Introducing the New Zealand Information Domain

Line of Defence Magazine - Update

New Zealand Information Domain
The New Zealand information domain starting to take shape.

The New Zealand Ministry of Defence’s Nick Gillard MNZM and NZDF’s Group Captain Pete Franken introduce the New Zealand Information Domain Review and Information Domain Delivery Strategy at the NZDIA’s IDEAS 2020 Part Two.

According to Nick Gillard, Director Land Domain (and previously Director Information Domain) it is in the Defence Capability Plan 2019 that the concept of the information domain was mooted for the first time. Since then, Defence has launched the Information Domain Review (IDR) and the Information Domain Delivery Strategy (IDDS). 

“The Strategy explains what the domain is and the sub portfolio of projects within it, which are all in the definition phase at the moment bar one, and also to provide a very broad roadmap as to where we’re going in terms of developing each of the capabilities within the domain,” said Mr Gillard.

“And what you’ll find is that many of the capabilities we’re going to talk about aren’t new, but we are uplifting them.”

Mr Gillard noted that COVID-19 was likely to impact on the availability of finance for the defence sector, on schedule, and on the ability to deliver on projects given restrictions on international travel, and so on. Nevertheless, he offered an indicative timeline for Information Domain work:

  • February 2021: release of a new Defence Assessment, which will provide a first indicator on what the direction of travel is for the domain.
  • March 2021: provision of an update of information domain timeline
  • May 2021: confirmation of budget for financial year 2021. 
  • July 2021: opportunities will possibly start to arise for industry – with the possibility of opportunities for small-scale collaboration in the meantime. 

“We would argue that information is changing the character of warfare and the way that militaries are operating, and this pace is only accelerating rather than being static or going backwards,” explained Mr Gillard. “And that’s the essence behind the domain for us.”

The information domain fits within the five domain categorisation variously articulated as: land, air, maritime, space and cyber/information. What sets it apart is that it is an enabler in relation to the other domains but it should also be capable of generating its own strategic, operational and tactical military effects. A discrete number of capabilities can therefore be grouped under this domain. 

According to Mr Gillard, the domain includes a sub-portfolio of projects defined in four distinct pillars: (i) Intelligence; (ii) Cyber Electro Magnetic Activities (CEMA); (iii) C4; and (iv) Information Activities.

“None of these capabilities are new,” he explained. “What we’re saying is that, although they’re extant in various forms throughout the Defence Force, it’s our intention to uplift those capabilities and integrate them in a more coherent manner.”

There are currently three main capabilities in the definition (pre-business case) phase: 

  • Joint Intelligence Project: JIP seeks to raise the performance of operationally focused intelligence, including increased capacity to process and analyse data.
  • Cybersecurity and Support Capability: CSCC seeks to delivery an Integrated Defensive Cyberspace Operations (DCO) capability to enhance the protection, defence and resilience of the NZDF’s networks, systems and platforms and provide support for deployed operations.
  • Joint Electronic Warfare Project: JEWP (still in its infancy) will deliver an Integrated Electronic Warfare (EW) capability that provides EW based strategic, operational and tactical situational awareness and understanding, and protection of personnel and platforms underpinned by a professional and sustainable EW workforce.

According to GPCAPT Pete Franken, NZDF Director Information Domain, the domain is focused on “offering options for the NZDF to best shape itself to meet the foreseeable future.”

“This is across the wider operational context; doing what we’ve always done is no recipe for addressing the challenges of the future,” he said. “The concept of the NZDF being a force merely for contingency is quite outdated… the NZDF of the future will need to be relevant to times of peace, as well as times of competition, and remain relevant in times of conflict.”

“This shift in thinking is primarily driven by the fact that information has traditionally been used to support and underpin other military capabilities. Anyone watching the daily news is aware of the rapid shift towards a ‘grey zone’ where information actions have moved totally to the fore.”

According to GPCAPT Franken, the Information Domain Review will address issues of organisational design and shape an NZDF organisation for the future. This will “give a home to” information domain capabilities once they’ve been introduced. 

“The goal here is to clearly ensure that the leaders of the future will have a broad array of military effects at their disposal. They need to be better informed of the threats, options and constraints than are our current cohort of military leaders.

“The journey will involve enhanced integration of our existing talent, skills and capability – from the strategic level, right the way through to the tactical level and across the Defence Force.” He noted that the NZDF will be partnering with industry, the security sector and academia to achieve this.

It is the role of the Information Domain Review to define the future home of the information domain. “Our role is to change the NZDF operating model and to support reliable delivery of effects that will be coherent and useful. This has got to be across the spectrum from times of peace, to times of competition, to times of conflict.”

GPCAPT Franken hopes that by Christmas he is able to present to the Executive an array of options from which will come a preferred choice and then work on a detailed business case throughout 2021.

“We know we have the skills. We know we have the training. My role is to understand the uplift that’s required between our current capability and how we can use this to better effect with small injects, whether it be through industry, new personnel, or training.”

In conclusion, GPCAPT Franken left several open questions for industry:

Broaden thinking to enhance future operating models

  • How could industry contribute meaningfully towards the development of an NZDF Operating Model incorporating an Information Domain?
  • What reward structures would you propose to ensure this endeavour is mutually beneficial?

Engagement, culture and effectiveness

  • Propose business models to overcome barriers and shift mindsets to reinforce trusted, mutual and enduring relationships between industry and Defence within the Information Domain as it evolves.
  • How might industry and Defence create a shared-interest workforce that is mutually beneficial and enduring?

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