Delivering the Digital Backbone

Written by Pardeep Ruprai, Industry Secondee to ADS

In May 2021 the Ministry of Defence released their Digital Strategy for Defence, which outlines how the Defence Digital Function will enable access to data through the delivery of a secure, singular, modern Digital Backbone, as well as the vision for the sector through to 2030. The strategy supersedes the Digital & IT Functional Strategy 2019 and the Digital Function, and Enabling Warfare in the Information Age 2019; however, it reinforces the aims set out in the Integrated Operating Concept 2025.

Where is Digital today?

Digital capabilities are altering the landscape of warfare and politics, with data-driven capabilities influencing how we communicate, live, work and compete. This strategy recognises the opportunities and threats that come with this, and the new approach that is needed to grasp the opportunities of disruptive technology. Some of the current issues faced include the critical digital skills gap and “industrial age processes and cultures”, as outlined in the Digital strategy.

Where does Digital need to be by 2025?

The strategy outlines the importance of a secure and modern Digital backbone providing connection across military and business domains, with a drive towards integration and interoperability across domains and platforms. Furthermore, it is promised that Multi-Domain Integration and Defence Transformation will be driven by a skilled and agile Digital function. Additionally, a Digital Foundry will make use of the power of Defence’s data and will exploit technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and robotics. The Digital Foundry, which includes an AI Delivery Centre, will be established in partnership with the Government, industry, and academia. Earlier this year, the Defence Command Paper also set out a plan to publish an AI Strategy, so ADS will seek further clarity to better understand the links between the AI Delivery Centre and the upcoming AI Strategy.

Where does Digital need to be by 2030?

The strategy states that Defence will value Data as a strategic asset, recognising it as the ‘mineral ore’ that fuels integration and enables a system-of-systems approach. It also promises that the MOD will deliver transformative Digital capabilities to enable sustainable military and business advantage and these capabilities will be secure, integrated, easy to use and delivered at scale and pace to all in Defence. The strategy also set out the intention to invest an additional £1.6bn in people, processes, data, technology and cyber over the next ten years.

How will this be done?

To deliver this, cultural change and agile approaches are emphasised in the strategy, as well as skill building and close partnerships with the Multi-Domain Integration function in Strategic Command and with wider Transformation programmes. The strategy also sets out four guiding principles for the Digital Function including cohesion, integration, speed, and business rigour.

The MoD’s Digital Strategy for Defence is certainly welcomed with its focus on future delivery and agile approaches via initiatives such as the Digital Foundry and upskilling towards 2030 with an additional £1.6bn investment. In a changing world, a secure Digital backbone is vital and its modernisation is a strong step towards its full utilisation in the Defence sector.