Last month saw the long anticipated Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy published by the government. Amongst the long-term strategic plans, considerable sums of money, and recognition of how we need to adapt to the changing world, I was struck by the phrase in the title of the document.
We believe that conflict in the digital age requires a Digital Army that can relentlessly out-compete its adversaries, seamlessly integrate with partners and enable our people, equipment and resources to operate with maximum efficiency. It will be underpinned by a digital backbone that delivers hyperconnectivity to leverage high quality, secure, extensive data and operated by a digitally talented workforce.
THEIA, the Army’s Digital Transformation programme, is central to the delivery of our digital vision. As the Programme Director, I see integration as central to my role and pivotal to the success of THEIA.
We are already working hard to integrate emergent data rules and digital processes into hitherto analogue processes. Career management is a good, contemporary, example where we are exploring machine learning and artificial intelligence to reduce the heavy demand on our workforce. In this case, THEIA is not about taking the Career Manager out of the process; our careers will not be managed by computers. But it can, and is, reducing the routine administrative burden, freeing up capacity to better focus on looking after our people. Nevertheless, all these processes need to be integrated and cultures need to change to include the new technology.
Equally as important is building and sustaining relationships with industry to harness innovation; this will need us to be open and transparent about how to integrate with us.
THEIA is also about ensuring that the Army recruits, trains and educates a diverse and digitally savvy workforce – integrating digital skills into more traditional military training. This will then contribute to and integrate a more digital culture into the established culture of the British Army.
As we progress, there are huge opportunities for the Army, enabled by the Integrated Review, to be more efficient as an organisation and more lethal as a fighting force. Operationally, the Integrated Operating Concept 2025 introduced the idea that to compete better against our adversaries, in an era of persistent competition, we must integrate for advantage. We expect to fight in coalition in the future so we will need to be integrated in every sense to achieve the policy of Multi-Domain Operations. This must be across the five domains (maritime, land, air, space, and cyber and electromagnetic), the three levels (strategic, operational and tactical) of warfare, across government and with allies and partners.
So, THEIA is not just about the exciting bits of technology being able to speak and work with each other – although that is a considerable task that we are on! It’s about integrating the Army’s ways of working, training, language, structure, culture internally and externally with allies and partners. It’s a mammoth task but one that, as a central pillar, will enable the implementation of a truly ‘Integrated Review’ to deliver a digital Army.