Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 8 2010 Contents 46 www.defence.gov.au/defencemagazine
DEFENCE SECURITY AUTHORITY
By Brooke Audsley
The launch of the Australian Government Security
Vetting Agency (AGSVA) on 1 October marked the
dawn of a new era in Commonwealth security
vetting – with the Department of Defence now
taking responsibility for managing personnel
security clearances across Government.
AGSVA is a single, centralised vetting agency
established within the Defence Security Authority
(DSA) and delivers on a government promise made
in late 2009. AGSVA means that, for the first time,
a single agency will be responsible for granting
and reviewing security clearances for most
Commonwealth public servants and contractors.
“The AGSVA will provide direct benefits to
public servants, government contractors and
the broader Government agencies by improving
security vetting processes, reducing unnecessary
regulation, and delivering cost savings,” Deputy
Secretary Intelligence and Security, Mr Stephen
Pre-AGSVA, individual departments and agencies
were responsible for their own vetting. According
to Mr Merchant, over time this resulted in more
than 100 replicated vetting processes and more
than 50 separate contracts with vetting providers.
“By providing a centralised service, the AGSVA
will remove inconsistencies and duplication in the
vetting process, and deliver savings of at least
$5.3 million per year – some of these savings have
already been realised,” he said.
The AGSVA also provides public servants and
contractors with one single clearance, effective
across government – a Commonwealth Security
Clearance. This means people transferring to
other agencies won’t have to undergo another
clearance process, as their Commonwealth
Security Clearance will be recognised by their
While the fundamentals of the Defence vetting
system remain the same, Defence personnel will
notice some changes to vetting terminology, and
there will also be a change to security clearance
requirements for ADF recruits.
All of the AGSVA processes and protocols are guided
by the Australian Government Protective Security
Policy Framework (PSPF). Aside from determining the
policies on which all security clearance decisions are
based, the PSPF also outlines the new terminology to
be used to describe the different clearance levels
(refer to the table below and Figure 2).
neg Vetting 1
neg Vetting 2
The change in terminology is expected to
be fairly straightforward. However for those
individuals who are currently cleared to
CONFIDENTIAL, there is some confusion about
what the name change means.
“People with CONFIDENTIAL clearances are asking
if the change means that they now automatically
have access to SECRET and HIGHLY PROTECTED
documents. The short answer is no,” Mr Sinfield
wide security vetting
What does it mean for Defence?
While the launch of the AGSVA represents
significant change for other agencies, it is
anticipated that for Defence it will be more a case
of ‘business as usual’, with added benefits.
“We anticipate a smooth transition for Defence,”
head of the AGSVA, Assistant Secretary Vetting
Mr Peter Sinfield said.
“Defence personnel will not have to undertake any
complex new vetting procedures. Clearances will not
take any longer than they do now (refer Figure 1). In
fact, it is hoped timeframes will continue to be reduced.
“This is because, essentially, the vetting
system Defence personnel have experience with
is continuing, but with the added bonus of a
number of IT innovations to speed up the process
and get rid of much of the paperwork,” he added.
The AGSVA will provide access to all security
clearance forms (E-Packs) on both the internet
(AGSVA website) and intranet (DRN) – previously
these were only available from the DRN – and is
developing systems so that changes to personal
details can be made online.
This means Defence personnel will have
the flexibility to complete clearance forms,
update personal details and report changes
in circumstances 24/7 from home or work.
In addition, proof of identify will be far less
onerous – vettees will now only be asked to
prove their identity once, instead of having to
repeat the process every time a clearance comes
up for review.
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“If you hold a CONFIDENTIAL clearance you will
retain that level of clearance until you have been
revalidated and cleared to the new Negative
Vetting 1 level.”
New clearance requirements for ADF recruits
To increase efficiency, all new Navy, Army and
Air Force recruits will, from now on, be cleared
to Negative Vetting 1 (SECRET) during their initial
training and recruitment phase. Previously, trainee
recruits were cleared to RESTRICTED and then
later upgraded to meet operational requirements.
The new protocol removes the requirement for
ADF recruits to undergo two separate clearance
processes. And for current ADF members not yet
cleared to Negative Vetting 1, Defence will be
putting in place a systematic upgrade process over
the coming years. This process will be driven by
Just the beginning
“Getting to the launch phase has involved a lot
of hard work, by many people and we should be
pleased with what we’ve achieved so far,” Mr
“It’s been good to see all the agencies involved
pulling together to create a better vetting system.
“And the new AGSVA is a vote of confidence
in Defence’s security vetting team, and the
Department of Defence more broadly – CIOG
has also played a critical role in getting online
processes up and running.“
Yet despite the success of the AGSVA so far, Mr
Merchant says that we, in Defence, know that the
hard work really begins now.
“We look forward to some new and interesting
challenges and are ready for the hard work ahead
These views are echoed by Mr Sinfield.
“The AGSVA has a customer base of around
300 organisations – of which Defence is only
one. This means Defence will go from processing
around 23,000 clearance actions a year to
48,000,” he said.
“Any undertaking on this scale can be expected
to experience teething problems. And, while we
have worked diligently to put systems in place to
pre-empt and manage issues as they arise, we
are hoping for some understanding and assistance
in the transition phase.”
Maximising the benefits
Mr Sinfield said there were a number of ways the
broader Defence community can help.
“Firstly, we encourage our Defence colleagues
to integrate security clearance benchmark times
into recruitment planning and everyday business
processes – the closer the integration of vetting into
your business processes, the greater Defence’s ability
to maximise the benefits of the new system,” he said.
“Secondly, it is essential that people submit
their clearance packs promptly, as we can’t start
processing them until they do.
“Thirdly, but not less importantly, everyone should be
checking to making sure that clearance requests are
matched to actual job requirements.
“At the AGSVA, we too will do our part. We are going
to continually reform this process and keep working
over the coming years to make the AGSVA a
professional, efficient and effective organisation.”
nB: the following two figures are to accompany the article
Figure 1: New clearance level timeframes
Negative Vetting 1
Negative Vetting 2
Top Secret Positive Vetting
2.5 years (or annual security appraisal)
* average time taken to complete security clearances 2009–10
**AGSVA’s benchmark time to complete security clearances
Figure 2: New clearance level criteria
TOP secReT secReT cOnfIDenTIaL
nB: The criteria for Positive Vetting has not changed
General vetting enquiries can be directed to the AGSVA Client Service Centre
t: 1800 640 450 e: firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also like to visit the AGSVA website: www.defence.gov.au/agsva
“The AGSVA has
a customer base of around
300 organisations – of
which Defence is only one.
This means Defence will
go from processing around
23,000 clearance actions a year
– Assistant Secretary Vetting,
Australian Government Security Vetting
Agency (AGSVA), Mr Peter Sinfield.
LefT: The Assistant Secretary Vetting, Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA), Mr Peter Sinfield, at Campbell Park offices. Photo: Leading Aircraftman Aaron Curran
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