The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the AFP’s administration of the Fighting Terrorism at its Source (FTAS) initiative and related measures.

Summary

Introduction

1. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is the primary law enforcement agency through which the Australian Government enforces Commonwealth law. Established by the Australian Federal Police Act 1979, its functions include the provision of policing services in relation to Commonwealth laws and property, and safeguarding of Commonwealth interests. The AFP is Australia’s international law enforcement and policing representative and chief source of advice to the Australian Government on policing issues. In addition, the AFP provides community policing services to the Australian Capital Territory and is the Australian Government’s specialist protective security provider.

2. From its establishment in 1979 through to mid-2001, the AFP experienced comparative stability in relation to both function and resourcing. However, the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11 2001 profoundly changed both the international security environment and the Government’s expectations of the AFP, and saw a substantial increase in resources directed at enhancing national security1 and a period of rapid growth in the AFP.2

3. The events of 2001 were followed in 2002 by terrorist events much closer to home. The October 2002 attack in the tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, and significantly elevated awareness of the terrorist threat within our region. The AFP support to the Indonesian response to the Bali bombings was one of the most significant operations the AFP has undertaken. At the height of the investigations, approximately 500 AFP members were focused on matters relating to the bombings, including up to 100 personnel in Indonesia.3 The AFP subsequently retained a small detachment of specialist personnel in Indonesia, to support Indonesian counter terrorism investigations and capacity development. In February 2004, the Indonesian and Australian Governments announced the establishment of the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) to provide a regional focus for training to combat transnational crime, with a focus on counter-terrorism.4

4. Also in February 2004, terrorists attacked the SuperFerry 14 in the Philippines, killing 116 people. At the request of the Philippines National Police (PNP), the AFP provided specialist counter-terrorism support to local law enforcement officials. Based in the Philippines capital, the AFP’s Manila Operations Centre (MOC) worked closely with the PNP to support the investigation, facilitate access to specialist AFP services and support capacity enhncement.

5. On 9 September 2004, ten days after the announcement that Australia would hold a Federal Election on 9 October 2004, a car bomb exploded outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, killing nine people and wounding over 150 others. The then Prime Minister announced that, if re-elected, the Government would commit to a series of initiatives under the broad policy of Fighting Terrorism at its Source. This initiative would provide the AFP and its regional law enforcement partners with enhanced capabilities to investigate and disrupt terrorist activity through the long term operational co-location of AFP multidisciplinary counter terrorism teams with regional law enforcement partners.

6. Funding for Fighting Terrorism at its Source was included in the 2004–05 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. In total, $97.2 million was provided over five years to support:

  • two counter-terrorism regional engagement teams of 10 staff to work closely with regional law enforcement agencies5, maximising the exchange of criminal information and specialist law enforcement skills;
  • intensive language training in high priority languages for up to 10 AFP staff per year with medium level language training for up to 20 staff per year, to support the AFP’s regional counter-terrorism capacity;
  • domestically-based support for regional counter-terrorism deployments and investigations, including intelligence, surveillance and supporting legal, policy and communications functions; and
  • counter-terrorism capacity-building projects including training, the establishment of a regional intelligence secretariat, the establishment of an Indonesian bomb data centre and support for such centres in Malaysia and Singapore.

7. In the 2006–07 Budget, the Government decided to further extend regional counter-terrorism engagement through the initiative National Security – regional law enforcement liaison and capacity building. This entailed a commitment of $25.0 million over four years to further enhance the capacity and skills of regional law enforcement officers in investigating and countering terrorism, including an expansion of cooperative counter-terrorism activity with Thailand.

8. The AFP’s expanded role in engaging with regional partners to counter terrorism offshore has subsequently been embedded in the AFP’s ongoing budget and responsibilities. In the 2009–10 Budget, the Government committed to provide $82.8 million over four years to continue funding the Fighting Terrorism at its Source initiative.6 Additionally, the 2006–07 National Security – regional law enforcement liaison and capacity building initiative was continued in the 2010–11 Budget, with funding of $21.2 million over the forward estimates period.

