Opportunities for industry to deliver Defence information edge

Line of Defence Magazine - Update

Opportunities for industry
Information Domain ushers in new opportunities for collaboration. Image: Ministry of Defence.

The information domain presents new opportunities for industry to collaborate with Defence in altogether new ways, writes Nicholas Dynon, Chief Editor of Line of Defence Magazine.

The New Zealand information domain will change the shape of the New Zealand Defence Force as an organisation and as a fighting force. In addition to bringing into play new capabilities, the domain will also usher in new operating models and ways of doing things.

Exactly what this will look like, however, is still up in the air. And that’s where industry comes in – at the ground floor. Communication from Defence to date in relation to the information domain – including during the NZDIA IDEAS 2020 Part One presentations – stresses that Defence is seeking industry’s input into both designing and delivering this domain of the future. 

In this article, I provide a high-level view of what some of these opportunities look like. For more detail, read through the upcoming articles in our comprehensive coverage from IDEAS 2020 Part Two, or visit the members only resources on the NZDIA website.

Joint Intelligence Project (JIP)

The days of prising intelligence out of secretive sources are fast receding into the past. Open source intelligence is where the information edge of the future will come from – and those who can analyse it faster and more effectively will win.

“The increasing importance of publicly available information to the intelligence enterprise will require analysts to have the toolsets and tradecraft to exploit data to enhance decision support products,” said Brigadier Hugh McAslan, Chief of Defence Intelligence. “We need to seek to collaborate with industry and academia to make best use of what is available.”

According to Matt Ottaway, JIP Integrated Project Team Lead, the team is looking to establish an interface within the defence intelligence enterprise to engage industry to support delivery of the intelligence mission, and to collaborate with industry for the provision of products and services to support the delivery of capabilities outside the remit or expertise of the NZDF.

This means developing, managing and facilitating innovative commercial arrangements to engage external partners, and understanding the capabilities and services being developed by industry and assessing their potential to support the intelligence enterprise.

According to BRIG McAslan, Defence is looking to industry to understand how to leverage expertise to manage big data, but also to triage it, visualise it, and develop techniques for machine learning in order to get the best return out of the human effort involved in analysing it.

Other areas in which there are opportunities for industry in the JIP include analytical tools, including Commercial off the Shelf and coding development; Research-as-a-Service, expertise in techniques for market (audience) analysis [the ability to understand the market from an Information Operations perspective] and providing surge skillsets to support the solving of specific intelligence problem sets. 

Cyber Security and Support Capability (CSSC)

According to Sunita Musa, CSSC Integrated Project Team Leader at the Ministry of Defence, the CSSC project will “develop an enhanced Defensive Cyberspace Operations capability that protects, defends, and contributes to the resilience of NZDF networks, systems and platforms, including deployed force elements.”

There are workforce-related opportunities for industry here in terms of Defence-industry secondments, organisational design, training, and school and university programs to develop the future cyber workforce.

“The increasing focus on information operations, including cyber, will require a broad training and operations programme,” she said, “and there are opportunities to share the training burden between government, industry and academia.”

Industry also has a role to play in delivering technical capabilities, such as incident management, forensics, threat intelligence, and vulnerability scanning, and this includes deployed capabilities.

In a nutshell, the CSSC project looks to industry’s ability to provide the NZDF with options, whether fixed or deployed; competencies and skill sets; technology and business process options; IT and OT options; thought leadership, and experience in introducing cyber defence products into companies and agencies.

The Defence Information Environment

The blue sky thinking associated with the information domain is juxtaposed against the fact that much of the Defence Information Environment (DIE) is legacy.

The NZDF’s existing information technology infrastructure, says Air Commodore Carl Nixon, the NZDF’s CIO, is out of date and experiencing significantly degraded performance. Current information management maturity is not fit-for-purpose, and without investment will continue to degrade.

“We need to move to commodity ICT services being delivered by external suppliers, with Defence Force resource focusing on the integration and exploitation of new capability and the management and exploitation of information,” he said. 

This means a role for industry in the NZDF investment areas of Enterprise Cloud and Enterprise Connectivity, Enterprise Productivity and Information Management Programme.

The increasing reliance on information in the conduct of military operations, and the need to integrate platforms and capabilities from the traditional land maritime and air domains, presents greater complexity for the NZDF. But it also, says Captain Brendon Oakley, NZDF Director Strategic Joint Communications, presents opportunities.

“It is proposed that a new operating model approach be developed to have industry concentrate on delivering and being responsible for functions and roles that have generally been undertaken by the Defence Force. This would allow the NZDF to place full focus on areas within the information domain that industry can’t do for them.

“For example, industry could possibly deliver certain elements of cybersecurity, freeing up NZDF resources to concentrate on operational and sensitive requirements.”

If IDEAS 2020 Part One is anything to go by, Defence is looking for new ways to engage with industry in order to ensure it is able to best harness the information talent and capabilities held in the private sector. There are real opportunities here to shape a new Defence- Industry partnership purpose-built for the information age.