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Research Questions

  1. Which capability development lifecycle management framework best suits the needs of the department for an enterprise-level approach to investment decisions?
  2. How can best practices and lessons identified from similar organisations inform governance, policies, accountabilities, risk management and resource allocation within the strategy, planning and approval phases of the capability lifecycle management model?
  3. What development path should Home Affairs follow to develop and maintain the knowledge, systems, practices and capabilities necessary for a sustainable and effective enterprise-level approach to investment approval?
  4. How might organisational and cultural issues associated with the newly established Home Affairs Portfolio be incorporated into capability development lifecycle management?

The Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force (ABF) are seeking to establish an auditable, transparent and evidence-based approach to a Capability Lifecycle Management Model (CLMM) that is flexible enough to meet the needs both of the department and ABF, and, potentially, of the entire Home Affairs Portfolio.

In this report, RAND researchers make 12 observations on the current approach to capability development within the Department of Home Affairs and ABF, based on interviews with senior departmental and ABF officials, and a review of departmental documentation and practices. Existing domestic and international practices by peer public sector organisations in capability development are also reviewed. Together, these observations led to a defined set of eight principles for the establishment and implementation of a CLMM, a detailed framework for strategic planning and capability requirements phases of the CLMM, and the identification of three options for governance models to support a future Home Affairs CLMM. The RAND team identified the need for an internal capability development function to support delivery of the CLMM.

Key Findings

Numerous underlying issues must be considered to establish a tailored approach to capability development

  • There is an appetite among the senior department and ABF staff to change to a strategy-centred approach for capability development and acquisition.
  • Robust capability development requirements need to be clearly linked to capturing operational needs and traceable to strategic objectives.
  • There is a tension between those who favour pursuing a threat-based approach to capability development and those favouring a risk-based treatment.
  • Institutionalising a capability lifecycle approach across the Home Affairs Portfolio will take time, resources and commitment from senior management.
  • The quality of capability decisionmaking is currently constrained by Home Affairs' lack of consistency in policies, frameworks and language.
  • Successfully implementing a sustainable CLMM requires an appropriate organisational structure, with capacity built around the competencies of permanent staff.
  • A phased rollout for implementation of the agreed approach is necessary to ensure that the department can build internal competencies in capability development and project management.
  • To give capability development programs greater agility and assurance, governance structures tailored to the complexity, size and risk of each program are required.
  • A more collaborative and collegial culture is needed.
  • Home Affairs needs to develop and employ a robust and transparent process that incorporates all elements of the capability lifecycle to give the government the confidence it needs for capability investment approvals.
  • Robust research, development and innovation programs are essential for future-proofing Home Affairs.


  • Use the eight overarching principles for capability development and associated capability development framework that were identified by the RAND team.
  • An auditable, transparent and evidence-based approach to capability development requires a formal phased approach that begins with strategic planning and capability requirements determination, and concludes with capability definition, prior to investment approval.
  • A more strategic approach requires key planning documents, such as a 10-year Capability Plan and a 5-year Investment Plan that link to government guidance and strategic objectives.
  • Capabilities should be considered in terms of all the inputs that contribute to them, namely, people; training; facilities; information and system; equipment and supplies; support; law, policies, procedures and administration; industry; and organisation.
  • Treat key enabling functions as strategic resources and explicitly incorporate investment decisions associated with these functions when establishing the integrated investment program.
  • Recognise the key role subject-matter experts perform throughout the capability development process, and invest resources to ensure their ongoing availability to those responsible for the capability development function.
  • Choose the governance model that best suits Home Affairs circumstances.
  • Establish and resource a capability development function within the department.
  • Develop a detailed implementation plan for institutionalising capability development.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Strategy and Capability Division within the Department of Home Affairs and conducted by the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center within the RAND National Defense Research Institute and RAND Australia.

This report is part of the RAND 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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