9. The suite of activities pursued by the Government to build and support a regional capacity to disrupt terrorism is a critical element of Australia’s broader national security arrangements. The AFP activities are significant financially, with nearly $300 million committed since 2004–05 and ongoing annual costs exceeding $30 million, and are a key part of the Government’s regional law and justice program.

Audit objective, criteria and scope

10. The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the AFP’s administration of the Fighting Terrorism at its Source (FTAS) initiative and related measures.

11. The audit examined individual elements of the initiative and the overall program of activity, to determine whether:

  • policy and program direction is considered within an established governance framework that promotes alignment with overarching policy and integration of related measures, and that key stakeholders are engaged;
  • planning and delivery of individual measures and packages of measures is thorough, with objectives and outcomes agreed to and key risks identified and managed, and implementation was efficient, effective and in accordance with better practice principles; and
  • outcomes are monitored and evaluated with appropriate oversight, and feedback to stakeholders informs ongoing administration.

12. The ANAO examined a broad range of measures and activities relating to regional counter-terrorism engagement by the AFP and focused the audit on those programs and activities which are closely aligned or integrated with the key components of the FTAS initiative. The activities examined include both front line activities (primarily based in regional host countries but including some domestic activities) and enabling activities (generally Australia-based although including some deployable elements). In the course of fieldwork, the ANAO conducted site visits, reviewed documents and held discussions with key stakeholders in Canberra, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

13. While a modest expansion of the AFP’s international counter-terrorism liaison network was funded from the FTAS initiative, the general administration of this network has not been included within the scope of the audit. The administration of the domestic Community Liaison Teams, although funded through the 2009 renewal of the FTAS initiative, were also outside of the scope of this audit as they form an element of the Government’s broader policy on countering violent extremism. The Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC), established in 2004, was included within the scope of the audit only to the extent that it supports the identification, delivery and evaluation of training aimed at building regional counter terrorism capacity.

14. In conducting this audit, the ANAO necessarily held discussions and reviewed documents which reflected matters which are sensitive from a national security, operational or international relations perspective. In line with previous practice, these matters are not discussed in detail in this report.

Overall conclusion

15. The need to more effectively counter the threat to Australia’s national security posed by terrorism was a principal driver for the creation of the AFP in 1979. Nonetheless, the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11 2001 and the later direct attacks on Australians and Australian interests in the near region have driven a transformation in the nature and scale of AFP operations. Staffing has more than doubled and expenditure has nearly tripled. As the ANAO has previously observed, the AFP now is a significantly larger and more complex agency than it was in 2000, and is required to work in close cooperation with a range of international and transnational organisations, and with law enforcement and emergency authorities throughout Australia and around the globe. The AFP now occupies a central role in advising government and is a major agent in achieving the Government’s national security and policing priorities both domestically and abroad.7

16. Most areas of AFP operations have been impacted on by the developments in the AFP in response to the changes in the national security environment. However, the rapid expansion of the AFP’s national security operations has been at the core of the transformation. Those functions under the control of the AFP’s Deputy Commissioner National Security (which include counter terrorism, protective services, aviation security and international deployments) received more than 80 per cent of the new funding made available to the AFP in the decade following September 2001 ($4.8 billion out of $6 billion) and, by 2011–12, comprised more than 55 per cent of AFP expenditure and 55 per cent of all operational staff (excluding ACT policing).

17. Through the FTAS initiative, and related measures, the AFP has successfully deployed multidisciplinary counter-terrorism teams to work closely with regional law enforcement in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand and has progressed a number of important capacity development initiatives, including the establishment of bomb data centres in each of these countries. The AFP has transformed what were initially short run responses to specific terrorist incidents into ongoing cooperative arrangements supporting close cooperation with regional neighbours. The relationships encompass not only working cooperatively on counter-terrorism matters of mutual interest and supporting the development of local capacity, but also providing access to operational support where requested. The AFP’s increased regional engagement has been an important part of the Government’s overall strategy to strengthen national security, and the Government has provided ongoing resourcing to support the AFP’s continuing and substantive engagement within the region.

