International Deployment Group (IDG)

International Deployment Group (IDG)


From the 1990s, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) faced an increased tempo and number of overseas deployments, as part of peacekeeping and intervention operations, often alongside Australian Defence Force (ADF) troops – in Bougainville, Kosovo, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and elsewhere.

As a response, at a doorstop interview in February 2004, the then Prime Minister John Howard announced the formation within the AFP of the International Deployment Group (IDG). Extra resources in 2006 allowed the recruitment and training of new staff and increased the specialist technical capacity of the IDG through the creation of an Operational Response Group (ORG).

The election of the ALP government led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in November 2007 has seen ongoing support for AFP deployments overseas.

Government statements

International Deployment, AFP website

“The International Deployment Group (IDG) was established in February 2004 to manage the deployment of Australian and Pacific Island police overseas. …On 25 August 2006, Prime Minister John Howard, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Chris Ellison and AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty announced an increase in funding to strengthen the AFP’s capacity to respond to international crises. This funding will boost IDG’s staffing levels by about 1200 personnel over five years and will be the largest single increase in staff since the force was established in 1979. The extra resources will allow the IDG to establish a 200-strong Operational Response Group that is ready to respond at short notice to emerging international law and order issues and stabilisation operations.

“Since the Government first announced the establishment of the IDG, it has played a vital role in meeting ongoing regional security requirements. The IDG currently has members deployed to Cyprus, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Timor-Leste, Nauru, Tonga, Vanuatu, Cambodia & Afghanistan.”

Rudd government (2007 – ongoing) 

Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Media Release, 6 May 2009.

“Mr Mick Keelty APM, has informed the Government of his decision to retire as Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) effective from 2 September 2009….Mr Keelty has forged important relationships with law enforcement partners throughout the region, overseeing significant efforts to improve the law enforcement capability and capacity of our neighbours, including the establishment of the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation….The Government will consider a successor to Mr Keelty and will make an announcement in due course.”

Annual Report 2007-08, Australian Federal Police, p56

AFP Ranks Boosted by 500, Attorney General Robert McClelland, Media release, 13 May 2008.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) ranks will be boosted by 500 sworn officers over the next five years as the Rudd Government fulfils an election commitment to increase the AFP’s capacity. ‘This $191.9 million boost to the AFP will help fight transnational crime, including terrorism, and give the AFP more resources to consolidate its strong position in the 21st Century,’ Mr Debus said. ‘The additional officers will help build the AFP’s core investigative capacity to tackle domestic and transnational crime and combat the activities of organised criminal syndicates. They will have a particular emphasis on areas of growing concern such as high tech crime, drug trafficking, major fraud, money-laundering and terrorism.'”

Meeting the Security Challenges of the 21st Century, Attorney General Robert McClelland, Media release, 13 May 2008.

“Attorney-General Robert McClelland said, ‘This year’s Budget provides a $400 million package aimed at making Australia and our international friends more secure. It includes funding for the expansion of the Australian Federal Police in areas such as international deployments and capacity development.’

“$191.9 million has been allocated so an additional 500 Australian Federal Police officers can be sworn in over the next five years to help tackle domestic and transnational crime. Pacific countries will be supported with funding of an $80.1 million package to build better policing strategies.”

Howard government (1996-2007)

International deployment, statement, Prime Minister John Howard, 2 February 2004 .

“After discussion with the Minister, Senator Ellison and the Commissioner, I’m announcing this morning the formation of a dedicated international deployment group within the Australian Federal Police to comprise some 500 officers recruited from both the Australian Federal Police and the state police forces. They will have the permanent ongoing responsibility of taking part in international deployments.

“They obviously will incorporate many of the people who are now on deployment in the Solomon Islands and to be deployed in the near future in Papua New Guinea. The difference is that we’re going to have a separate dedicated group and the people involved in it will have the full time responsibility of taking part in international deployments. The weakness of the current arrangement is that it’s essentially [inaudible] that a police officer might be working, for example, in the Victorian police, go on deployment in the region on the understanding that he or she would then return to service in the Victoria police. That creates difficulties for state police forces because it’s essentially ad hoc. And, of course, as these officers are involved in apprehension in other countries they’re required to give evidence in court when people are charged, that also creates further demands on their time and logic suggests that we should have a separate dedicated force.

“They will, of course, be all under Australian Federal Police command. It will reinforce the projection of an Australian national police presence in the countries in which they’re deployed. I should emphasise that the purpose of this group will be for deployment in the region, nobody should construe from the formation of this group we have in mind deployment further afield, the whole purpose is to consolidate and put on a proper dedicated basis the evident need for this country in the years ahead to provide police, professional police support to many of our neighbours in the Pacific. Many of these countries need trained police, as much if not more than they need military personnel and one of the best things that Australia can do, on an ongoing dedicated professional basis is to provide an effective police presence and police advice in these countries.”

