The UK national security network has long been aware of the need for change but has lacked either the breathing room or burning platform to prioritise and enact it.
COVID-19 has changed this. With a reinvigorated relationship between government and the public it guides and serves, the present moment offers an opportunity to act with greater impact, radically rethink priorities and work more collaboratively. All of this raises the bar for the forthcoming Integrated Review of Foreign Policy, Defence, Security and International Development.
The review is an opportunity to refocus efforts on the new information mission space and redress the imbalance of investment between physical and information assets. It should prioritise cyber, space and modern technologies that enable organisations to gain strategic advantage through greater shared situational awareness.
In particular, it’s a chance to build on the heightened inter-Departmental collaboration that has characterised the COVID-19 response and harness the long-term opportunities collaboration offers, such as mutually benefiting from enduring technological disruption and the convergence of the physical and information realms.
We believe leaders need to focus on three areas to reap maximum rewards from the integrated review: people, purpose and planet.
Establish a recognised training route and create sustainable, fulfilling careers
Future success will hinge on the human factor. Founding a National Data Science Academy that provides an approved apprenticeship and universally applicable training would allow all national defence and security organisations to attract, recruit, train, develop and share talent. It’s an approach we’ve seen Switzerland take with the Swiss Data Science Center, launching a string of academic projects, industry collaborations and the creation of a software platform for data science. The centre is also helping study data sources from around the globe to understand epidemic spreading and help contain COVID-19.
This academy approach would make a more attractive career path for cyber and digital specialists. Participants would be streamed and deployed according to their unique skills and attributes.
Graduates would move easily across the national security system, creating lasting links between the government, public sector and academia as they develop varied careers in challenging roles. The nation needs to provide such opportunities as part of a high-value, knowledge-based economy.
This new cyber workforce needs to adapt swiftly to emerging technologies and technological risks, hence the need to build greater resilience and adaptiveness into the system and improve its ability to withstand shocks.
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