The Immigration Department and the Customs Service are planning to cull their senior management ranks with very few executives guaranteed a job in the merged department.
Immigration would not confirm the numbers of managers to be axed under the Senior Executive Service "Transition Process" but departmental insiders say about 25 executives, or 20 per cent of the department's current SES cohort, are set to be shown the door.
The shake-up comes as the department's new secretary Mike Pezzullo prepares Immigration for the emergence of "Australian Border Force" which will see Immigration merged with Mr Pezzullo's old agency Customs to create the new entity.
Immigration staffers are already grumbling about a "hostile takeover" by the much smaller Customs operation with one bureaucrat saying jokes about the "Customisation of Immigration" and a "chihuahua attacking the Labrador" were beginning to be heard at DIBP's Belconnen headquarters.
Immigration's staff headcount shrunk by 600 last year but the number of senior executives, who earn between $162,000 and $310,000, remained steady at 119.
Customs reduced its headcount by about 158 in 2013-2014 but the ranks of senior executives swelled from 59 to 65, despite undergoing its own Transition Process during the year.
Senior executives at Customs earn between $147,000 and $283,000 a year although they may benefit from performance bonus payments not available to their counterparts at Immigration.
Wage disparities and cultural differences between the two agencies will be among some of the challenges to be overcome as the formation of "Border Force", due in July 2015, draws closer.
An Immigration Department spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday that senior executives in both her own department and Customs had been advised of the "transition".
"The secretary announced to all SES of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service that as part of the integration of the Department and the Service and the creation of the Australian Border Force, there will be a SES Transition Process," the spokeswoman said.
"This will include the assessment of SES and allocation of SES accountabilities and responsibilities according to new roles for the Department and the Australian Border Force."
She denied the departmental rumour that the SES would be subjected to a "spill and fill" process, forcing the managers to apply for their own jobs.
"SES will not be required to apply for their jobs," she said.
"The secretary and CEO of ACBPS will make all decisions on the allocation of SES to roles in the department.
"This will be completed by 30 June 2015 in order to support the new Department and establishment of the Australian Border Force on July 1,2015."
The spokeswoman confirmed that executive jobs would go but said the precise number would not be known for some time.
"There is expected to be an overall reduction in numbers though the precise number will not be known until assessment, allocation, consultation and decision making processes are complete," she said.