Looking to the Future of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)

Assessment of the Consolidation of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and the DIBP (2016–2017)

by Daniel M. Gerstein, Karen Edwards, Julie Newell, Dulani Woods

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Research Questions

  1. What is the progress of integration of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) into a single government department?
  2. How can the lessons learned in this process assist in the development of the Australian Department of Home Affairs (HA)?

In 2016, RAND Corporation conducted an evaluation of the newly integrated Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). This report, requested by the DIBP, presents a second, follow-on evaluation with two thrusts: to update the previous analysis and identify lessons for continued DIBP reform, and to inform the upcoming transition to an Australian Department of Home Affairs (HA).

Interviews with senior leaders and documents dating to 2005 provide the foundation for judgments and findings in this report, concentrating on changes during the period 2016–2017 and ongoing and planned efforts by DIBP as part of future reform.

Analysis focuses on: (1) intelligence, (2) investigations, (3) detention, (4) integrity and corruption, and (5) learning and development.

This report finds that (1) previous DIBP progress toward integration and reform has continued, although uneven across the department, and many goals remain a work in progress, (2) lessons and insights applicable to the formation of the soon-to-be-established HA have been learned; and (3) other organisational transformations by similar organisations identify insights and pitfalls for the establishment of HA. Overall, progress has been made in building a modern border management capability for Australia, though more work remains. The foundations of the DIBP are solid and can serve as a basis for the establishment of HA.

Key Findings

DIBP Progress Toward Integration and Reform Noted, Although Uneven Across Five Areas of Analysis

  • Resource reductions hindered development in some areas.
  • Aggressive integration timelines outpaced organizational capacity.
  • Intelligence made the most progress, with shortfalls in technical areas and use of intelligence to develop enforcement priorities.
  • Detention made progress, particularly in key policies and in closures of facilities.
  • Investigations show improvement from both internal and external perspectives. However, both were underfunded, hindering timeliness of investigations and resolution of cases.
  • Progress was made in integrity and anti-corruption, but this area requires continued emphasis.
  • L&D made the least progress of the five areas.

Lessons and Insights Learned as DIBP Forms the Soon-To-Be-Established HA

  • ECM functions are a year behind POI functions. This is important going into the establishment of HA, where DIBP will likely serve as the receiving organisation for the new department.
  • Managers with the correct authorities, experience, and leadership skills must in charge of reform initiatives.
  • The pace of change may strain the ability of the organisation and staff to keep up.
  • Key skill sets are missing among staff.
  • Unrealistic integration and reform timelines result in overpromising and underdelivering.
  • HA establishment will require deconfliction between the agencies being integrated.
  • POI and ECM areas should receive equal attention from leadership.
  • Senior leader turbulence — staff turnover — should be avoided; this slows momentum and destabilises staff.
  • L&D should receive appropriate attention from the onset.
  • Expenditures will be necessary to assist building new institutions for HA. Early savings turn into a self-defeating proposition.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Follow-On Operational Assessment: Metrics and Overall Integration Progress

  • Chapter Three

    Follow-On Operational Assessment: Examination of the Five Key Areas

  • Chapter Four

    Lessons Learned from DIBP Integration and Reform

  • Chapter Five

    Lessons Learned from Other Transformation Efforts

  • Chapter Six

    Looking Toward the Future

  • Chapter Seven

    Study Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Interviews Conducted

  • Appendix B

    Interview Questions

  • Appendix C

    Detailed Findings from Assessing Operational Effectiveness as a Result of the Reorganisation

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and conducted through a combined effort by RAND Australia, RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment, and RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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