A stronger AFP: responding to regional challenges, AFP Media release, 25 August 2006.

The Government has decided to substantially strengthen the Australian Federal Police’s capacity to respond to international crises, particularly in our region. The AFP’s International Deployment Group (IDG) will be increased by about 400 personnel, taking the total to 1200. This will be the largest single increase in AFP staff since the force was established in 1979.

“The extra resources will allow the IDG to establish a 150-strong Operational Response Group that is ready to respond at short notice to emerging law and order issues and undertake stabilisation operations. The boost to AFP operations will cost $493 million over the next five years.

“Law enforcement has been a key component of recent Australian assistance missions to fragile states such as Solomons Islands, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. AFP and Australian Defence Force personnel have worked side-by-side to restore stability after recent violence and unrest in Dili and Honiara. The expansion will allow the AFP to respond more quickly and comprehensively to crisis situations and will help to strengthen law enforcement capabilities across our region. International and regional challenges will continue to confront us.

“Since the Government first announced the establishment of the IDG in early 2004 it has played a vital role in meeting ongoing regional security requirements. The IDG currently has 470 members deployed overseas in Solomon Islands, East Timor, Nauru, Vanuatu, Sudan, Cyprus and Jordan.”

Australian Federal Police Overseas Operations, Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Audit report No.53, 2006-07 Performance Audit, p28

“The original purpose in creating the IDG was to build up a body of personnel who could be deployed overseas for peacekeeping, restoration of law and order and capacity-building initiatives in the region. In 2006 the Prime Minister announced a substantial strengthening of the AFP’s capacity to respond to crises overseas, particularly in Australia’s region. The IDG was to be increased by about 400 personnel, taking the expected total at that time to 1200. The 2006 initiative was the largest single increase in AFP staff since the force was established in 1979. The extra resources were to allow the IDG to establish a 150-strong Operational Response Group that is ready to respond at short notice to emerging law and order issues and undertake stabilisation operations. This expansion to AFP operations will cost some $493 million over the next five years.”

Australian Federal Police Overseas Operations, Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Audit report No.53, 2006-07 Performance Audit, p45, p118

“The IDG was created in February 2004 to provide an administrative and policy platform for the planning and management of AFP overseas deployments. A benefit expected from the creation of the IDG was to concentrate and develop AFP expertise in the various aspects of overseas deployments, from the operational level to the administration of logistics planning and support.”

“….The IDG Future Strategy (IFS), which was approved in August 2006, provides a significant boost to capability and capacity of the AFP with additional funding of $493.2 million; and an increase of staffing levels to 1200 over two years. In recognition of the changing global environment, this includes an Operational Response Group of 150 people for immediate response to international operations. It also includes a policing and capacity building group of over 750 people located both overseas and in Australia, and promotes greater liaison between like interoperable agencies such as the AFP and Australian Defence Force (ADF) operationally and logistically.

“Partner relationships in law enforcement capacity building continue to increase and demand greater coordination with AusAID. The secondment of AFP officers to AusAID’s Fragile States Unit and the Office of Development Effectiveness builds on the cooperative efforts both organisations enjoy. The AFP recognises that joint operations with the ADF as part of national offshore crisis response will become more frequent and increased interoperability will be necessary. Progression toward this objective will partly be achieved this year with the embedding of AFP officers in Joint Operations Command and the Australian Defence Force Warfare Centre, and the meeting of mutually agreed milestones as expressed in the interoperability joint terms of reference signed in November 2006.”

AFP reply to Questions on notice, Senate inquiry into Australia’s involvement in Peacekeeping Operations, 2007

As at 8 August 2007 the AFP had a total staffing of 6567, with 2623 sworn police officers. For a member to be eligible to deploy with the IDG the member would need to meet the following requirements:

    • have a current passport;
    • have completed pre-deployment training;
    • be medically cleared for deployment (with immunisations for whichever country the deployment is for);
    • no current Professional Reporting Standard issues;
    • no current open compensation case;
    • have a current psych clearance;
    • have a current senior first aid certificate

A sworn member would also have to have the following:

    • have more then 4 years policing experience;
    • be Use of Force qualified for the period of deployment.

There are approximately 2000 sworn members with more then 4 years policing experience and 2100 unsworn members that would be able to deploy providing they meet the above criteria. This is inclusive of current IDG members.

