A brave new world: the UK's defence information strategy26 June 2017
Defence & Security Systems International takes a look at the UK Ministry of Defence’s recently reviewed ‘Defence Information Strategy’.
First published in February 2016, the UK’s Ministry of Defence and Joint Forces Command document, ‘Defence Information Strategy’, set out a number of objectives for the UK’s armed forces and intelligence services with the aim of enabling them to use all available resources, including new technologies – some of which are already being used by those with the intention of doing democracy harm, and others that are new and, in some cases, relatively unknown. The intention was for forces to be at the cutting edge of technology in intel and in the theatre.
Since then, much has changed, and the document was updated in February 2017 to reflect this. More information, including the entire document, can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/ defence-information-strategy.
Mike Stone, chief digital and information officer at the UK Ministry of Defence, introduced the document with the following statement:
“Without doubt, information is the lifeblood of operations, and it is essential that we are able to appropriately share and access it wherever, whenever and with whomever we need to. Our international-by-design approach will enable us to access our partners’ information to work cohesively. This strategy describes the journey that defence is taking in this connected environment, the challenges we face and where we need to improve, to deliver a modern information enterprise.
“The journey is defined by our clear vision, which remains to deliver information capabilities to defence that act as a force multiplier, and to do so at real pace. We will implement this vision through a set of defined strategic outcomes. This refined set of outcomes will be used to control implementation, and to measure and report progress. In particular, this strategy will be implemented through three strategic thrusts: defence as a platform, putting customers at the heart of everything we do and agile procurement.
“We are evolving to become masters of our own destiny, establishing our in-house ICT design authority and escaping vendor lock-in. We will create platform ecosystems that will enable front-line commands, defence authorities and top-level budget holders to exploit these capabilities in order to meet their operational and business needs, and to do so by contracting for outcomes. In all we do, we will continue to challenge, reimagine and disrupt the many received wisdoms across the department.
“Innovation is crucial, and we recognise that great examples of new approaches to solving problems or achieving outcomes exist in many areas across defence. We want to discover and learn about these good ideas, and grow our own innovation strategy and capabilities. We also need to identify capabilities that exist in orthogonal sectors and implement them in as ‘vanilla’ a way as possible.
“This strategy is a living and dynamic document that continues to evolve as we journey towards the vision. Our aim is to work with you to bring it to life for the benefit of everyone.
“This defence information strategy draws together many important concepts, work streams and initiatives to explain how they will meet the demands of information-age warfare. It describes how defence will be provided at pace with information capabilities that are a force multiplier.
“Information underpins all activities in defence; it is the medium through which we understand the world around us. Appropriate sharing of timely, accurate and trusted information across defence, partners in government, allies and industry is critical to the effectiveness of the department of state, and for the warfighter to achieve information superiority. It is a ‘force multiplier’.
“The nature of future conflict will in part be shaped by the blurring of physical and virtual domains, creating boundaryless warfare. The availability of sophisticated, commoditised technologies to what would traditionally be ‘mediocre’ adversaries is eroding information advantages previously enjoyed by higher-spending forces. Technologies such as ubiquitous cloud and ‘always connected’ mobile devices are almost universally available at little cost. Maintaining an operational advantage requires the optimisation of existing capabilities, innovation and the imaginative exploitation of emerging technologies such as the internet of things, robotics, simulation and artificial intelligence.
“Information needs to be appropriately managed and shared if it is to be exploited. Defence operates its networks in a technically hostile environment where the threat to our information and relative technical advantage is always evolving. As such, we need to build information capabilities that are interoperable, integrated and are shaped but not constrained by the need for cyberdefence. Moreover, to achieve coherence, it is essential that defence adopts an enterprise approach through strategy and architecture to address challenges such as ‘big data’, information assurance, agility and fiscal constraints. Information should fully support our armed forces, as outlined in Joint Force 2025, to protect, understand, shape and effectively respond within the changing international environment.
