DefenceIT 2014 Conference in the UK

MOD in peacetime

The annual DefenceIT conference concluded two weeks ago at the Defence Academy in the UK. More than 250 uniformed and civilian technology leaders gathered to talk about the intersection of business solutions and battle-space technology needs. Once again I was honored to be invited to participate.

I took as my theme this year the idea that the very nature of “change” is itself changing. Here is the presentation (hosted on SlideShare). It was a very interactive session and so the slides don’t quite do justice to the actual live presentation. This presentation will be reprised in London in June. Contact me for details.

This conference is, with doubt, one of the most interesting events I get to attend each year. This year was no exception. Top of mind for most attendees was the realization that, come December of this year, there will be no UK armed forces deployed in a hostile environment. That has not happened since 1914. Consequently the UK government is looking at what modern defence posture and priorities should be.

Defence spending reductions are already underway and forcing the reshaping of priorities in the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD). This is leading to rebrigading (reallocating brigades resources into fewer organizational units) which has the most immediate impact on the armed forces. However this has the potential to move the focus away from preparing for future mission profiles Her Majesty’s armed forces may be tasked to do.

The massive effort of repatriating war-fighters and their materiel from Afghanistan is well underway. However with billions of pounds worth of equipment and only a few months to complete the redeployment before winter comes, the logistical complexity is huge. Ensuring that vital, sensitive and strategic materials are shipped with priority and shipped securely is just as much of a challenge as shipping the more mundane. The added complexity of an uncertain outcome to the current Afghan elections brings a special frissance to the expression “mission critical.”

Technology is at the heart of solving these problems and the intersection between the business solutions and military need has greater congruence than ever before. Just like commercial IT users, the pace of change in the “diplomacy … by other means” business and the imperative for compliance and accountability has reached the point where accountants and politicians measure success by financial metrics as well as military ones. Technology underpins both peacetime and wartime effectiveness and the MOD is constantly in need of commerical-off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions to support the men and women serving around the world who keep the peace and establish global security.

If you have stories around how technology is helping make the world a safer, more secure place, please share in the comments.

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