security Centre, a Signals Intelligence and Network Operations Group, and a Corporate and Capability Group.

SIGINT and Network Operations Group

The Signals Intelligence and Network Operations Group is responsible for signals intelligence collection, analysis and production, and ASD's network based access and effects operations. The Group comprises an Intelligence Division and a Network Operations and Access Division responsible for foreign signals intelligence and offensive cyber operations.

Defence SIGINT and Cyber Command

The Defence Signals-Intelligence (SIGINT) and Cyber Command (DSCC) was established in January 2018 by the Chief of the Defence Force consolidating all ADF personnel within the ASD within the Joint Cyber Unit and Joint SIGINT Unit. The Commander of the DSCC is responsible to the Head of Information Warfare under the Chief of Joint Capabilities to the Chief of the Defence Force.[28] The Commander is currently Commodore James McCormack of the Royal Australian Navy who was previously the Director-General for Support to Military Operations within the Australian Signals Directorate.[29]



Name Term began Term ended
Teddy Poulden 1 April 1947[30] 1949
R.N. Thompson 1949[31] 1977
R.D. Botterill 1977[32] 1982
Tim James 1982 1994
Martin Brady 1994[33] 1999
Ron Bonighton 1999 2002
Stephen Merchant 2002 May 2007
Ian McKenzie May 2007 November 2013
Paul Taloni November 2013[34] 3 December 2017
Mike Burgess 4 January 2018 15 September 2019
Rachel Noble February 2020 Incumbent

See also


  1. ^ Canberra Times. Australian Signals Directorate $75 million Canberra upgrade gets go ahead.
  2. ^ "History: DSD Defence Signals Directorate". 2011. Archived from the original on 1 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b Peter Dutton confirms push to expand powers of cyber spy agency to monitor domestic threats
  4. ^ "Defence Signals Division renamed Defence Signals Directorate | Australian Signals Directorate". Retrieved 23 May 2022.
  5. ^ "2013 Defence White Paper: Renaming the Defence Signals Directorate and the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation" (Press release). Minister for Defence. 3 May 2013. Archived from the original on 28 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  6. ^ Whyte, Sally (9 July 2019). "John Blaxland to write official history of the Australian Signals Directorate". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  7. ^ "About DSD: DSD Defence Signals Directorate". 2011. Archived from the original on 1 December 2011.
  8. ^ a b Dorling, Philip (1 November 2013). "Listening post revealed on Cocos Islands". The Canberra Times. Archived from the original on 14 November 2017. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  9. ^ Leslie, Tim; Corcoran, Mark (19 November 2013). "Explained: Australia's involvement with the NSA, the US spy agency at heart of global scandal". ABC. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Tracking down the masters of terror". The Age. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  11. ^ Adshead, Gary (10 June 2001). "Secret WA spy base". The Sunday Times (Perth). p. 20.
  12. ^ Slocombe, Geoff. "Cyber security: Australian signals directorate (ASD) is in the defensive and offensive front-line". Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter: 34–36.
  13. ^ Dorling, Philip (31 October 2013). "Exposed: Australia's Asia spy network". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  14. ^ "Declassified UKUSA Signals Intelligence Agreement Documents Available" (Press release). National Security Agency. 24 June 2010. Archived from the original on 16 July 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  15. ^ Also known as the Quadripartite Agreement or Quadripartite Pact (EPIC, Privacy International (2002), Privacy and Human Rights 2002: An International Survey of Privacy Rights and Developments, Epic, 2002, p. 100, ISBN 1-893044-16-5 ((citation)): |last= has generic name (help))
  16. ^ Cox, James (December 2012). "Canada and the Five Eyes Intelligence Community" (PDF). Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 December 2013.
  17. ^ a b Norton-Taylor, Richard (25 June 2010). "Not so secret: deal at the heart of UK-US intelligence". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  18. ^ Gallagher, Ryan (19 June 2014). "How Secret Partners Expand NSA's Surveillance Dragnet". The Intercept. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  19. ^ Jordan Chittley & Kevin Newman. "Canada's role in secret intelligence alliance Five Eyes". CTV News. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  20. ^ Ley, Jenny (1 February 2003). "Australia and America: a 50-year affair". The Age. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  21. ^ Gill, Peter (1994). Policing Politics: Security Intelligence and the Liberal Democratic State (1. publ. ed.). London u.a.: Cass. p. 198. ISBN 0-7146-3490-5.
  22. ^ Leslie, Tim (8 November 2013). "Explained: Australia's involvement with the NSA, the US spy agency at heart of global scandal". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 30 January 2014. Its existence was allegedly so secret that prime ministers were unaware of the agreement until 1973 – the same year the Commonwealth raided ASIO
  23. ^ Pugh, Michael C. (1989). The ANZUS Crisis, Nuclear Visiting and Deterrence (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0-521-34355-0.
  24. ^ Adam White (29 June 2010). "How a Secret Spy Pact Helped Win the Cold War". Time.
  25. ^ "Newly released GCHQ files: UKUSA Agreement". The National Archives. June 2010. The files contain details of the recently avowed UKUSA Agreement – the top secret, post-war arrangement for sharing intelligence between the United States and the UK. Signed by representatives of the London Signals Intelligence Board and its American counterpart in March 1946, the UKUSA Agreement is without parallel in the Western intelligence world and formed the basis for co-operation between the two countries throughout the Cold War.
  26. ^ Wark, Wesley. "The road to CANUSA: how Canadian signals intelligence won its independence and helped create the Five Eyes". Intelligence and National Security.
  27. ^ "News". Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  28. ^ Defence Chief announces new Command (30 January 2018) Australian Department of Defence News
  29. ^ [1] Archived 10 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine Australian Defence Force Ikahan Seminar
  30. ^ "Cdr John Edward 'Teddy' Poulden RN". Retrieved 14 June 2023.
  31. ^ "75th Anniversary Timeline".
  32. ^ Pfennigwerth, Ian (2006). Man of Intelligence. Rosenberg Publishing. ISBN 9781877058417.
  33. ^ "Corporate governance structure".
  34. ^ Coyne, Allie (24 October 2013). "Defence appoints new infosec chief". iTnews. nextmedia Pty Ltd. Retrieved 28 October 2017.