Fighting a different battle: defence spending and data in the UK
Last week it was announced that British armed forces personnel were cut back by more than 20,000, three years ahead of target. Why so soon?
This news prompts discussion around the Ministry of Defence’s funding and investment plans. Were tight budgets part of the problem for the cuts to be made so early?
Despite the recent funding boost for the department, which was announced in the Summer Budget, the new government will need to make a number of key decisions that will ultimately shape the future of the British Armed Forces.
One of the most fundamental points is how better use of information and data analytics can streamline and improve the armed forces' effectiveness, both operationally and financially.
The volume of the world’s information is doubling every two years, and capabilities in data storage, collection and analytics improve all the time. There are many things the MOD could do differently to deliver important new operational and tactical advantages, and operate more efficiently as an organisation.
Current airborne sensors generate vast amounts of data. This, coupled with the data density required to process and detect movement, means it takes a lot of time and man power to analyse the information.
New technology that takes advantage of updated storage and virtualisation infrastructure will enable teams to sort through the volume in a much more timely and effective manner.
A second area where technology can transform flight operations is the assessment of the performance of individual parts. Being able to predict with sensors when turbine blades mid-air are about to fail, and organising spare parts to be available and replaced at the destination airport, will be hugely beneficial in terms of making more efficient use of military inventories.
Efficient operational planning
Battlefield commanders will be able to gain invaluable insights into real-time situations using remotely piloted systems such as the Reaper, which are able to collect a vast amount of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data.
These are long endurance systems, enabling analysts and troops in theatre to analyse trends and help develop plans and new tactics for individual operations.
Selecting the right minds
With the number of full-time soldiers declining, it will be more important than ever to select the right recruits. A key future challenge will be how to quickly assemble a force with the right mix of skills to address a situation.
Utilising the potential of data analytics can offer greater insight to this area. The right technology can also allow force planners to prioritise the right skill sets instead of making blanket cuts in each area.
Of course,there will be complexities and challenges; preparing the infrastructure, changing mindsets, training in new skills and understanding how to handle big data responsibly.
Leadership and collaboration between all teams will be vital for the MOD in the future. Historically the MOD has resorted to ‘salami slicing’ – cutting what it can off the ends of its budget lines. Whilst this may have resulted in short term gains, it has often left the Armed Forces ill-prepared for the future.
We recognize the budgetary constraints faced by the department, and understand that this was probably one the main reasons for the early job cuts. However, the use of technology and the role data analytics has to play are fundamental in increasing the Armed Forces’ efficiency and effectiveness to help ensure a brighter and safer tomorrow.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.
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