Access all areas: national intelligence agencies want one pass for all headquarters

By Stephen Easton

Tuesday August 6, 2019

The days of carrying around separate identity cards to get into different buildings or regularly arranging one-off access might soon be coming to an end for the 10 agencies of the National Intelligence Community.

The agencies in the recently enlarged NIC want their employees to be able to move between each other’s facilities using only one pass.

It sounds like a simple idea but for some of the highest security facilities and a group of employees whose identities are protected, there are lots of challenges to overcome. For any other groups of agencies, such a system would be much easier to implement.

The Office of National Intelligence undertook “an extensive study” this year before it concluded that “an interoperable common access card for designated facilities” was feasible, according to a notice on AusTender.

“One Pass is the NIC’s concept for an interoperable common access card for designated facilities. … A federated live model — where credentials are exchanged via a common network in real time — was selected to progress into a detailed design phase.”

The plan applies to the six original members of the intelligence community — the ONI, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, Australian Signals Directorate, Defence Intelligence Organisation and Australian Secret Intelligence Service — as well as the Australian Federal Police, AUSTRAC, Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, which joined them after the creation of the Department of Home Affairs.

Suitably security-cleared suppliers are invited to bid for the work of planning out exactly how to implement such a system, starting with the main headquarters of the 10 agencies in Canberra. This is expected to be done by around March 2020 if all goes smoothly.

“Individual NIC agencies will be responsible for actual implementation of the One Pass detailed design at their own premises. It is expected that these deliverables, once supplied to NIC agencies, will position them to do this with their vendor of choice.”

The networked building access system will be connected using the existing Intra-government Communications Network (ICON), a series of optical fibre links between certain government buildings in the ACT.

Incidentally, the ONI is also on the hunt for a new deputy director-general. Applications close on Thursday.

“To be a strong contender for this exciting and important role you will excel in working in complex environments, have a thorough knowledge of Australia’s political, strategic and economic interests, and be able to influence, set and deliver outcomes at a national and international level. You will have exceptional analytical and representational skills and be able to provide authoritative advice to Ministers on complex issues. You will be forward thinking, self-motivated, resilient and adept at leading and driving change. Your integrity, judgement and strong leadership credentials will be paramount.”

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