In a world where technology such as artificial intelligence and robotics is evolving rapidly, defence organisations that are steeped in bureaucracy and decades-long procurement times are finding it more difficult to keep pace and ultimately keep their citizens safe.
An aging global population is making it harder for defence forces to ensure a supply of recruits. Meanwhile, global economic power is shifting towards China and India, and isolationist policies from superpowers such as the US and the UK are rewriting diplomatic conventions.
With the world at an economic, strategic and technological inflection point, defence forces are under pressure to act now to embrace emerging technology and create flexible organsations, to ensure they don’t end up planning for a form of combat that no longer exists. That is the view of PwC’s Global Defence Advisory Board, in its inaugural white paper, which aims to guide governments through uncertainty and into taking bold action.
The paper, “Overcoming today’s challenges for tomorrow’s security,” has drawn expertise from the Global Government Defence Network, which spans 32 countries, and connects defence industry teams across PwC’s vast network of firms. It outlines key steps governments can take to plan effectively amid these changes.
“The future is more opaque than ever before for today’s defence planners,” says PwC Australia partner Terry Weber, Global Government Defence Network coordinator and the report’s lead author. “One breakthrough in AI technology, or a change in political cooperation within the European Union, could trigger a radical overhaul in a nation’s military plans. Yet, today’s major military platforms take longer to design, build, buy, integrate and deploy than ever before. Military equipment being built now, due to become operational in a decade’s time, and expected to serve decades into the future, may not be fit for purpose before it ever begins service,” Weber says.
The key opportunities
To achieve the level of maturity required to prepare for the future, defence organisations should focus their efforts through three mutually-reinforcing lenses: the organisation, its partnerships, and effective capability planning.
Mature organisations are those that build agile, adaptable and reflective defence organisations, adopt a more agile and efficient approach to procurement, and focus on strategic workforce planning, all while balancing the complexity of dealing with big organisations with competing interests and multiple stakeholders.
Mature partnerships involve building deep and trusted partnerships within industry, as well as building international relationships with organisations that share common needs that will help create the flexibility crucial to adapting to changing system requirements.
Mature capability planning involves avoiding a platform replacement approach; instead of new-for-old, decision makers should assess the technology’s use case first. It also includes adapting the supporting infrastructure to the changing force environment, many of which were implemented during or shortly after WWII and no longer applicable to today’s needs.
In order to seize the opportunities at hand, defence organisations need to take decisive actions to begin the change process now. To achieve that, senior leaders should:
1) Assess their organisation’s maturity, and socialise these outside the organisation in order to establish the priorities for change.
2) Engage with outside stakeholders. Seeking outside perspectives can help leaders look beyond their understanding and uncover new opportunities for improvement.
3) Prioritise their reform agendas, to help drive meaningful change and form a foundation for lasting success.
4) Drive the reform, achieving early wins that will allow stakeholders to see the benefit in continuing until a high level of maturity is reached consistently across the organisation.