Defence & security focus: ‘The chief of defence staff 20 years from now? She’ll be leading a much more diverse organisation than we have today’

Written by General Sir Nick Carter on 26 April 2019 in Feature
Feature

As the UK faces increasingly complex global threats, our defence and security organisations must work more collaboratively than ever. Here, CSW hears from chief of the defence staff General Sir Nick Carter

What has been the biggest challenge facing your organisation in the past 12 months?

Mobilising ourselves to meet a range of threats that are diversifying, proliferating and intensifying rapidly. We are now operating on a global playing field that is characterised by a return to a former era of great power competition and confrontation.

Ambitious states like Russia are asserting themselves in ways that challenge our security, stability and prosperity. And this is overlaid by threats from non-state actors like Daesh using terror to undermine our way of life. It is salutary to reflect that it was exactly 12 months ago that Russian GRU agents attempted to assassinate Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.


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How is your organisation adapting to reflect Britain’s changing place in the world?

We are determined to become an ever more outward-facing organisation. This involves defence being integrated into the pan-government national security effort through our role in Fusion Doctrine. It involves us doubling down on as well as expanding our international relationships both bilaterally and multilaterally through NATO, through our Joint Expeditionary Force of northern European nations, in the Middle East and with the UN. And it involves us looking further afield, to the Indo-Pacific for example, to give meaning to our global role.

What opportunities or innovations are you excited about in the coming years that will help you improve public outcomes?

We will modernise our forces through utilising information-centric technologies to integrate our five domains (maritime, land, air, cyber and space).

We will encourage innovation at every level in defence, recognising that it is the application of combinations of technology that will achieve the disruptive effect we need to retain our competitive advantage. This will see us working in partnership with the private sector where the greatest understanding of technology is found.

Our workforce will evolve as we seek to maximise its potential from wherever it is drawn, sharing skills with partners from outside defence, increasingly on an enterprise basis. History is full of examples of military innovation providing benefit to society more widely and today is no different.

What do you think your role will look like in 20 years’ time?

The chief of defence staff of 2040 is probably still at school or in the very early stages of their career. She will still be the prime minister’s military adviser and the head of the Armed Forces, but she will be leading a much more diverse organisation than we have today.

She will be very accomplished at integrating technology to achieve military ends; she will have well developed emotional intelligence that enables strategic leadership; and she may well have learned part of her trade in the outside world not just defence.

How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

Exercising two energetic dogs and giving something back to my long-suffering wife and family who I have not seen much of since 9/11.

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General Sir Nick Carter
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General Sir Nick Carter is the chief of the defence staff

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