18. The ANAO concluded that the AFP’s administration of the FTAS initiative and related measures has been generally effective. The initiative supports, and is well aligned with, whole of government priorities and programs, and key stakeholders continue to be effectively engaged. The relationships between the AFP and foreign law enforcement agencies are well developed and broadly based, and significant progress has been made on the key operational outcomes that lay at the heart of the initiative.

19. However, with the initiative now part of ongoing AFP business, it is appropriate that the AFP give greater focus to a more strategic management approach to sustain the initiative. The current framework that supports and guides the AFP’s regional counter-terrorism engagement lacks clear accountabilities for the delivery of specific strategies. Clearly articulated high level indicators of success, supported by a well developed review and evaluation strategy, would: assist the AFP with the ongoing management of the engagement; provide improved insight into the resource and administrative support needed to secure objectives over time; and increase assurance for key stakeholders. Improvement to elements of the AFP’s administration, particularly in regard to the management of capacity development and the preparation of staff for deployment, would also better position the AFP to maximise the benefits obtained through the engagement over time.

20. Working closely with regional neighbours to counter the threat of terrorism carries certain unavoidable risks. The relationships are complex, with numerous participants whose priorities and interests may not always align. In view of the expectations of government, it is not always open to the AFP to avoid risks to either its organisational interests or its personnel. The challenge facing the AFP is how to manage those risks effectively. While there is considerable executive engagement in key aspects of the actions taken in support of the FTAS initiative, there is scope for the AFP to review its approach to managing the risks associated with the in-country counter terrorism teams. Particular emphasis should be given to supporting clear executive visibility of the strategies for mitigating the risks that arise in the management of the relationship with the host law enforcement agencies, and in the management of the physical security and / or reputational risks associated with the engagements.

21. Having regard to current plans within the AFP to strengthen the strategic management of offshore regional counter-terrorism cooperation, the ANAO made four recommendations aimed at supporting the more effective management of the FTAS initiative and related measures.

Key findings

Governance

22. There is ongoing broad engagement by the AFP in all key elements of Australia’s counter-terrorism policy and priority setting frameworks. The AFP is formally represented in key decision-making and recommendatory bodies. Key stakeholders advised that the balance and direction of current activity, and plans for ongoing engagement is broadly consistent with current whole-of-government priorities for counter-terrorism activity and regional engagement. Stakeholders also consider the AFP to be an effective participant in the consultative and coordinating processes.

23. The AFP faces a number of challenges in effectively coordinating and aligning its regional counter-terrorism cooperation activities with the actions and interests of international partners. Management of the bilateral relationship with the host nation and law enforcement and security agencies, to determine priorities and operational arrangements, is generally managed through a well-developed framework of formal agreements and ongoing senior and working level contact. While there is high-level dialogue, both bilateral and multilateral, with other countries with strategic and operational interests in security and stability of the South-East Asia region, day-to-day coordination is generally managed in-country.

24. Internally, the AFP’s business and action plans are complemented by several strategic policies in the subject area. However, there is clear scope to improve the articulation of the strategic framework around regional counter terrorism engagement, improving accountability for key outcomes and executive visibility of overall progress against priorities, and providing a clear basis for the review of effectiveness over time.

25. While the internal strategies continue to undergo refinement, they provide a generally sound basis for managing the AFP’s engagement with key stakeholders domestically and internationally, and for aligning activities undertaken through the FTAS initiative with whole-of-government priorities and integrating those activities with related initiatives. In particular, the AFP strategic and business planning framework is well established and the recent adjustments to planning horizons and post planning arrangements are sound evolutionary measures.