“Transformational activities are already under way to improve defence information capabilities and relate to how defence designs, develops and operates ICT services. Information systems and services (ISS) are providing a dynamic response to information needs across the single information environment (SIE). We are developing defence as a platform (DaaP), incorporating the new style of IT (NSOIT), making defence master of its own destiny, contracting for outcomes and developing our people across defence. This overall DaaP approach will enable us to exploit platform economics, which teaches us that we can exploit assets and information that are operated and maintained out with defence.”
Delivering information capabilities that are a force multiplier dramatically increases operational and business effectiveness. For operations, it increases the effectiveness of forces across the five domains – maritime, land, air, cyber and space – while in the corporate space, it increases the effectiveness of business decisionmaking. Information capabilities can be a significant force multiplier in both environments if they are up to date, work as intended, and are provided in an agile and timely fashion. The intent behind force multiplication is to generate leading-edge capabilities through consistent innovation and imaginative exploitation.
It is essential to provide information capabilities to support defence’s outputs, the digitalisation of defence and the development of joint capabilities. Defence will play a full role in the government’s digital strategy, working with its digital service and across departments to transform the way we do business. We will work to introduce digital services and information that make it simpler, easier and faster for people interacting with defence to get things done internally, with industry and with citizens, particularly targeted on recruiting, reserve forces and veterans.
The main outcome will be that, from the warfighter to corporate HQ, users are at the heart of a single information environment in which they can access – through a single identity – and appropriately share the information they need to meet their business objectives or achieve information superiority over an enemy.
The strategic outcomes and its two subordinate levels are core to the strategy’s implementation in that they allow all stakeholders across defence to understand and participate in key important activities and outputs. Moreover, they will form the framework against which strategy implementation will be measured and reported. The ultimate aim is to ensure that implementation is coherent and focused on achieving outcomes that create tangible benefits to defence. The ICT design authority will ensure that all programmes across defence are mapped to these outcomes.
Source: UK Ministry of Defence
Technology horizon scanning
Defence needs to maintain its advantage in a highly contested information environment, identifying and exploiting emerging technologies, and applying these as force multipliers in the business and operational space more rapidly than competitors. To achieve this, tracking such emerging technologies will be treated as routine business by ISS.
ISS will actively search and monitor industry, government departments, academia, and social and mainstream media, identifying trends, and quickly assessing potential threats and opportunities for defence. Best practice and innovation at the edge by Ministry of Defence organisations will be championed and ‘swiped with pride’ so they can be made available to all across the base and deployed domains.
To maximise the potential for innovation in delivering capabilities that are a force multiplier, ISS will apply agile principles to develop, integrate, and deliver products and services at pace. Regardless of role or location, discovery of new services through a single service catalogue and accessing these across the enterprise through DaaP will allow everyone in defence to consume new capabilities faster, easier and more effectively. Source:
UK Ministry of Defence
DIS has to be responsive to defence’s evolving needs, and provide appropriate direction to ensure that we provide an optimal and affordable mix of information services. Defence should innovate across all it does, taking advantage of new technologies to provide information capabilities that:
- exploit and protect information as a strategic asset, and ensure that the warfighter achieves information superiority in a contested battlespace
- deliver a set of common corporate and differentiated ICT services through a DaaP approach that reduces complexity and cost, and that enables agility and innovation
- provide interoperable, assured and resilient systems and services that recognise that the enterprise begins at the edge
- accessorise information with weapons platforms, integrating platforms from the dismounted solider to ships and aircraft as part of the single information environment
- are defined by the warfighters’ needs across a range of channels and devices
- are designed for interoperability and openness, supporting device-agnostic security controls that focus on securing the data and not the infrastructure or device
- support the exploitation of digital technologies across all defence capabilities, and place the customer and the citizen at the heart of what it does, supporting the government’s digital strategy
- are delivered, managed, supported and exploited by a defence workforce that has the necessary skills and knowledge needed to create world-leading warfighting capabilities.
Source: UK Ministry of Defence