Cover: Organising for Peace Operations

Organising for Peace Operations

Lessons Learned from Bougainville, East Timor, and the Solomon Islands

Published Sep 20, 2016

by John Gordon IV, Jason H. Campbell


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Research Questions

  1. What were the environmental factors and other key considerations that impacted the mission design in Bougainville, East Timor, and the Solomon Islands?
  2. What were the key Australian agencies that participated in the three operations, the coordinating mechanisms that were adopted, and what roles did they play?
  3. How can different branches of the Australian Government better share information, given what was learned from each operation?
  4. In the future, how can Australia better hold whole-of-government operations outside its territory?

This report examines the governmental organizational structures used in three Australian-led interventions in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the Southwest Pacific regions: Bougainville, East Timor, and the Solomon Islands. Whole-of-government efforts requiring coordination across many parts of the Australian Government characterized each of these unique operations, in which different organisational approaches were used to manage the participation of various agencies.

During the course of the research, it became apparent that, over time, numerous lessons were learned as branches of the Australian Government gained experience in how best to interact with one another and manage complex operations of this type. The report describes the key Australian agencies that participated in the three operations, the coordinating mechanisms they adopted, and the specific roles they played. In addition to providing insights that should be useful for the preparation and conduct of operations outside Australia, the information in this report also should be useful in terms of better whole-of-government operations inside Australian territory.

Key Findings

National Security Committee Framed the Whole-of-Government Coordination

  • The NSC's creation in 1996 was a significant step toward facilitating Australia's whole-of-government approach in overseas interventions.
  • Subsequent administrations have been able to use NSC to varying degrees, indicating that the committee is effective and useful.

Australian Government's Small Size Made Personal Relationships Key to Within-Agency and Whole-of-Government Coordination

  • Fundamental to enabling an interagency approach was the interaction among senior personnel within and among agencies.
  • Personal relationships among senior personnel meant that information about ongoing operations could be quickly disseminated.

Interagency Processes Were Developed and Evolved over Time, Based on Needs of an Intervention

  • Australia's Department of Finance and Trade (DFAT) was the lead agency in most cases because of the international considerations, modest-to-low threat levels, and the need for holistic multiagency approaches to achieve national objectives of the interventions.
  • The Australian Defence Forces led the initial planning for the International Force in East Timor due to the potential of violence.
  • The Interdepartmental Emergency Task Forces was directed by the DFAT. The task forces worked beneath the NSC to facilitate whole-of-government operations.

Agency Cultures and Processes Differed, but Understanding Improved over Time

  • Differences in organizational cultures and perspectives existed among the organisations, but could have been considered as a positive attribute.
  • In the early years covered in this report, the lack of familiarity with different processes and culture caused tension and misunderstanding.
  • Over time, the police and the military learned to plan and operate together.


  • Planners should prepare for the possibility that any given intervention might be protracted. Future planning exercises should include the possibility that interventions could last longer than originally thought.
  • In order to lessen the impact of disparate approaches to information sharing in future operations, an interagency-specific approach should be considered.
  • Incorporating instruction on how these agencies collect and use intelligence into training programs will help foster better cross-agency perspective.
  • Agencies can create a mechanism to capture important information about insights and lessons learned while they are still fresh in both individual as well as organization memories.
  • There may be advantages to taking a more-consistent approach to deployment times.
  • Campaign planning should include a clear delineation of command and control responsibilities among agencies.

This research was conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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