Defence and Industry - A Renewed Partnership
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Defence and Industry - A Renewed Partnership

By Marcus Thompson, Head Information Warfare, Department of Defence, Australlia

Marcus Thompson, Head Information Warfare, Department of Defence, Australlia

“The changing character of warfare has exposed the distinctions that don’t exist any longer between peace and war,” General Carter, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) British Armed Forces.

In June this year, Australia’s Chief of the Defence Force (CDF), General Angus Campbell, gave an address to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, urging the audience to start talking about the issue of war in 2025. In capability-development terms, the CDF described 2025 as essentially today. He opened his speech with a quote attributed to famous Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, who is alleged to have said:

“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

The CDF went on to detail the extent to which “political warfare,” a phenomenon until recently set aside by Western theorists, has permeated the contest of wills known as “warfare” for as long as war has existed. The CDF was not trying to initiate a new concept of warfare for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Instead, he was asking a pivotal question about the character of warfare, and the extent of its permeation into all elements of human society.

In modern warfare, this might mean calling out the information environment as the true connector of all the traditional elements of national power–diplomacy, information, military and economic capabilities, sometimes represented by the acronym DIME.

As the Head of Australia’s Information Warfare Division, responsible for developing the ADF’s information warfare policies and capabilities, I could not be happier about the questions posed by General Campbell. We are starting to have a meaningful discussion about the threats we face in this new war fighting domain.

In September 2019, carefully targeted drones – driven by data trails and detected by them after the fact–halted 5 percent of the world’s oil supplies in less than 10 minutes. The world of data, the rapid passage of information that is the heartbeat of a modern economy and the lifeblood of some national assets, has so overwhelmed us that we can no longer think, act or respond without data and its information, even as militaries.

Data’s events are often a long way ahead of our ability to deal with them, militarily, politically, and socially. This means we need a new model of cooperation between government agencies like the ADF and businesses, who are competing in this world, the data fight, together.

The information environment is advancing so rapidly that the traditional relationship between the military and industry capability development needs to change. The military will need to partner with industry in all stages of capability development. The industry must bring their best analysts and techos into the room to talk to the military, explore new horizons, and ultimately field new technology before an adversary can. This partnership must generate national systems that are scalable, deployable, and competitive in the environment of unharnessed political warfare that is increasingly characterizing our data-centric age.

CDF, Australia, reminded us that political warfare:

“…subverts and undermines. It penetrates the mind. It seeks to influence, to subdue, to overpower, to disrupt… It can be covert or overt, a background of white noise or loud and compelling. It’s not limited by the constructs or constructions of peace or peacetime. It’s constant and scalable, and most importantly, it adapts.”

Unless the military, with industry’s support, can adapt the way and speed at which capability is developed, then the ability for a nation to defend its national interests may be seriously affected.

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