December 2017
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  • The Future of Defence Learning

    The Future of Defence Learning

    Whether defined as Network Centric Warfare (NCW), Network Enabled Capability (NEC) or NetOpF?, network enabled operations are a powerful response to the new tasks required of our armed forces. The technology that drives them can be tailored to each individual military campaign to facilitate the distribution of intelligence more quickly than ever before, and deliver the desired operational effects at greater speed and with much greater accuracy. However, higher demands for interoperability bring with them serious technical issues, not least that of dissemination – how much, to where and to whom, to what level of detail, and how?

    Each campaign will bring together a dynamic set of assets and information flows. When the campaign begins, it is likely that the staff concerned will not have encountered the same scenario before and will thus have no meaningful references to help them with their decision-making. Flexibility and adaptability will have to become the norm, and rehearsal alone will no longer be sufficient. Coalition Operations compound the problem further.

    Training the whole network enabled force is therefore vital to meeting these challenges. We need to develop a change programme for the people involved in NEC operations, or we face the risk of failing to take advantage of NEC benefits. This involves genuine recognition that:

    • Current training does not increase the learning sufficiently to help commanders derive maximum value from rehearsals,
    • Rehearsals alone do not have the breadth, depth or complexity needed to train commanders to the standards likely to be required by the next mission
    • The mental models that enable decision-makers to make informed decisions have not been developed through appropriate collective training

    The nature of network enabled operations demands that we approach training analysis in a broader collective environment. This adds a layer of complexity through interaction of the individual with colleagues and their roles. Furthermore, in our need to react to a wide range of world events and anticipate evolving capability, we cannot even define fully the environment in which the solution will have to operate.

    It can be argued that current training needs analyses fall short of what is required today. This is because they follow a discrete linear process which is centred on the training needs of the individual, inadequately addresses the collective need, is generally carried out early in a system’s life-cycle, and does not facilitate decision-making across a system of systems. As a process, it does not suit the demands of the network enabled environment.

    There is a strong connection between this issue and the move to manage the complexity of the international defence community by using complexity-modelling techniques based on standards such as MODAF and DODAF, which characterise the various aspects of each system in a ‘system of systems’ (perhaps an easier way of describing network enabled architecture). In particular, these modelling techniques look at the interaction between the various systems within the overall system – an approach which is also gaining popularity across industry and Government.

    Looking ahead, it would appear that the defence community and industry are well positioned to spawn a wider Synthetic Environment community that promises technology that will be reconfigurable and future-proofed from the outset.

    Complexity modelling will be a vital tool in understanding the needs of a collective training programme and, in particular, in informing the fidelity debate.

    What is now needed is a champion for collective defence training at the highest level of international collaboration. Without it, we are in danger of failing to understand the relationships between our investments, and, as a result, frittering our money away on incoherent and inappropriate systems and activities.

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