All eight policing agencies are expected to be using Australia’s new national criminal intelligence system (NCIS) before the end of this year in a watershed moment for real-time information sharing.
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) chief Michael Phelan told senate estimates that “late adopters” would soon be onboarded following funding in last week’s federal budget.
ACIC has received an undisclosed amount of funding to continue integration as part of a $116.8 million package to “enhance its core capabilities to disrupt transnational, serious and organised crime”.
At least some of the funding will be used by ACIC to ramp up its use of controversial account takeover and data disruption powers, much like the Australian Federal Police are doing.
“The money that’s been provided in the budget is to bring on board the late adopters... which will finish up towards the end of the years,” Phelan said last week.
He said the late adopters are the Australian Federal Police, South Australian Police, Tasmanian Police and Northern Territory Police.
ACIC has been building the NCIS to replace the Australian criminal intelligence database (ACID) since 2018 to give policing agencies a complete picture of criminal activity across the country.
The system went live for more than 250 operational exposure users from in March 2021, according to the agency’s most recent annual report.
The ‘operational exposure release’ followed a baseline release in March 2020 and an alpha release in October 2019.
Phelan told estimates that a progressive rollout was adopted due to the complexity of the various systems being used by policing agencies.
“We couldn’t bring on all policing jurisdictions in one go,” he said
“It’s logistically impossible, given the federated system under which we work and that everybody has different systems – it would have been a nightmare.”
Budget funding will also “pay for sustainment... until we can partition off the old systems”, with subsequent running costs then to be funded from expenditure used to maintain existing systems.
“These systems are used 24/7 by law enforcement throughout the country, so I can’t switch one off and have another one on,” Phelan said.
“They’ve all got different ways in which they interact with the system, so some need to be kept for longer.
“Every one of them is different, and that’s why it has been such a long process.
“But we are in production, and that’s the important thing. It is actually up and running now, and those early adopters are using the system.”
New data analytics capability
Phelan also told estimates the $116.8 million in budget funding would flow towards a net increase of around 65 staff – 10 percent of the agency’s total – over the next couple of years.
“Most it, by far, goes to the frontline, so it's in terms of my brand-new data and analytics capability,” he said.
“Whilst there is some funding there for data analytical tools, which are purchased from vendors, it still needs people to do the analysis and it needs the data scientists to work for that.
“This budget provides for positions in relation to that.”