Delivery of offshore initiatives

26. The AFP successfully deployed multidisciplinary regional counter terrorism teams in priority countries (Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand) and continues to monitor and develop the balance and composition of teams to reflect overall relationships and priorities. The AFP has also progressed a number of important capacity initiatives (such as JCLEC in Indonesia, forensic facilities in Indonesia and the Philippines and bomb data centres in each country), consistent with government decisions and priorities. The ANAO found considerable positive support from stakeholders for AFP efforts to date, with the view that the AFP’s engagement had been an important contributor to the development of overarching bilateral relationships. In particular, the AFP had successfully contributed the development of regional counter-terrorism capacity, while also effectively supporting Australia’s national interests. However, the complexity and sensitivity of the operational environment creates significant challenges and ongoing risks.

27. While the AFP has been able to demonstrate a substantial record of cooperative activities on counter-terrorism matters of mutual interest in the region, there remain challenges in securing sustainable benefits from capacity development activities. There is a need for greater executive visibility over the management and mitigation of key risks, including in regard to the provision of financial and material support to foreign law enforcement agencies.

28. It is timely for the AFP to consider the structure and focus of its offshore cooperative counter-terrorism activities in the near region, and, in this context, to implement arrangements that put the AFP engagement on a sustainable basis into the future. Concurrently, the AFP should also consider the adequacy of the organisational visibility of initiatives which are not meeting primary goals and milestones, and act to assure itself that significant initiatives, such as JCLEC, have a well-articulated and sustainable basis for ongoing operations.

Delivery of onshore initiatives

29. To support offshore activities undertaken under the FTAS initiative, the AFP was provided with funding to develop language and cultural skills to maximise the benefits of operational co-location over the longer term; to further develop supporting domestic counter-terrorism intelligence and surveillance capacity; and to provide Australia-based support to regional counter-terrorism capacity-building projects (including the establishment of, and support for, regional bomb data centres).

30. The 2004 FTAS initiative provided in excess of $3 million a year to support intensive language training to maximise the benefits to the AFP and Australia of the operational co-location of AFP personnel with foreign law enforcement officers. However, at the time of the audit, the majority of AFP officers deployed to Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand had received no pre deployment language training. The AFP has not yet finalised and implemented an effective strategy that: identifies the language requirements of individual offshore positions; selects officers in sufficient time to allow appropriate training to be provided; and enables officers to undertake that training. Consequently, there is considerable scope for the AFP to improve the pre deployment preparation of its staff to a level more consistent with the expectations established, and funding provided, by the Government in its 2004 decision.

31. The ANAO did not examine the content of the intelligence reports managed through the enhanced domestic counter-terrorism intelligence capacity, but did review the administration of relevant elements of the Intelligence portfolio over the period of the FTAS initiative to date. The ANAO found a generally robust process for planning and reporting against progress with plans, and for capturing and reporting on activity levels and engagement with key members of the Australian intelligence community. There is considerable engagement between the offshore and onshore teams in relation to intelligence production.

32. The AFP has sought to deliver the objectives of enhanced surveillance capacity through improving their organisational ability to provide surveillance support to operations, including counter-terrorism investigations. The AFP’s management of this improved capacity has been integrated with broader surveillance activity, limiting the direct visibility of budgeting and expenditure relating to the initiative in this area. A review of internal reporting did identify a significant number of counter-terrorism investigations which have received surveillance services on a priority basis through the AFP office operations committees and through the National Priority Operations List. However, the limitations on visibility makes an assessment of administration problematic without a broader consideration of the overall administration of surveillance support to operations within the AFP, which was outside of the scope of this audit.

33. The development of the regional network of bomb data centres (BDCs) and other specialist facilities was considered in the context of offshore operations and is discussed in Chapter 3 of this report. In addition to supporting the development of offshore facilities, the AFP also provides ongoing support for the operations of the South-East Asia Bomb Data Centre Working Group (SEABDCWG), formed in late 2006 with the purpose of developing and maintaining relationships between regional BDCs. The SEABDCWG provides an effective means for engaging with regional BDCs and maintaining an awareness of emerging capabilities and issues. However, continued active involvement by the AFP is important to realising the potential benefits offered by the group, and the AFP may wish to give consideration to developing a forward plan for SEABDCWG engagement as a key part of its current review of regional BDCs.

