This May 2023 TD-Info facilitated MDI Working Group blog draws its inspiration from two events, the recent MDI Working Group 17th May deep dive into Integration through Partnership, plus 18th and 19th May SupportNet23 and its focus on Resilience.

Both events included leading influencers in these topics of integration, partnership, and resilience, and championed by UKStratCom champions in the form of Lt General Tom Copinger-Symes and Lt General Richard Wardlaw.

MDI Working Group – Integration through Partnership – Reflections

Detail notes and associated presentations can be found at

The MDI working group reflections start from the reality that the tensions in the world and conflict in Ukraine has revealed the new status-quo: digital capabilities and novel uses of data driving new approach to defence and deterrence. Digital is at the core of conflict, and central to the plans, thinking and fighting.

Acknowledging that Digital is disrupting nearly all aspects of our lives and is disrupting the way we do politics, defence, and deterrence, therefore the new status-quo demands a fundamental shift in our collective mindset: digital technologies powered by data are not just ‘enablers’, but an essential part of a credible deterrence strategy.

A key lesson from Ukraine has been to starkly illustrate that we must focus relentlessly on the Digital up-skilling our people. People are arguably the capability that matters the most, supported by innovation and technology, in the pursuit of Strategic Advantage.

As the UK brings about its response to the new ‘Digital Deterrence’ norm and the exploitation of power of data and digital technologies, the importance of collective accountabilities, collaboration and co-creation become vital strengths to underpin defence, prosperity, and resilience.

Therefore, deterrence now relies – more broadly – on digital superiority as a non-discretionary tool of power, through partnerships with NATO, Allies, and Industry we secure collectively the ability to make old tech new, enhance analysis and ensure fast decision-making and thus enabling and ensuring Decision Advantage.

Therefore, this key word “collective” increases in importance and is a force-multiplier as we must tackle this defence imperative through a closer dialogues and partnerships.

Tom C-S offered through the six core tenets Digital Deterrence so food for thought:

1. Stronger Together – collectively harness the power of digital to make the whole of the NATO Alliance greater than the sum of its parts. Driven by collaboration between principal partners, including like-minded nations, industry, academia, and civil society. The collective being underpinned by shared data standards and open architectures.

2. Learn: Adapt: Win – harnessing the power of digital to ‘sense, understand, decide, orchestrate, learn and adapt’ at a faster rate than the adversary. Within this approach we must incorporate all elements of NATO, particularly programmes focussed on innovation, such as NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (or DIANA).

3. Making Old Tech New – using the power of software to make ‘dumb’ bombs ‘smart’, representing an evolution from conventional platform centricity to a data-centric approach to deterrence. This strategic tenet demands we address:

    • Misused, poorly controlled and vulnerable data.
    • Valuing data as the oil in the machine, not a currency to be traded.
    • Leveraging analysis for precision; automation for speed; and autonomy for mass – to make our forces more lethal, survivable, and logistically sustainable.

4. Amplification – using data and information as a weapon, by communicating and amplifying messages and leveraging open sources to gather data on adversaries (as Ukraine has done by crowdsourcing targeting data).

5. Government / Industry Integration – using digital (including digital engineering) to make the Defence supply chain much more agile, resilient, and efficient.

Digital deterrence presents a strong value proposition, enhancing collaboration, improving efficiency, and providing a secure environment for data exchange.

Digital Deterrence will help drive innovation and create jobs by providing access to new markets and opportunities, funding and resources, and knowledge sharing and expertise.

6. Whole of Nation Resilience – ensuring that our interfaces, data, and minds are protected against, and resilient to, attack above and below the threshold of conflict.

Secure-by-design principles and robust security measures will help build trust among partners, reducing collective vulnerabilities and minimise the risk of cyberattacks or data breaches that could disrupt operations or compromise data integrity. In concert we compliment secure-by-design by designing and implementing measures for resilience, to withstand, recover from, and adapt to disruptions and threats.

The threats and challenges faced by the UK, are the same as those faced by our NATO Allies and international partners, and in turn the capability presents opportunities via NATO Digital Transformation.

On the 15-16 June NATO Defence Ministers will endorse NATO’s Multi-Domain Operations Concept, at the Vilnuis Summit. The key feature of the MDO Concept is the orchestration of military activities, across all domains and environments, synchronized with non-military activities, to enable the Alliance to deliver converging effects at the speed of relevance.

NATO Digital Transformation across all levels of operation is key to achieving this Vision, linking any sensor to any shooter at any time through a robust Digital backbone that offers ubiquitous connectivity, with security and interoperability engineered and integrated by design.