Testimony to Senate Committee, AFP Assistant Commissioner Mark Walters, Senate Joint Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee, 25 July 2007, p8

It is very much heading in that direction under the IDG future strategy. The IDG itself was formed in February 2004 to build a capability through which the AFP could deploy police officers and unsworn personnel offshore. We were drawing the majority of those people from within the AFP – so they were coming into the IDG for a deployment offshore for a determined period of time – and we were also seconding state and territory police officers into the IDG to provide that capability. One of the key tenets of the IDG future strategy is to build a capability for the IDG in its own right so that we do not continue to draw on state and territory police as much as we have in the past, nor from the AFP’s outcome I and removing people from operations. The future strategy will allow us to have a deployable capability of 750 personnel, and Commander Lancaster’s Operations Response Group will be 200-strong as well, so that gives us a very dedicated capability to deploy to any incident in the region and to do so in a very complementary way with the Australian Defence Force. …Given the scope of the AFP’s international commitments and obligations at the moment, we see opportunities for officers within the IDG to have a career within the IDG itself: But the modelling for people coming into the IDG under the future strategy will be to bring them in for a set period of time, after which they can go back out into other areas of the AFP. It provides some flexibility for officers to come in, bring experience into the IDG, gain more experience and then go back into other areas of the AFP or develop a career path through the IDG.”

Commentary and analysis

What are the most likely military and wider national responses that may be required over the next 20 years? AFP Deputy Commissioner John Lawler, Australian Defence Force Journal, No.173, 2007, p84

“Recognising the continued high likelihood of such stabilisation operations within the region in coming decades, such as those conducted in East Timor and the Solomon Islands, the AFP and ADF are improving their collective abilities to work together, with a focus on coordination between agencies, and on developing common understandings in doctrine, training, integrated planning, logistics and capability development.

“A major impetus for the increased cooperation between the AFP and ADF was the almost simultaneous events of rioting in the Solomon Islands and in Timor Leste in May 2006. Following the initial response to these events, the ADF and AFP went to the Government with proposals seeking to address concerns over the capacity to deal with any similar situation of concurrency in the future.

“Therefore, in August 2006 the Australian Government announced a $493.2 million funding boost for the AFP’s International Deployment Group (lDG). The funding will allow the lDG to increase its staffing levels to 1200 over the next two years and allow the AFP to send more officers overseas. Those officers will help ensure the stability of Australia’s neighbouring countries, strengthen law enforcement capabilities across the region and further address the threats of transnational crime and terrorism. This includes the establishment of an Operational Response Group comprising 150 members able to deploy at short notice in response to law and order issues.”

Policebuilding: The International Deployment Group in the Solomon Islands, Gordon Peake and Kaysie Studdard Brown, International Peacekeeping, Vol.12, No.4, Winter 2005, pp.521

Despite the clarity of approach and tightness of organization which other police reform programmes have lacked, familiar problems remain with the lDG’s approach. This relative failure requires thinking about the core assumptions underpinning the lDG policing model. Like other internationally organized’ police reform programmes, the lDG has attempted to replicate a formal model of policing that is fashioned in developed, or donor, countries. Thus far the yield has been poor, and the experience should instigate a reevaluation of the ‘universal’ notions of how a police force should work, in conditions where state institutions are feeble and compromised and where alternative, sub-state methods have both deeper roots and proven capabilities.

Situated outside Canberra in a purpose-built facility, the IDG is the base for current and future Australian international police deployments. As well as executive authority missions, training is also provided for officers to work within (non-executive) capacity-building and monitoring missions as well as bilateral law enforcement assignments. In offering its facilities to police from the South Pacific, it also provides joint regional partnerships and programmes….The IDG is designed to address the critiques that have been levelled against the way international policing missions have been run. It has continuity of personnel, steadiness of time and uniformity of approach. Officers sign up for 12-24 months of overseas deployment. They receive pre-deployment training, including skills that might not necessarily be directly involved in keeping law and order but are necessary for their acculturation to new environments. For example, part of the training involves living for weeks in an unheated concrete hut and undertaking simulated mission tasks such as elementary car maintenance and hikes over rough terrain.”

The paramilitary wing of the AFP, Bruce Haigh, Online Opinion, 25 February 2008

“Keelty has encroached into the public service under what, until now has been the unchallengeable mantra of terrorism. … It is with this mechanism that the AFP have been able to clear the arena, allowing inroads into the Departments of Immigration, Foreign Affairs, Defence, AusAid and Prime Minister and Cabinet. Terror has been the vehicle for unrestrained empire building by Keelty and the AFP with minimum accountability and an apparent desire to avoid it.”

See also:

Project researcher: Nic Maclellan
Updated: 21 June 2009