Monitoring and evaluation

34. The AFP’s monitoring of the principal operational elements of the FTAS initiative has improved over time and the current arrangements are broadly effective. There is appropriate executive visibility of key elements of the measure delivered by the counter-terrorism teams offshore, and a regular appraisal of progress toward overall goals and the challenges arising in the course of implementation. However, relationship, reputational and physical security risks associated with counter-terrorism cooperation are not clearly identified in strategic documentation. Improved identification of key risks in strategic planning documentation, along with relevant approaches to and accountabilities for risk mitigation, would improve overall executive visibility and assurance.

35. The AFP’s approach to project management and associated oversight arrangements has been inconsistent over the life of the initiative, with little evidence of the implementation of effective organisational monitoring and evaluation strategies prior to 2008. While arrangements are now better developed, there remain challenges in meeting the accountability expectations evident in the government’s decisions. The ANAO findings are consistent with a 2009 AFP internal audit report which determined ‘maintenance of documentation for the implementation of the [FTAS] initiative was poor; … and, the financial costs associated have not been captured for the life of the [initiative]’. The FTAS initiative and related measures (including the JCLEC) are required to be reviewed in 2012, and the AFP may have difficulty in effectively addressing the financial aspects of the administration of the measures for the review.

36. Several past reviews of the FTAS initiative and related measures have identified persistent challenges for the AFP in maximising the benefit arising from capacity building projects. Effectively addressing these chalenges will require a disciplined organisational response and leveraging of existing corporate capacity, if they are to be effectively addressed.

Summary of agency response

37. The proposed report was provided to the AFP for formal comment. The AFP provided the following summary response, with the full response included as Appendix 1 of the Report.

The AFP has welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the ANAO performance audit Fighting Terrorism at its Source. The AFP accepts the commentary provided within the report and agrees with the recommendations arising from the audit.

NPI funding for Fighting Terrorism at its Source commenced in 2004–2005 and since 2009–2010 has been embedded in the AFP’s ongoing budget and responsibilities. The AFP notes that the ANAO has concluded that the AFP’s administration of the FTAS initiative and related measures has been generally effective, aligns with whole-of-government priorities and programs and is supported through well-developed relationships with domestic and international stakeholders.

The AFP acknowledges that a more strategic management approach will sustain and grow the valuable work already achieved through the FTAS initiative. Further success will be achieved through implementation of the four recommendations of this Report.

The AFP National Manager, Counter Terrorism has engaged with AFP business areas regarding the recommendations and, through this, has commenced a renewed program of strategic focus of the FTAS initiative. Action relating to the recommendations will continue to be a priority for the AFP.

Footnotes

[1]   In 2002–03, the Government announced national security spending totalling $1.3 billion over five years to upgrade Australia’s domestic security, concentrating on improved aviation and airport security, the identification of security threats, and an increased capacity to respond to security incidents. Through this initiative, $330 million was directed at the AFP for measures including, but not limited to, improving aviation and airport security and expanding the AFP’s overseas liaison network.

[2]   Between 30 June 2001 through to 30 June 2008, the AFP experienced real growth in its annual funding of 170 per cent (nearly 20 per cent a year), with staffing more than doubling.

[3]   AFP Annual Report 2002–03, pp. 30–31.

[4]   Australia initially committed $36.8 million over five years to support the establishment and operations of JCLEC and continues to provide funding and personnel to support ongoing operations (the initial commitment to fund the establishment and operation of the centre renewed on an ongoing basis by the Government in the 2009–10 Budget).

[5]   The two teams were initially anticipated to be located in Indonesia and the Philippines.

[6]   Although considered in the 2009–10 Budget context as a terminating measure, the Department of Finance and Deregulation has since advised the ANAO that in November 2009 the measure was consolidated into the AFP budget as tied ongoing funding.

[7]   The impact of the changes in the national security environment on the functions and resourcing of the AFP is discussed in detail in ANAO Audit Report No.29 2010–11 Management of the Implementation of New Policy Initiatives.

 

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