As such, getting NATO Digital Transformation right is vital is not only in terms of the technology that we buy, but also in terms of people, processes, data, governance, and collaboration with non-military capability providers, including the broader commercial sector.

This vison seeks and the NATO Digital Backbone to deliver through partnership by 2030 the enablement of the Alliance to conduct multi domain operations, ensure interoperability across all domains, enhance situational awareness, and facilitate political consultation and data-driven decision-making.

Interoperability, data sharing and synergistic digital strategies with our allies is paramount to how we operate and war fight, and the creation of a market for Digital solutions that promote interoperability and galvanising horizontal integration…

The MDI Working Group and SupportNet23 both highlighted the importance of Digital Skills. The lessons from Ukraine have shown starkly the need to focus on digital upskilling, and the imperative of investing in our people for strategic advantage. This is a consistent theme from the Institute of Engineering and Technology debrief from the March 2023 Blog. In the battlespace and the business space our people need digital skills to succeed, quite simply People give Defence its edge and we have not yet done enough to equip them with the Digital Skills to do their jobs.

The Digital Deterrence vision is not credible or deliverable if we do not have the essential digital skills to underpin it. To this end the MDI Working Group will extend its 4Integrationcultural change principles work to support the collective sense making through to innovation to address this strategic people imperative.

The MDI Working Group supports the defence ambition (need) to deliver, and continuously adapt, a critical capability uplift for the whole of Defence through delivery of a world class, Digital Skills Education Programme through our MOD’s Digital Skills for Defence (DS4D) £12m investment project.

For those that wish to prosper in this evolving world, we believe this is non-discretionary activity, and is an essential component of global competitiveness enterprise. As never before, it is essential we work together as a defence enterprise to address this digital skills challenge.

We make no apologies for pushing the 4Integrationcultural change principles, through this MDI Working Group, endorsed by Tom C-S, to complement digital skills to enable a more collaborative MOD-Industry partnership to drive Integration and collective prosperity. 

Consistent with the enhanced collaboration and engagement as required by the 2021 Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, they remind all of the need to follow the Nolan Principles, intrinsic to good conduct in public life by emphasising Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty, and Leadership. These those words, our deeds, and continued partnership and collective action that we can seize the opportunity offered by integration and drive greater interoperability across the Defence Enterprise, UK Government partners and our NATO Allies.

Additional SupportNet23 MDI Related Reflections

In support of our quest for Integration, SupportNet23 offered some additional partnership and digital insights that the MDI Working Group leadership thought were beneficial to the MDI Community and consistent with the thrust of this blog, for convenience these are in bullet style:

  • MOD will soon signal a £2bn investment of new money to increase the MOD’s resilience capability.
  • NATO’s role is becoming increasingly important due to global unrest and the risk that USA will reduce its role in NATO and global safety. (A message recently reported the Sunday Times)
  • UK is putting NATO at the centre of Defence strategy and actions.
  • The majority of SupportNet23 presenters had a digital angle in their presentation, reinforcing the digital message from 17th May MDI Town Hall. This digital link included the new IT system (Business Management for Support (BMFS)) which will include analytics and data driven decisions.
  • Consistently between both events is the DE&S mandate, led by their new CEO (Andy Start), to double the outputs / availability of defence capability. Key to delivering this mandate is digitally driven / AI enabled Collaboration / Control rooms. 
  • Reassuringly MOD belief they already have significant digital and AI tools, with their primary issue people capability and ability to exploit of data and knowhow. 
  • MOD are keen to develop the capability to get data into the hands of Industry via a new approach to UK secret compartments, they recognise Industry needs to help them exploit their data.
  • An interesting fact, reinforcing the MDI Working Group focus on culture presented by Boston Consultancy Group, is that 70% to 80% of the AI decision journey is culture and leadership with technology being the simple bit.
  • DE&S CEO indicated DE&S will change their approach to pay from “rank to digital skills”.
  • DE&S CEO advised that DE&S intend to have a different appetite to risk matching the change defence risks.

 And finally, our MDI Working Group Forward Programme provisionally looks like:

20th July (Virtual): ‘Making MDI Happen’ – Learning from our International Partners


DSEI 12-15 September

13th – MDI Infrastructure Seminar – TBC

14th – MDI Operations (Information Advantage) Seminar – TBC 

19th October – Virtually, potentially a deep dive into Digital Skills.

30th November or 1st December, Date TBC – Town Hall and networking event

The June and July Blog’s will seek to bring more colour to DSEI and Integrating Design Authority (IDA)

Please get involved with our MDI Working Group interventions and help move the quest to action.

MDI Working Group Leadership

Chris Parker, Graham Ball, Nicola Foreman and Steve ‘Snippy’ Worsnip